Today I experienced my very first forest schools session. It was an amazing experience, making fires, using tools and exploring the woods, and I can’t wait for future sessions. That being said, I realised within the first hour just how unprepared I was. I thought that I would be alright, I had a waterproof coat, a pair of old tracksuit bottoms and my trainers on, surely that would be enough for a few hours in the woods? I was wrong. Within the first ten minutes I had mud splashed up to my knees, water had soaked through my trainers and I was slipping all over the place. I have definitely learned from my mistakes, and sitting here at home in a warm change of clothes with a cuppa I have thought of several ways to make these sessions more comfortable.
First and foremost, wear suitable clothing. Nearly everyone else was wearing wellies or walking boots, I was the only one wearing trainers (in my defense, mine were at home around 200 miles away). Needless to say, while I was dealing with cold, wet feet, everyone else’s were nice and dry in their boots. In addition to good boots, a good waterproof will make a lot of difference. A waterproof coat is the main thing, however if you have waterproof trousers (or failing this trousers made of a synthetic material) you should wear them. Jeans or fabric jogging bottoms will only absorb water and mud, and will be much harder to clean. depending on the weather you may wish to add layers of jumpers and thermals underneath your coat, but staying as dry as you can is the main thing.
This leads nicely onto my next point, bring a change of clothes! At the very least a change of socks and trousers (the items most likely to get wet or muddy). If you are wearing a decent waterproof your top or jumper should be dry(ish) but most people don’t have waterproof trousers. Having a change of trousers means that when you inevitably slip over, kneel on the ground to tend to a fire or simply get splashed, you won’t have to endure a journey home wearing wet clothes.
It is highly likely you will spend quite some time sat round the fire, whether learning, having food, or doing an activity, and the only seating available will be tree stumps which are not the most comfortable of seats. To change this, simply bring a spare jumper, wrapped in a couple of carrier bags or bin liners. I actually have a pair of cheap, old pillows I will be using (Wilko, 2 for £3!). This will give you some much needed padding, and if it rains you will have some dry clothing to change into at the end of the day.
Finally, just take some time to enjoy your surroundings. Going into the woods offers a welcome break from the hectic pace of daily life, so embrace the opportunity you have and make the most of your time in the woods. Whether you do this by going off exploring or sitting against a tree, closing your eyes and focusing on the sounds of nature, is completely up to you, just take the time to do something!