The Bolton Together Easter holiday programme

The Bolton Together Easter holiday programme

Forest School Project Officer Trish discusses the importance of keeping children active, nourished and connected with nature during the Easter holidays.

We all understand how important it is to keep ourselves physically active and to eat a healthy, balanced diet. With this in mind, The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside was delighted to support The Bolton Together programme this Easter. The children were welcomed to join us at the Bolton Environmental Resource Centre, or at The Hive at Moss Bank Park.

We engaged with children from the ages of 8 – 14, offering a range of activities to keep them active. The weather was indeed kind to us so we had the opportunity to play a wide variety of woodland games, try bushcraft activities (including learning how to safely set fires and cook on them), forage for wild herbs and fruits, experiment with environmental arts and crafts, go birdwatching and tree climbing, do photo scavenger hunts, woodland walks and make some rather impressive shelters using natural materials.

Three black coot chicks with red heads swimming across water in a row

Coot chicks by Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

The most heart-warming aspect of this project is that the children reached out to each other. They had never met before and were extremely kind and polite to each other. A lovely breakfast bun or croissant was how we started the sessions to allow time for the children to bond and not feel nervous or anxious. A packed lunch and drink were also provided after the activities. We were lucky enough to view a family of young coots hiding in a rather untidy looking nest in a pond. Binoculars were given for closer inspection and one girl commented that she felt like David Attenborough. The eight coot chicks were black with orange fluff around their face and body, so you can imagine the children’s excitement at spotting them.

Children express themselves in a variety of ways and it was nice to be able to support one or two of them with their emotional health and wellbeing. The most urban of children can have a pot plant in their bedroom and focus on it. Nature is a healer after all. The group enjoyed being creative when planting up their sunflower, vegetable or herb seeds and decorating the plant pots at one of the sessions, and looked forward to growing it at home by themselves.

The star-like, clustered flowers of wild garlic

Wild garlic flowers by Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

After a long woodland walk, tasting wild garlic and a spot of bush-craft the group became a little restless and agitated with each other. We provided them with a self-help technique of calming meditation.

They lay on the grass and looked up at the sky, took a deep breath and simply focused on themselves breathing for a few minutes. It really does instill a calmness. Hopefully they can remember to use it in future to manage their emotional health.

The environmental art was a tricky one. We set a fun task to the group. They could only use what they found on the woodland floor to create a minibeast. The group was split and a competition between the girls and boys was set. The lovely volunteers at Moss Bank Park assisted us by judging the competition and it was a draw. To be fair the butterflies both groups decided to make were amazing.

The last part of the project was to increase the children’s skills in the kitchen. They planned a super healthy meal together and experienced a deeper understanding of the food growing and cooking process. They suggested making fruity-style faces inspired by the Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo and fruit kebabs. It was decided that the apples could be used to make bird feeders to hang in the trees. The days events finished on a high when one young man spotted some deer running through the woods and shrieked for the others to look at them.

All in all, we offered a diverse range of fun and inspiring activities to encourage an understanding of nutrition, nature and most importantly self-esteem. It was a pleasure to be a part of this happy, active and creative project.