Our Ethos

About Forest School:

Forest School is a unique educational experience and process that offers children the opportunity to succeed and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland environment. Children engage in motivating and achievable tasks and activities throughout the year and in almost all weathers. Children will work with tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, grow in confidence, self-esteem and motivation whilst developing an understanding of the natural world.


The Forest School concept originates in Denmark, originally aimed at preschool children, where it was found that children who had attended forest school then arrived at school with strong social and communication skills, having the ability to work in groups effectively, generally had high self-esteem and a confidence in their own abilities. These foundations helped them to raise their academic achievements.

The Hideaway Forest School encourages children to:

  • develop personal and social skills

  • develop language and communication skills

  • improve physical motor skills

  • build confidence in decision making and evaluating risk

  • develop practical skills

  • work through practical problems and challenges

  • use tools to create, build or manage

  • understand the benefits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle

  • explore connections between humans, wildlife and the earth

  • become more motivated by regularly experiencing achievement and success

  • pursue knowledge that interests them, improve their concentration skills


How The Hideaway Forest School successfully offers a positive, authentic Forest School experience:

To run a Forest School, leaders must be fully qualified Level Three practitioners with First Aid Training. All The Hideaway Leaders are fully qualified with outdoor first aid certificates and hold Forest school public liability insurance – check out our Team!


  • A routine of repeated and regular visits to the same woodland (or natural) site, preferably through the changing seasons. A year is considered most beneficial, with children showing positive changes within six to nine visits. The Hideaway programmes are set for a minimum of six sessions, or booked in termly blocks.

  • Forest School needs to take place in a natural space – with some trees at least. This is to support the development of a stronger bond between us and our natural world. The Hideaway Forest school work with the scouts and private land owners to develop woodland that the children can take pride in developing.

  • Beyond the woodland’s offerings, Forest School equipment is focused predominately on natural objects and materials such as mud, wood, leaves and water to stimulate creativity and imagination. The Hideaway offers a variety of natural, exploratory areas including natural crafts, pond dipping, digging, dens, swing, climbing, balancing bridges, a leaf kitchen and charcoal and mud painting. Planned activities are all centred around natural materials.


  • To increase self-esteem, Forest School follows a risk-benefit process; ​at The Hideaway, participants will learn tangible, real-life tasks such as using traditional woodland tools, collecting wood and fire lighting .

  • Forest School aims to create positive outdoor experiences through child-centred, achievable tasks. Participants are taught new skills and shown new ideas, but there is a large element of choice and emphasis on play. The Hideaway sessions comprise new activities alongside play, and routines such as circle time, snack time and  woodland games.


  • A term of Forest School sessions is designed through routine and a progression of learning. At The Hideaway we pride ourselves in creating a stable and consistent environment. As participants get used to the process they will have the confidence to explore further and challenge themselves more, building up to tool work and exploring further away from adults. The Children’s skills and knowledge are built up over time, along with increased confidence and independence in ‘their’ woods.

Vicki Paton

I am the founder of The Hideaway. I am originally from Fife in Scotland and moved to beautiful Bristol in 2002. I was a teacher in South Bristol for 15 years. Within this time I taught Year 2 children before becoming deputy head and specialising in early years education. I trained and achieved my level 3 Forest School leader qualification and began to see the benefits it brought to the children who regularly participated. Having been a teacher and having two children of my own I am all too aware of the pressure we put our young children under within the education system. I want my children and others to enjoy getting muddy, learn first hand about the seasons and above all learn about themselves and their capabilities in the beautiful outdoors.

I decided to form The original Henleaze Hideaway in 2017 whilst still looking after my youngest daughter, and it has been the best decision I have made for my well being and that of my family. Being outdoors everyday has many magical qualities. I hope my children and the little explorers who visit The Hideaway create happy memories about being outdoors and with nature and in years to come will remember the time they talked with new friends around the fire.

I love my job because...


Martha is never happier than sat round a fire cooking away, she loves connecting with the environment and seasons through crafts, food and storytelling!


Whether you find her in the Brecon Beacons or the park, she is on a mission to help kids and adults combat 'nature-deficit disorder' and is delighted to explore this through Forest School. 


Hi my name is Rhian. I work in Henleaze and Westbury on Trym with children of all ages, from preschool to teenagers! I've worked in a forest school in North Wales with primary aged children, and more recently supporting preschools in Henleaze. 


I've been interested in exploring and learning in the outdoors since going camping as a teenager and I now love seeing the benefits of outdoor learning with the children I work with.


My favourite parts of forest school are making and cooking on fires, and using the tools to make things!


I recently qualified with a First in BA Hons in Outdoor Adventure Education and have returned to Bristol where I share my love of all things outdoors with pre-school aged children and scouts. 


My love and interest of nature and the outdoors comes from a childhood growing up in Kenya, where I would spend hours in my garden den making, foraging and climbing trees.

I want to use my love and passion for nature to help encourage the younger generation to reconnect with nature; through play and exploring their natural surroundings, because to me there is nothing more magical then playing under trees in dappled sunlight and exploring the undergrowth for bugs!

We are always actively looking for qualified level 3 Forest School practitioners to help extend the services we offer. If you already hold a level 3 Forest School qualification and have experience of working with young children, we would love to hear from you. We enjoy sharing our practise and learning from others so if you are in training or have an interest in Forest School and would like to volunteer at one of our settings then please do use our contact form to tell us a bit about you. We would love to welcome you into The Hideaway.

Our Staff

"I love being outdoors facilitating families to connect with nature, our sessions are filled with wonder, discovery and adventure." Vicki P.

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