A community forest school has officially opened giving school children hands-on experience with nature as part of an eco-town development.

Bicester Town Mayor Councillor Nick Mawer opened the new forest school next to the Gagle Brook Primary School, Elmsbrook, on Saturday May 7.

Residents marked the occasion by planting native trees which were donated by the Woodland Trust.

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Elmsbrook is a scheme created by housing developer A2Dominion which forms the initial phase of the UK’s first true carbon zero development.

The Elmsbrook Community Forest School offers children, young people and community groups opportunities to achieve. It can also help them to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a natural environment.

Oxford Mail: Mayor Nick Mawer opening the forest schoolMayor Nick Mawer opening the forest school

Housing giant A2Dominion worked in partnership with the active local community group, Elmsbrook Community Organisation (ECO), secured funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in 2020 for the forest school.

Since then, A2Dominion has been working with ECO, local residents and the nearby Gagle Brook Primary School to design and build the forest school.

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Primary school children entered a competition to design the logo for the new forest school, with six-year-old Harry Sims’ design chosen as the winner.

He was presented with his certificate and £50 gift voucher for his efforts.

Oxford Mail:

Val Wright, A2Dominion communities partner, said: “We are thrilled to have opened the Elmsbrook Community Forest School, teaching children, young people and parents small steps and activities they can take away and implement back in their own communities.

“There have been lots of obstacles to overcome to get to this point, including Covid. We were also delayed by the return of badgers to the area just as work was about to start.

"We waited until after the badgers’ breeding period had finished and the young had moved away. We are pleased to finally open the community forest school and look forward to seeing it flourish and the community enjoying it.”

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The forest school was designed by Bicester company, Applied Landscape Design, whose staff donated their time for free, and built by Just Ask.

A steering group made up of residents, grounds maintenance contractor Smarter Services and representatives from the Gagle Brook Primary School has been set up to manage the community forest school and ensure it achieves its objectives.

A2Dominion’s Great Places to Live Fund has also funded training for a teacher from Gagle Brook Primary School in forest school skills.

The multi-award winning eco-town development is home to Gagle Brook Primary School, Elmsbrook Community House and hundreds of 'energy efficient homes'.

Read more from this author

This story was written by Rebecca Whittaker, she joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Rebecca covers education and news in Abingdon and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Rebecca.Whittaker@newquest.co.uk or calling 07824524333

Follow her on Twitter @RebecWhitt

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