Big Oak Forest School

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness” - John Muir

banners about


Carving mallets using fixed-blade knives

Carving mallets using fixed-blade knives

What happens at Big Oak Forest School?

Big Oak Forest School days start at 11am and end at 3.30pm. Activities covered are selected from:

  • wood carving and sawing (safe use of a fixed blade knife and bow saw)
  • woodland weaving
  • fire making and campfire cooking
  • shelter building (with found materials / with tarpaulin and ropes)
  • woodland identification
  • camouflage hide and seek (with natural materials)
  • team games
  • woodland art (drawing, model making and construction)
  • research and problem solving
  • an introduction to mindfulness (quiet contemplation)

New activities are being developed all the time!

Who leads the sessions?

MartinMartin Gayford is a Level 3 Forest School leader and manages his own East Sussex woodland, the home of Big Oak Forest School. Martin is an artist, writer and musician and he brings these creative elements to Forest School sessions at Big Oak. Martin has worked extensively with children in Key Stages 1, 2 & 3 and has run school nurture groups in Lewes for 4 years. Martin runs every Forest School day with a Level 3 Forest School leader, assisted by experienced support staff. All adults taking part hold current DBS (previously CRB) certification.


What’s so great about Forest School?

We believe that time spent outdoors, taking part in creative and constructive activities, benefits young peoples self confidence, self esteem, resilience, well-being and happiness. Forest School is a great way to boost creativity, encourage positive social skills and teamwork and practise risk taking in a safe, controlled environment. Why not experience Forest School for yourself, with all the benefits of learning in a peaceful, woodland site!

Drawing portraits with our campfire-cooked charcoal

Drawing portraits with our campfire-cooked charcoal


Where is the Forest School?

Big Oak Forest School takes place within our own ancient woodland on Snatts Road, Uckfield. Driving from Uckfield High Street takes 2-3 minutes. Driving from Lewes, either through Isfield or via Uckfield is around 20 minutes. There is parking available on the road for drop off and collection, near where Claremont Rise meets Snatts Road. There is also a bus stop at the end of Snatts Road, a few minutes walk from the entrance, serving bus 29 from Waitrose, Lewes and Churchill Square, Brighton.


How do I book?

Please download, complete and return the booking form and follow payment instructions. Once payment is received, we’ll email you full details for the day (including directions and a checklist for the day).

The booking form should be completed and returned to


Making bug houses

Making bug houses


What are the arrangements for Forest School?

We ask all children attending to be dropped off by a parent or carer 10 minutes before the session starts. Parents or carers then need to arrive to pick up within 10 minutes of the session ending. Please check the route in advance to ensure prompt arrival. Our Forest School days run from 11am to 3.30pm and these times are not negotiable.


Can anyone join in Forest School?

We only admit children for whom we have a booking, and cannot let siblings or friends join in without prior booking. We guarantee all adults present at the sessions are DBS (formally CRB) checked, and parents, carers and other adults are therefore unable to stay on site. If your child has a sibling slightly older or younger than the age range and would like to book, please feel free to ask as we can sometimes include additional ages.




What do you need to bring / wear to Forest School?

In the summer, you need:

  •  sun hat
  •  sun block (please put this on before you arrive)
  •  long sleeved top and long trousers (no shorts please)
  •  sturdy, closed toe shoes (no flip-flops, sandals, etc)
  •  thin waterproof jacket
  •  packed lunch
  •  we also suggest applying insect repellent to exposed skin before arrival


In winter you need:

  •  long sleeved top and long trousers (preferably waterproof)
  •  sturdy shoes
  •  spare pair of socks
  •  warm hat
  •  scarf and gloves
  •  warm coat / jacket (preferably waterproof)
  •  packed lunch



Terms and conditions – please read 

Please confirm you have read and accept the following when booking

Behaviour: we ask that all children attending Forest School arrive with the same expectations of behaviour that they have at school, and demonstrate respect for everyone taking part:

  • always follow instructions given by adults
  • be kind and respectful to other children attending
  • respect the site and follow safety rules
  • do not use offensive language of any kind

Severe Weather: we occasionally have to postpone Forest School due to severe weather forecast. In this event, we try to give as much notice as possible, but this may only be 1 day or so. If a day is postponed due to strong winds, very heavy rain or thunder storms, we will endeavour to rearrange the date to suit everyone attending.

Lastly, some other points: to answer a handful of other questions you may have…

  • In hot weather, there is an increased risk of insect bites, including ticks, in all woods and fields – following our guidelines (long sleeves & trousers, closed shoes and applying insect repellent beforehand) provides the best protection. Please also check your child at bath time after Forest School for ticks. The Sussex Wildlife Trust has further advice on ticks here
  • the wood is private property and not open to the public (including parents) unless arranged with us in advance
  • dogs and other pets are not allowed in the wood
  • Forest School runs from 11am – 3.30pm. Bookings are for these times – unless advertised otherwise – children cannot arrive or leave earlier or later unless specifically agreed in advance.
  • the wood has no postcode; we describe the drop-off and pick-up point as accurately as possible. Occasionally, your route may be disrupted by roadworks, etc. If you need any help with directions or are unsure about the location, please email or call before the day and we can help make your journey as smooth as possible.
  • Lastly, please let us know how we’re doing! We like to receive feedback about all aspects of Forest School and aim to improve where we can.