Fifth Trust News

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Thriving in nature

03 June 2022


Follow the narrow path through the sun-dappled woods, past the rope swing and the den built from fallen branches, and you will reach a clearing with an ample shelter made of lashed together tarpaulins and donated sails, and log seats set around a brick firepit. This is The Fifth Trust’s Outdoor Active camp.

Since trialling the activity last year, giving learning disabled adults the chance to try a totally new experience led by a Forest School-trained instructor, we have expanded Outdoor Active to two sessions a week to meet demand. Students spend the entire day in private woodland near the Vineyard, learning ancient skills and observing nature up close.

Ask students what their favourite activity is and pretty much all of them agree: lighting a fire. This they learn to do using a fire steel, tinder and gathered twigs: no matches in sight! It’s a process requiring patience and a steady hand but the reward – seeing the first lick of flame take hold – is great.

There’s plenty else on offer and as with all our activities the students play a big part in deciding how the session will unfold. It may be a day for identifying trees and spotting beautiful things, like a blackbird’s nest with four speckled blue eggs or a magnificent fungus. Perhaps spending time weaving the hazel hurdle, whittling a spoon or the handle for a mallet, or hand-carving a wooden mushroom. Maybe just slinging up the hammock and kicking back, listening to the sounds of the woods.

James and Chloe are newcomers to Outdoor Active and their enthusiasm is clear. “I’m not really an outdoor person and I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone to do this,” said Chloe. “I like how I’m learning new things all the time.”

For James, who enjoys being outside, it’s the chance to practise using hand tools and knife work that has really piqued his interest.

The Fifth Trust CEO Nikki Marley said: “We firmly believe that our students should have as many varied opportunities as possible. Safety is of course the priority but the success of Outdoor Active and the enthusiasm of the students who are taking part shows just how much they can achieve and grow in a carefully risk-assessed environment and with the support of committed instructors.”

We are hugely grateful to Alan Akehurst of Clipgate Farm for the free use of his woodland for this session.