New forest school to open at Escot, near Ottery, offers children plenty of outdoor learning and play fun where they can ‘flourish with freedom’

There is a new opportunity for children in Exeter and East Devon to enjoy outdoor learning and play as The Outdoors Group launches its latest forest school at Escot Estate, near Ottery.

Opening just after February half term ‘The Forest School at Escot’ is located near Ottery St Mary in a section of Black Aller Woods, a stunning plot of mixed woodland with an ever-changing setting including carpets of bluebells throughout spring.

Head of Forest Schools, Nick Murphy explains how the new site came about.


Head of Forest Schools, Nick Murphy. Photo: Pip Raud.

He said: “We’d been looking for a suitable plot of woodland for a while and when we walked into Black Aller we knew we had found the perfect setting.

“What sealed the deal was meeting the Kennaway family who own and run Escot Estate; their own ethos, responsible land-stewardship and conservation of the estate very much reflects our own philosophy.”


Outdoor learning and play at one of the company’s other forest schools.
Photo: Pip Raud.

The Forest School at Escot will be offering toddler groups, home education sessions, holiday clubs for children and birthday parties. As with the group’s other forest schools, everything will take place outdoors, with a central campfire and tarp shelter in case of inclement weather – although this rarely impacts on the activities.

Nick said: “These are very much led by the children who really flourish with the freedom and space to explore and play.

“So one day they may be building a den, the next learning how to use tools for woodland craft, cooking on the campfire or devising their own games and exploration.

“Our experienced team is always on hand to support them with the aim of encouraging social and emotional development – which ultimately helps children to be happy, confident and resilient in their lives.”

Overseeing everything on a day-to-day basis is site lead Chris Moore who brings plenty of experience from his time at The Forest School in Exeter. He will be supported by Debbie Miller, lead at the group’s Okehampton site.

Chris said: “I was over the moon when I first visited Black Aller. It’s a beautiful piece of woodland, and I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when they see it.


Escot site lead Chris Moor with Debbie Miller.
Photo: Sue Cade.

There are opportunities for children with additional needs too.

“We’re really excited to begin extending our ‘Woodlanders’ group at Escot. This has already proven beneficial at the Exmouth site, providing an inclusive and integrated session for children with SEN who gain more from a forest school experience with a little additional support from our staff.”


Some of the fun had by youngsters at one of the company’s other forest school sites.
Photo: Pip Raud.

As well as the wider forest school provision, a separate part of the woods will be given over to The Outdoors Group’s ground-breaking Transitional Learning Programme (TLP) provision, which provides support for learners from primary to post-16 who struggle with mainstream educational settings.

The estate is easily accessible from the nearby A30 and the site has dedicated parking for around 20 cars, ideal for parents staying for toddler groups as well as drop-offs.

“All in all, we’re really excited to be opening The Forest School at Escot,” added Nick. “It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for children who have previously been to our other sites, as well as those new to the concept.”


Photo taken at one of the other forest schools run by The Outdoor Group.
Image: Pip Raud.

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