We've just had a weekend of booked Forest Birthday Parties. The same weekend as storm Brian hit the UK.
The lead up through the week has been one of communicating to the parents with the possibility of a cancellation and re-assurances that we're checking the weather. On Thursday we advised parents to look into the potential for a Plan B after the forecast was fairly sure the storm would hit.
By Friday morning it was looking like Saturday pm was when it was most likely the storm would hit and we agreed to cancel the birthday party. We offered another date or a full refund. Luckily with enough notice the family managed to get in a soft play for the afternoon so they went with a refund and a couple of complimentary places on our upcoming Nov 5th event.
We offered the same to the family booked on in the morning but they were willing to take a chance on an on-site assessment of the wind on the day. Come Saturday morning we arrived on-site and started to assess trees on site - there had been an earlier windy storm in the week -and also assess the trees near where we operate in as usual.
The standard for umming and ahhing about if you should be in the woods on a windy day is Beaufort level 5 or less if you have poor trees. Lumb Brook Valley was fairly sheltered so some mature trees were barely moving which was re-assuring as on the drive over there was significant swaying of trees in more exposed locations. The forecast predicted the storm increasing with regional winds from about 40mph at appox. 3pm by which time we'd be long gone.
When the parents arrived we agreed to a slightly more intense forest party than usual. We were going to forego our free optional chill out 3rd hour to make sure we beat the storm and could pack away. We also agreed to stay within areas of the wood we had just checked for tree damage (such as hanging branches). Our 3 regular identified dodgy trees were avoided and zoned off as usual - these have a significant leans, hanging branches and dead wood at height. All was good. We packed up and got home well before the stronger winds came. The forecast for Sunday was looking better too with the gales diminishing to a strong wind over the course of the morning.
Come Sunday afternoon there was still a reasonable wind and some sway of younger trees in the woods at Gorse Covert Mounds. We spent a good hour of assessing trees looking for hanging branches. This included shaking young but dead trees or branches near paths or areas we might go through or near. About 4 of these we got onto the floor - the rest were strong enough to be left alone.
What's handy for us is that a lot of Gorse Covert is fairly open so we extended our fairy tale hunt so the 1st hour wasn't under cover giving even more time for the wind to die down further before getting to our woodland base camp. By the end it was pretty still and a sunny Autumnal evening and everyone was raving about a great party.
For a quiet moment - on my own - packing up I took a few short minutes to reflect. My thoughts are that its good to experience wind in the woods, the swaying of branches and the hiss of leaves. There's also that part of me that worries, sometimes needlessly- are the trees safe? Will everyone be OK? That niggle makes sure Fairy Forest School safety value is met.