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Lost for Words


I felt very lucky to get three places to attend an event about The Lost Words at Thornecombe Woods on Saturday. The forest school run with Stepping into Nature promised us stories, songs, craft, foraging and camp fire cooking.

We were all excited! The kids have experienced some forest school activities at school and enthused about them for weeks after. They pulled on their coats and shoes without complaint.

The meeting place was in the car park at the edge of the woods and the children hunted for bugs whilst we waited for the other families to arrive. Our guides introduced themselves as Claire and Kathy.

Once we were all assembled we were led to base camp; a clearing in the trees with a camp fire, outdoor toilet and areas laid out for the different activities we’d be doing. Here were we introduced to the book that the whole event is based around, The Lost Words.

The Lost Words was created as a response to the removal of everyday nature words from a widely used children’s dictionary. It was decided that words such as “acorn”, “bluebell”, “kingfisher” and “wren” were not being used enough by children to need including. The Lost Words is a beautiful book that highlights the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of all the creatures and plants we share our lives with.

Our first activity was to find ‘lost’ words in the trees, along with the words that had taken their place. The ‘lost’ words were written on circles of wood hung in the trees. My kids found the words “ivy”, “buttercup” and “acorn”. Once we’d re-assembled we chatted about the words we’d found and it was fantastic that all the children knew what their ‘found’ words were.

Next we explored the woods; the bit I was looking forward to most. Lead round by our fantastic guides we collected things in baskets; celandine, primroses, pine cones, ferns, ivy, leaves, sticks. And yes, almost every child ended up carrying a huge stick! They used them as walking sticks, staffs, wands, brooms. They were using their imagination and creating their own magic in this enchanting setting.

At different points on the trail we stopped and Kathy, from Dorset Forest School and Fiddle Sticks, read sections from the book. The poems and illustrations are beautiful. It is a book that is now on my reading list.

On our way back to camp we stopped and foraged for wild garlic. Claire, who runs Stepping into Nature (guided activities and sensory walks for older adults, particularly those with dementia), told us exactly what we were looking for and showed us which plants we shouldn’t pick. We found a decent looking patch of garlic and the kids bounded in. My son’s face was a picture! He wasn’t entirely convinced that this green leaf was going to turn into garlic bread.

Back at camp we talked about the contents of our baskets before the children were offered different activities to do. Some helped make bread, others played with clay, there was the chance to make your own book of lost words. Then, while Claire started the camp fire and cooked the garlic bread we all sat down and watched Kathy’s puppet show. The kids were mesmerised. It was a story about how our children inherit our natural environment and that we all need to care for it. Beautifully and tactfully told with the use of a fairy and wizard (puppets, obviously).

As the session drew to a close we sat round the camp fire and ate garlic bread. Perfect.

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