Dongers, whackers and halloumi burgers – just another day at Forest School

At the end of March last year I was walking across a muddy field in Northamptonshire with Christina Dee when she asked me a question, “do you just do horsey stuff?”. The answer was yes, although I explained that given the opportunity I would jump at the chance to try something different.

Lunch is cooking – Forest School style

Thanks to Chris the opportunity to try something different quickly materialised when she introduced me to the wonderful world of Forest School, and, 12 months later I have come to a wood in Knowle Hill to observe and photograph the afternoon session of a Forest School Learning Initiative skills day – but not until I’ve eaten my halloumi burger.

Those peppers look good and they’re all mine!

I do have a confession to make, when I arrived and was informed that the students had saved me some lunch I was delighted – until they told me what it was. However, I have to admit that it was delicious, although if my wife is reading this it doesn’t mean that we’ll be adding halloumi to the weekly shop!

This group of trainee Forest School Leaders had covered fire lighting and fire management during the morning session, and, having put the fire to good use by cooking lunch they were chomping at the bit to get going again.

L-R: Forest School Leaders Tracy Hayling, Sarah Bennett and Tracy Betley

Tool use was the first thing on the agenda and Tracy Betley and Tracy Hayling introduced the group to ‘dongers and whackers’ – an essential part of any Forest School Leaders armoury apparently!

Rechargeable drills are also an essential part of a Forest School Leaders armoury and as you can see from the pics, they were put to good use.

The intrepid duo also told some amusing stories during this part of the session and we captured some of that on video. We shared one of the video clips with our Facebook followers and it can be viewed here.


I do find it hard to resist a smoky fire shot…
Out comes the saw horse!

The saw horses were next to be unveiled, followed by much sawing, donging, whacking and drilling – and a few more funny stories!

While all of that donging, whacking and drilling was going on there was also another popular Forest School activity taking place – whittling.

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A very colourful visitor popped in to take a look at our activity!

One of my favourite parts of a skills day was next, a demonstration of how to use a Kelly Kettle. Using only a handful of fuel such as sticks, Pine cones, Birch bark, dry grass, etc. the kettle will boil in just 3 – 5 minutes. I like that a lot, and so did the students. Plus, when the Kelly Kettles come out so do the biscuits!

Fire out

When tea break was finished the next task was to safely extinguish the fires before the grand finale – shelter building! Which, incidentally is my next favourite skills day activity.

Shelter building is a great activity to showcase teamwork and it can also get quite competitive! Both groups did a fabulous job (one with tarps and the other with a parachute), and the result was two well built and very roomy shelters – and some great photo opportunities!

There was just time to sign everything off and have a debrief before we packed all of the kit away and headed for home (well, the car park).

They say that time flies when you’re having fun and after my afternoon in a wood in Knowle Hill I can confirm that this is very true! The Forest School Leaders and the students welcomed me with open arms and it was a pleasure to be a part of this group, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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