We offer specialist outdoor learning sessions for Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers 0-7 years and Home Educated children 3-11 years, in a private woodland on Ridgeway farmland just south of Wantage. We welcome parents; childcarers; childminders and nannies with their children. Children above three can attend unaccompanied.

Oak Leaf Forest School offers children the opportunity for space & freedom in an amazing woodland space. Here they can explore; climb; build dens; swing and experience the natural world all year round, whilst learning and developing as individuals and building a lifelong love for the outdoors. Children will develop in many ways, particularly physically; socially; linguistically and most importantly in their self-esteem.

Book Now

Toddlers taking a break-whilst we work with disadvantaged children in this recovery period :)
Toddler- 7 on a break
Tuesday 9.45-11.45-Home Ed Session

There is much research and evidence to show that regular Forest School experiences have a profound effect on a child’s development. Forest School develops the whole child and engenders in them a love and respect for the environment.

What are the benefits of Oak Leaf Forest School?:

  • It takes place in a beautiful Ridgeway woodland, every week, all year round, experiencing all seasons
  • We are led by an experienced and qualified Forest School practitioner, who will develop a child’s learning over a series of sessions
  • It is a child-centred process that has play at the heart of it, which is observed and reflected upon to create the best learning and development for children
  • A strong bond between the outdoors and the child is developed
  • All aspects of the child are considered and developed- physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and spiritual
  • Children learn to look after themselves and each other through managed risks, enabling them to take on life’s challenges


A typical day at Oak Leaf Forest School goes like this…

Arrive at car park. Say, ‘Hello’ to the Oak Leaf staff, once all our friends have arrived...Lets go to Forest School!
Pass through the Forest School gate and go sit on the logs to find out what we can do today (plus check we can remember how to look after ourselves, our friends and the woods).
Time to play; learn and connect with the woodland around us. This might mean doing our own exploring; climbing; collecting; bug hunting; imaginative play; building and playing with natural materials in the wood. All with the support of Oak Leaf staff who will ensure that children are developing their ideas as much as possible. Staff may also have a Forest School experience that they can take part in that session, such as making a swing; den building; balancing on a rope bridge; using a tool; making a woodland craft or just chilling out on the hammock.
Once children get hungry they can have the snack they have brought and a special warm apple drink is made to drink at the log seats. Then they can carry on playing!
We might play a game, if the children want to, like the Forest School favourite, ‘1,2,3 Where are you!’. A great hiding game that helps children learn what they should do if they ever get lost somewhere.
Tidy up time. We leave the wood as we found it to help look after the plants and animals that live there.
How was Forest School today? A quick chat to see how the children have found their time at Oak Leaf Forest School today, or maybe sing a fun song or have a story.
Time to say, ‘I managed to swing myself on the rope swing!’ and, ‘See you next week.’
Of course the staff at Oak Leaf Forest School have been trained to take advantage of the opportunities that crop up in the children’s play and the natural world so a typical session may turn out quite differently! For example if it is a very windy day and staff have concerns about the safety of the trees we will go for a wonderful welly walk along the Ridgeway or play in the meadow.

What to wear?

To allow children to get the most from their Forest School time it is really important for them to be wearing the correct clothing. Like the famous saying, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!’ Wearing waterproof trousers and jacket means that they have the freedom to sit, crawl and climb in the woods without having to worry about muddy clothing, as well as being kept warm and dry in the rain. Having long sleeves and trousers mean that we can reduce the likelihood of the children getting scratched or being nibbled by insects. On our feet welly boots are very important to keep feet dry, but can be very cold in winter so snow boots or insulated wellies are good or two pairs of cosy socks.
The list below summarises the clothing children should wear:
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers/dungarees
  • Fleece/warm jumper
  • Long sleeved top/thermal
  • Vest/t-shirt
  • Warm trousers
  • Tights/leggings/thermal
  • 2x warm socks
  • Wellies/insulated wellies/snow boots
  • Hat & gloves (waterproof if possible)
  • A change of clothes in a backpack
In the summer children can wear less layers but are still expected to wear long sleeves, trousers and their waterproofs along with a sunhat instead of winter hat.
A good source of waterproofs are Muddy Puddles; Raindrops or Togz

The Site

We use a private woodland sited on a small farm accessed from The Ridgeway, 3 miles south of Wantage, (directions will be sent when booking is made). It is made up mixed tree species and has a clear boundary. The trees have been assessed by a tree surgeon and the site is assessed before every session by ourselves. There is also a toilet area; handwashing; a shelter; log seats for meeting together & snack time; a fire area and tool area.
We have a screened off area with a camp toilet available for children to use, with adult support if required, along with warm water and soap to wash hands after use and before eating snack. If a child is in nappies we have changing facilities to allow them to be changed sensitively.
Mhairi has had over a decades worth of experience of assessing the risks of many Forest School sites and the activities that may be carried out during a session. She ensures that at Oak Leaf Forest School we balance possible risks, with sensible judgements, that allow the children to gain the greatest benefits from the woodland and it's possible experiences.
At Oak Leaf Forest School we have a handbook available for parents to look at, which contains risk assessments, policies, our ethos and other information on how we run our sessions

What is it?

