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Fun in Fishpond Woods!

We actively encourage the children to use natural materials in their artwork while getting creative in the studio but we thought we would take it one step further and organise some longer sessions outside! So, this Easter has seen the children getting creative in the beautiful setting of Fishpond Woods in Pateley Bridge.

A big thank you needs to be said to Dr Peter Brambleby and his wife Michelle for allowing us to trial our classes at their wonderful site and for the use of the shelter and fabulous study barn.

The mornings were spent at the shelter where we were able to get really messy collecting, making and mixing natural paints out of mud, charcoal, leaves, flowers and berries. The children had the challenge of making their own mark making tools and paint brushes using materials found in the woodland.

The children's concoctions were used to paint large sheets of calico, which were then cut up into separate pieces to make wall hangings. The two primary colours, blue and yellow, were mixed together to capture the different greens of various plants and flowers.

Dr Brambleby has a charcoal burner in the woods, which enhanced the children's understanding of how charcoal is made. They also discovered where sawdust comes from. Dr Brambleby has a very cool planking machine, where he slices tree trunks into planks. The planks are used to make benches, tables and signs that are situated around the woodland.

Coffee, turmeric, beetroot and spinach make vivid natural dyes. These were used to dye strips of fabric, which were later woven onto handmade looms.

When it was warm enough, the children really enjoyed quietly sitting and drawing amongst the trees. Each child created their own observational drawings using pencils, graphite, charcoal and soft pastels.

Weather permitting, lunch was eaten in the sunshine before heading over to the study barn. As we wandered through the woods we saw 14 tiny ducklings, 2 toads and a mother moorhen perched on her nest. Soon there will be carpets of blue bells - Spring is one the way!

When it was particularly cold, the study barn provided warmer accommodation, with a toasty wood burner and running water! Here, the children learned how to 'marble' clay by mixing 3 different types together. They also enjoyed sculpting woodland animals, ducklings and nesting birds.

The children had the challenge of teasing willow into sculptures, some of which were abstract, while others were inspired by the flora and fauna found in the woods. Some of the structures were decorated with tissue paper, wool and beads. Mobiles were constructed and adorned with pine cones and beads.

Andy Goldsworthy is a Yorkshire artist who creates assemblages out of natural materials.

The children gathered their own found objects to make sculptures inspired by him. Goldsworthy raises the issue of how sculpture can be presented: should it be a permanent fixture displayed in a gallery or can it be exhibited outside and be a temporary object? Some thought provoking responses arose with differing opinions being discussed.

Handmade paper was created using a deckle, paper pulp and natural materials. The children came up with their own ideas on how to present their work.

We were really delighted at how engaged the children were with the natural environment and how inspirational they found it. This became very apparent through their artwork and attitude. After such a busy and physically active day, we all left happy and exhausted!

Well done everyone for your contributions, original ideas and lovely artwork; it was an absolute pleasure being with you all!

Fishpond Woods is also known as Whitewoods where Peter and Michelle run Whitewoods Wellbeing. For further information please go to their website at

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