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Okehampton Children Follow in the Footsteps of a Victorian Explorer

A group of pioneering children from Okehampton Primary School spent four days in June completing a range of woodland activities leading to them achieving the John Muir Award. The first two days were spent at Fingle Woods in Dartmoor where they discovered the wilder parts of the Teign valley and learned about the different habitats where herds of deer roam and the endangered dormouse forages for food.

Through further exploration they learned how to identify trees and searched a woodland stream for the mini beasts living there. The children were encouraged to use all their senses and got to experience the taste of the woods by using a camp fire to make scones and eat a Devon cream tea.

Days three and four were spent in the environment area at school where they studied a more familiar wild area and wrote a conservation plan to improve the natural life around the primary school. Sitting round another camp fire they made willow charcoal, cooked popcorn and listened to a children’s story teller before playing the dormouse game. A set of verses of haiku poetry were written to share their experiences with friends and families and their final task to earn their certificate found them creating artwork using their home-made charcoal and all sorts of foraged materials including leaves, moss and twigs. The adventure was brought to a close by making a pizza in the mud oven and sharing it under the cob and timber shelter the children built last year.

Leading the activities for the Woodland Trust Matt Parkins said,
“The children were really inspired by John Muir and learned about how, through his expeditions around the world, he helped to set up national parks and sowed the seeds for the protection of wild areas such as Dartmoor.”

The Woodland Trust and National Trust are working together at Fingle Woods to restore over 300 hectares of woodlands and protect our natural heritage. The two Trusts encourage free public access and there are miles of tracks to be found at Fingle Woods with a vast range of interesting and exciting habitats to explore.

Okehampton children at Fingle Woods

Okehampton children at Fingle Woods

Playing the dormouse game at school

Playing the dormouse game at school

This article was initially printed in the Okehampton Times, July 2015

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