Gayhurst Primary School from Hackney enjoyed a school trip to The Garden Classroom’s pilot Seashore Adventures camp.

Credit Ollie Grove

Gayhurst Primary School from Hackney enjoyed a school trip to The Garden Classroom’s pilot Seashore Adventures camp.

When you live in Hackney in North London, the countryside is a bit of a foreign land. You’ve heard of it but can’t really imagine it.  So, the first surprise for many Year 5 pupils from Gayhurst Primary was the train journey.  

Boarding at Stratford International it wasn’t long before they left the urban sprawl and were hurtling through green fields and woods on their way to Walmer in Kent and The Garden Classroom’s pilot Seashore Adventures camp.

Meeting The Garden Classroom’s (TGC) team at the station they bundled their gear into the TGC van and started their hour-long hike along the seashore to their home for the next four days, TGC’s camp site at Kingsdown. Perched on top of a cliff with steps leading down to the best rockpooling beach in the area, the peace and freshness of the air immediately struck them. 

So it wasn’t long before they were down on the beach, just getting to know it, before returning for their first camp fire supper, songs and stories and perhaps just a few hours sleep under canvas.

Every day started with a hearty breakfast and then there were all sorts of activities to do.  Although the TGC team had an outline plan they wanted to respond to the interests and energy of the pupils so the details of the day were discussed with the Gayhurst staff every morning.

Rockpooling was very popular and the children found different types of seaweed, limpets, oysters, whelks, shrimps and mating crabs – or as the children put it, “crabs getting married”.  

Small groups explored the ecology of the cliff tops, looking out towards France and learning how much action those cliff tops had seen during the Second World War. Back on the beach the children learnt bouldering and even managed some seal spotting while others enjoyed watercolour work and making land art.

Credit Ollie Grove.

There were some essential camping skills to be learnt too. Each group learnt to light a fire and brewed a Kelly Kettle for hot chocolate and the important business of preparing wood for the fire was investigated with everyone having a go on the bill hook.

Camp life was immersive with everyone taking responsibility for themselves and helping with chores such as food preparation, serving and washing up.  Each day ended around the campfire with an opportunity for sharing things they were enjoying or things they were finding tough and a great, supportive community spirit prevailed. 

The Year 5 teacher said: “I loved the fact that the children had an opportunity to be outside for four days, doing all kinds of exploratory activities and things that brought them together as a group and a community. This was helped by the campfire and the way that we all sat around it and listened to stories and reflected on our experiences. I think that the ‘pitch’ for the children was just right – they had an opportunity to learn about and explore the natural world, but the emphasis was on fun and community. They took away really positive memories from each stage of the trip.”

As a pilot, the week’s camping which was repeated with the parallel class the week after, was deemed a great success. The TGC team loved sharing the beautiful natural environment and their skills and knowledge with such a receptive and enthusiastic bunch of children.  As one ten-year old said, “Nature isn’t just to look at, it’s to appreciate and I’ve realised how much I can learn from nature.”  Another added, “We’re so close to nature in London but we don’t appreciate it”.

Each group was around 30 children and four adults from the school, including one SEN assistant working with a statemented child, accompanied the group and participated enthusiastically.  

The class teacher said, “The experience that it gave some of the children in our group, such as our two children with special needs, was priceless.” The teacher said that this memorable experience would be the basis for lots of literacy work in the next few weeks, inspiring the most reluctant writers to record their experiences and feelings.

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Images: Credit Ollie Grove.