Our own bit of woodland
What passes as a woodland? Our own bit of woodland consists of two limes, two beech trees, a silver birch, two pines, a sycamore and an elm that survived Dutch Elm disease. It's a triangle roughly 20 metres long - so that's a lot of trees in a small space.
Because our house is an old school, the garden circles it. The woodland is in one corner of it behind the chicken coop. It is guarded by two stone lions.
And although we have a trampoline, climbing frame and sandpit in another part of the garden, the woodland is where the kids gravitate. They have made their own slide and swing with bits of wood they have found.
We have a plan to do something more with this area - with the kids in mind. Although we don't want to overdo it as kids enjoy creating their own space with bits they find themselves.
Talking of trees and woodlands, I joined my middle son, William, and his classmates last week on a visit to Shaw Wood, part of the Castle Howard Estate (which is on our doorstep).
We were met by a forest ranger who allayed any fears the children may have that they might encounter a bear in the woods!
She talked to the children about the various trees and we got to identify a few native species by collecting fallen leaves, mainly oak, maple, beech, birch, horse chestnut and pine. We also had a go at working out the age of the trees by measuring the girth of the tree's trunk (one metre up) and dividing this figure by the tree's annual growth (which is specific to each tree). The forestry commission has growth guidelines chart.
An activity that the children really enjoyed was creating natural sculptures along the lines of artist Andy Goldsworthy. They all came up with something different from fairy houses to faces, dens to squirrels' habitats.
William and his friend decided on a face. You can just about make it out in the photo. He has a rather dashing moustache and some bushy eyebrows.
The morning was a fun way to spend time out of the classroom in a beautiful setting enjoying the fresh air, getting dirty and getting hands on with nature. It's what childhood is all about....