During lockdown our landscape gardeners were busy outside at Cypress Lower continuing the work to make our woodland more accessible and useable for outdoor education. Our woodland has lots of potential to be a place where, despite being city dwellers, our children can learn a lot more about the natural world and how to look after it. To this end we have:
- Replaced the old pond. The old one was made with a pond liner which was punctured and full of leaf debris. Our contractors checked very carefully and there was no life in the old pond. We hope that the measures we have taken, including adding oxygenating plants and an entry/exit ramp for any new inhabitants will mean that we can do some great pond dipping in the future. The new pond is a sturdier construction made of fibreglass, holds 2500 litres and is deep enough for creatures to hide in the depths if they’re shy. Children can read all about ponds here. We are not putting any creatures of our own into the pond but are leaving it for the native wildlife to find. It’s a bit pristine at present but we have our fingers crossed that when the plants take hold it may be a lovely new home for frogs, toads, pond skaters, dragonflies and so on;
- Made a new surface where children can stand with confidence when dipping in the pond. Parents at Cypress always help us to get the children dressed properly for Forest School but we wouldn’t want anyone losing their footing and slipping in;
- Installed new safety fences. The pond and other areas are kept safe by new fences meaning that children can only enter with adult supervision;
- Identified a bluebell wood. We have separated out one area to stop footfall and we are working to eliminate all ground cover (especially ivy and ground elder) so that we can see what is growing there. We believe there are bluebells in this area but they have been choked by the leaf letter and ground cover. If no bluebells appear we will plant some this autumn;
- Taken down a huge beech tree that was riddled with honey fungus. and deemed unsafe by our tree surgeon. We have planted two more trees in its place – a beech and a silver birch. We have left the old trunk in place, safely propped, so that it forms a kind of gateway to this area;
- Replaced rotten posts for the chain link fencing. The fencing was also completely clogged with ivy which we have removed so that children can see the pond from the adventure playground;
- Improved drainage. Our present forest school area was flooding and we have adjusted the drainage so that the water runs away in a different way making this area year round;
- New planting for insects and birds. We have planted new buddleia (butterfly bush) and birch hedging to offer new homes and food for wildlife.
We now have to keep clearing the grounds as invasive ground cover comes up in the spring and need to have a period of peace and quiet to allow the plants in the new area to establish and wildlife to find the pond. We hope the children will be able to make their first visits later in the summer.