Forest School is a unique and life-forming experience for all involved. It gives children the chance to develop their confidence and self-esteem through hands on real life learning experiences and small achievable tasks in our enchanting woodland. The learning and play is centred around the child and their interests. We also take into account the changing natural conditions of the woodland. As a result of this approach children gain a real sense of ownership in their learning and the learning that takes place is far more powerful and lasting.

Typical experiences at Oak Leaf Forest School include:

  • Exploring
  • Den building
  • Woodland crafts
  • Bug hunting and learning about the nature around them
  • Mud play
  • Mini adventures along The Ridgeway and…
  • FUN!

One element of Forest School is allowing children to take manageable risks under the guidance of staff. These risks can be as simple as negotiating the uneven ground, to using a bow saw to cut sticks. Through this process they learn to manage their own risk levels, which gives them essential skills to judge how to manage risks they may come across in life. The benefits of any risky experiences at Forest School are strongly considered in balance with the perceived risk.

Such experiences can be:

  • Climbing trees
  • Playing with ropes and making swings
  • Using tools such as: bow saws; knives & drills
  • Fire lighting and cooking on a fire

Who are we?

Forest School first came to the UK in 1993, when a research group from Bridgewater College, Somerset, came back from studying Early Years education in Denmark. Impressed with the largely outdoor, child-centred and play-based learning they set up their own Forest School.

Since the early 2000’s Forest School came to Oxfordshire. Mhairi was part of the team who ensured it spread to as many schools; pre-schools and children’s centres as possible over the next decade. Her aim now is to make sure as many children as possible who cannot access Forest School in the Wantage area and beyond have the chance to do so (or even if they already do Forest School, but want to do more!).

Oak Leaf Forest School hope to be able to offer longer sessions on more days in the future. We could also accommodate settings/schools who wish to be able to offer Forest School and can do Birthday Parties.

Mhairi MacGillivray-Edwards
Mhairi MacGillivray-Edwards
Anne Cockburn
Anne Cockburn
Sally Hutchinson
Sally Hutchinson

Mhairi is a qualified Level 3 Forest School Leader and Trainer who has gone through the rigorous 'Recognised Forest School Provider' scheme. She is also a qualified teacher with First Aid; Safeguarding, DBS checks and food hygiene. Other Oak Leaf staff have many years experience with children and are also DBS checked. Anne is our Home Education Leader she is also a trained teacher and has taught four of her children at home over a period of six years. She started volunteering with Oak Leaf Forest School in April 2016 and completed her Level 3 Forest School Leader training in 2018 and is now a fully fledged leader. Could you help too? We also welcome any parents, other family members or volunteers who wish to help out.


Cooking on the fire


Our pricing structure is as follows(please note the Home Education sessions have different pricing, which can be sent on enquiry): ​
Unaccompanied 3-7 year olds£9
3-7 year olds (first child)£7
3-7 year olds (second child)£5
Under 3 year olds£5
Babes in armsfree

Forest School is most effective for a child’s development if it happens regularly, so for this reason it is best that your children book for a term. However, we do recognise that some people prefer a degree of flexibility. So for this reason you can opt to pay for a term minus one flexible day to be taken when you choose. For example if it is a six week term you pay for 5 sessions:

If you wish to have a one off session then it will be an additional £1 on whichever pricing structure you fall into.

​When you first join it is important to make sure it suits your child so we do not expect you to pay for a whole term but 3 weeks. This is the recommended amount of time to make a proper judgement of how your child is finding it in the woodland. After the 3 weeks you would then pay the remainder of the terms sessions.

Please contact Mhairi using the form below to book and receive directions and any information you need (check junk/spam for reply).

Mhairi MacGillivray-Edwards Mhairi MacGillivray-Edwards
Tel: 07554793905
Email: enquiries@oakleafforestschool.uk
Follow Us
Share and like
Oak Leaf Forest School on Facebook Oak Leaf Forest School on Twitter