If you go down to the woods today…
You really are in for a big surprise. At the Hidden Woods outdoor activity centre there's 80 acres of forest to explore, with rope swings, dens, mud kitchens, bushcraft, campfires – and a Treebog loo
Up a track, just off the A36 half way between Frome and Bath, lies the Hidden Woods outdoor activity centre with 80 acres of huge oak and beech trees, burbling brooks and an abundance of plants and wildlife as well as rope swings, dens, mud kitchens and more.
Founded by forest school leader Steve Sutherland (qualified in mountaineering, expedition leadership and bushcraft, ‘case you were wondering) and Laura Gonzalez-Perez, the centre allows children the freedom to explore and play in the forest safely as well as develop an an appreciation of the natural world, grow in confidence, learn new skills, kindle fires and friendships – and have good old fashioned fun. It’s a place where memories are made.
Take your pick from drop off summer day camps for age 8+ throughout the school holidays, weekly dedicated toddler sessions and monthly family mornings for toddlers to pre-teens, like the one I went along to recently.
The camp’s in a little clearing in the woods.
The morning started with everyone sitting around the campfire. Steve and the exuberant, friendly Barney, a qualified play leader with expert woodsman skills and a song for every occasion, led some clapping songs so we could all get to know each other.
Kids can go off on their own – the forest is packed with stuff to discover – with little flags marking the boundaries.
Future architect, structural engineer – or builder – on Mud Mountain.
Kids can make their way along ropes.
Or just chill on a netting bridge.
What would you like for lunch?
Not one mud kitchen but two.
Let’s make some country music.
Build a den or clamber up and up.
Make things with leaves, twigs, wood, clay…
Steve is hands on. Here he is helping make some twisted yarn fluttery things.
Others can do it for themselves.
They provide fresh water, hot drinks, herbal teas and hot chocolate but everyone brings something to the table – it’s all part of the culture of sharing.
Need the loo? Head for the Treebog…
Toasting sugar-dipped apples over the fire to make hot toffee apples (naughty but ever so nice).
With the light filtering through the trees, it feels good just being here, and it’s not just my imagination. Many studies show that being in a forest helps reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, improves concentration and memory and the phytoncides released by trees and plants boosts the immune system.
Hidden Woods is open whatever the weather.
WHAT’S ON WHEN
School holiday club throughout the summer for 8+ (no two days are the same). 10am–4pm £35/day. Supervised free play 8.30–10am & 4pm–5.30pm £6.
July: Tues 30 & Weds 31. August: Thurs 1, Mon 5–Thurs 8; Tues 13–Thurs 15; Tues 20–Thurs 22; Tues 27–Thurs 29. Brilliant idea: you can buy 5 and 10 day passes which are valid for 12 months.
Family Mornings for families with toddlers to pre-teens, one Sunday a month
Every Friday morning is the Saplings toddler group for 1–5 year olds. £8.50/child with £5 for siblings; or 10 sessions for the price of 8, £68 for the first child, £40 for siblings.
Kids’ birthday parties, with activities tailored to your own needs.
You don’t even need to come with a kid: hen, stag and team building with everything from archery, bush craft and green woodwork to tree climbing and willow weaving. Come for a few hours, a day or stay overnight.
Farleigh Woods, nr Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset BA2 7NH. Tel 01373 823832. hiddenwoods.co.uk