We were excited to be invited along to a ‘Blackbirds’ session at Mawkins’ Farm and Forest at the Norfolk Showground this half term.
Mawkins’ Farm and Forest offer sessions which last 1 1/2 hours in the lovely woodland surroundings. ‘Blackbirds’ sessions are aimed at children aged 5-12 years. They also offer sessions for younger children. They offer weekly sessions for home educated children also.
The venue is sign posted from the main road as you drive past the main entrance of the showground heading toward Easton. Tony who we had been emailing came and met us in the car park where I completed an emergency contact form and lead us over to the Forest area. They provide a hand washing area, teas, coffees to drink and there is a toilet block available to use close by.
The sessions are led by Tony and Vicky who were very welcoming and really friendly. The session started sat around the fire on logs and mats. We had a little chat and discussed what options we had to explore and discover and a few housekeeping points in order to keep everyone safe. This was a really nice way to start and made us feel comfortable to chat and Big A and Little K were very excited to head off to explore the activities.
There was a vast list of activities on offer including:
- Den building with various materials – rope, tarpaulin, fabric, pegs.
- Balancing on a rope type thing (can’t remember the name)
- Hedgehog houses.
- Stick houses
- Self frame
- Pine cone game throwing through hoops made from willow
- Creating necklaces using a drill, wood discs, cedar wood and wool.
- Planting seeds
- Music area
- Mud kitchen
- Bug hunting kits
- Can you spot…
- Lots of folders full of ideas, songs, facts
- Help adding to the fire
- Collecting wood
- Exploring the surroundings
Today was a dry day so there wasn’t too much mud but on a rainy day it would create an element of fun in itself with puddle jumping.. they do recommend you wear waterproofs/ take spare clothes!
The idea is that the children create their own learning though play, choosing their own activities and learning new skills – using tools safely, talking about being safe whilst building fires.
The girls and I enjoyed a range of activities, they enjoyed helping Vicky put the firewood on the fire wearing a special glove. The girls felt really comfortable talking to Vicky and she was amazing with them!! She is a really amazing practitioner engaging and she naturally taught and created excitement about each thing they did… after coming home we realised we had seen her before at the ‘Fairy Fair’ where she was also awesome!
The girls choose an activity where we created our own necklaces. We used a slice of wood, cedar and string. K persevered using the drill (with a little guidance) which she found quite tricky but she was really pleased with herself once she had managed to do it knowing she had created her necklace herself and wore it proudly.
The girls also enjoyed hanging in the hammocks, standing and swinging on the swing and balancing on the ‘tightrope’ thing.
A loved exploring all the nature and using a bug hunt kit to find mini-beasts.
Toward the end of the session we all sat together and enjoyed hot chocolate and warm crumpets. This was lovely although A wasn’t keen on her hot chocolate and crumpet (she fed the birds). We discussed other things they could have on a fire in future and Amie suggested marshmallows or smores … I personally think crumpets were a fab idea as at 5pm when the session finished and having explored outside for an hour and a half you build up an appetite for something tasty and warm.
The farming element of the sessions is something they are developing, Vicky mentioned the hope to be able to bring over some farm animals to live/stay close by alongside the Forest area. Although the girls had so many choices the farming element was not needed, maybe if we attended week by week it would be nice to add a farming aspect to the sessions, but we didn’t feel our session was missing anything.
What we thought overall – We had an absolutely fabulous time and would highly recommend. We would love to return again… it was difficult to convince A & K to leave they were enjoying themselves so much. I had a really lovely time also spending time with the girls and being outside in the fresh air. This is definitely something we would do again in the future, maybe each half term.
Disclaimer – We were invited along to try the session and to provide an honest written blog about our experiences. All opinions are our own.