Once upon a time...
There was once a group of families with small children who could see that opportunities to play outside were getting fewer and further between. So they came together as "Babes in the Wood", at first only once a week, in a local woodland to share stories, food, and playtime.
The grown-ups and the children became friends and more families came. Eventually, the families found a new place to go, one where naughty pixies on motorbikes wouldn’t ride through the things they made and spoil them.
The new place was called The Horse Field because from above it is shaped like a horses head and here the families decided to “Be More Outdoors”
The children grew and went off to school and new families came along, every week, sometimes twice, in the sun, in the rain, and even in the snow to share stories, food, and playtime. But the school children missed The Horse Field so now they came at the weekend and during the school holidays and once they were bigger they even came on their own to make new friends. Now the stories were about how to light fires and build shelters, how to use tools like knives and axes and how to make food to share. Which they did.... and it was good!
The grown-ups said how much they missed the Horse Field so they started coming on their own. To help, to grow food, to learn how to make things from willow and wood or just to sit and be.
Over the years with lots of help, the Horse Field has changed from a piece of overgrown land with just about every invasive species you can imagine to a place where families, young people, and adults can come to learn, recharge and have fun. We have created wildlife habitats including a pond and wetland bog and planted an orchard as well as a thriving vegetable garden that provides donations to our local food bank.
It has also become the base for our charity, the springboard for ideas which have reached out further than our own community and allowed us to offer an outdoor space to schools, teachers, Girl Guide, and Scouting groups, Yoga practitioners, green woodworkers, groups with additional needs, refugee families.
The Big Bad Wolf COVID-19
But then the Big Bad Wolf came and blew down our house of sticks. In fact, the Wolf blew down many houses and we had to close the Horse Field to the families, the young people, and the children.
And while we were sad, and they were sad, we needed to keep everyone safe from the Wolf.
Now the summer half of the year is the time when the Horse Field is very busy with lots of Families, Young People, and adults coming to play. There are parties and school trips and every session is full to bursting. But this year everything was closed. And because our charity puts everything it makes back into the community from whence it came it meant that there was no money to pay the rent or the insurance or to fix things, let alone pay those that tell the stories and cook the food.
Even through all this, we felt we had to keep the connection with our families alive and so “Lock Down Tales” was born.
Every week since lockdown began, we have created an original story with a lockdown theme, filmed and edited it for online delivery and included a craft make walkthrough so that children can make something at home. The videos are not just for the children though, we have tried to keep to our real world methodology of "Speaking with two voices" so there is something for all of the family.
Now we know that not every family has access to the internet so by working with council Area Hub Coordinators and local schools we were able to identify families who would benefit from an “Analogue” version of the videos, a print out of the story and an instruction sheet as well as resources for making something.
This has been a remarkable experience for us as a charity and has forced us to look with fresh eyes at what we do and who we can reach going forward.
Going Forward - a sit down job!
The creation of an archive of Lockdown videos over the Spring/Summer has been an epic feat for us and a very steep learning curve. While our aim is to open the Horse Field as soon as we feel we can keep people safe, the response to our online delivery has shown us that we have something to offer in that direction too. But if online delivery is to be an alternative to paid attendance, then we have to keep it free and so it must be paid for by fundraising.
We are also aware that we have to upgrade the toileting and hand washing facilities at the Horse Field to keep inline with the public's expectations of a safe gathering environment.
We would like to ask for your help with the following:
- Help us to fund a new compost toilet facility in a shed building large enough for families to use effectively
- Help us to fund new hand washing and sanitising stations throughout the site
- Help us to continue to fund the creation of stories and activities delivered online which help promote the outdoors as a learning and development opportunity for all
- Help financially support the delivery of our sessions through a time when we must reduce the number of paying attendees.