Safety Alert Giant Hogweed



Introduced by the Victorians this relation of Cow Parsley can grow up to 5m tall and is common on wasteland and riverbanks. The sap it produces reacts with sunlight on skin causing severe chemical burns and blistering even years after contact. The harmful effects may not be noticed for some considerable time during contact increasing the likelihood of greater contact to the toxic sap.

Giant Hogweed can be confused with Hogweed when its growth is stunted. Children often use the stems for pea shooters which lead to hand/facial blistering however exposure and subsequent burns can be sustained by merely brushing past the leaves or handling contaminated clothes.

Taken from

TREATMENT - If you come into contact with the sap IMMEDIATELY wash the affected area with copious amounts of water and soap then cover. Seek medical advice.



Learn to recognise Giant Hogweed and teach children of its dangers

Avoid and isolate areas with Giant Hogweed present

Assume Hogweed could be stunted Giant Hogweed

DO NOT attempt to remove Giant Hogweed as this is an operation that requires specialist protection instead ISOLATE and REPORT to the Landowner.

Giant Hogweed and the law

It is illegal to plant Giant Hogweed in the wild potentially leading to a fine and up to 2 years imprisonment however there is no legal obligation for a landowner to remove it under law that controls the spread of invasive species.

However, land owners are required to provide a duty of care to those on their land including trespassers. Any injury resulting from Giant Hogweed could result in criminal or civil proceedings against the land owner.

PICTURES Chemical burns sustained by exposure to Giant Hogweed. These will reoccur to varying degrees for years with exposure to sunlight.

SAFETY Giant Hogweed



I've seen quite a lot of what looks like Giant Hogweed recently particularly near the Green Dragon Inn in Lymm but it appears to be all over the place especially near rivers. This coupled with recent media attention about Giant Hogweed has really got me confused.

You'd think Giant Hogweed would have the highest status with regards to the law but there are worse offenders but none seem as insidious as Giant Hogweed. Firstly it resembles hogweed and cow parsley both comparatively benign. Giant Hogweed sap however causes severe chemical burns but not straight away - it takes exposure to light to cause the activation of the sap so that children can play among it and continue to come into contact with the poisonous sap. Its only later that they develop serious blistering. Even just brushing past it or handling contaminated clothing is enough to be burned and at the time you may not even notice.

The plant also produces 1,000s of seeds so it requires year on year treatment and takes over riverbanks so ecologically wise is pretty bad. And yet its not illegal to have this on your land only to plant. This means you have areas full of Giant Hogweed where land owners aren't aware or don't care or can't afford to have it managed. The Giant Hogweed takes over, the seeds spread enter a water course and drift to other areas.

I believe it should be illegal not only to plant but also to fail to have a management strategy on your land for Giant Hogweed. Subsidies should be in place to help land owners have this professionally removed (it takes specialists to remove it safely and disposing the waste produced has legal implications). Each water course needs an effective overarching strategy to ensure there are no secret Giant Hogweed havens producing seeds which then enter the river.

Until then children (who are  affected the most) and others will have to rely on awareness to protect them so please feel free to pass on our safety post which follows this.

See here to identify:

A week in Forest School

Last week saw me spending week 2 of forest school training and what a week it was! It flew by.

Monday - Was a chance to catch up with old friends and new before heading into the woods at Rookhow to play some games including a name game called Sparrow Hawk which was fun! The day became a bit more academic looking at Emotional Intelligence, Behaviour Responses and Flow States - not as much fun but interesting.

Tuesday - After some more fun to get our energy flowing including a capture the flag type game involving stealing enemy eggs we got into some tool work to hone our practical skills. A popular item was carving fox pegs which had lots of character.

Wednesday - This was a skill assessment day. A very laid back way to pass a test but also very busy. The day centred on individual and team efforts in shelter building, tool use, fires and cooking. With everyone trying to show off their cooking skills we certainly ate well with a German style starter of fried potato and apple sauce ( I had seconds), followed by curry with wild mint yogurt (I had seconds) and then a chocolate muffin cooked in an orange and covered with molten Nutella (stuffed at this point). A variety of very impressive items were made including a trawler model and a fantastic chair. Kelly kettle hot chocolate helped the day along too.


Thursday was a team delivery of a forest school. Session one was a hilarious smorgasbord of all sorts of activities which totally overran the allotted hour but that was OK. A very open pick a spot activity lead to making and following a trail. I particularly liked using a hammer to leave a leaf imprint. Session two was our team and had a very quiet and reflective entry into the wood, followed by a sleeping fawns game before creating items for a midsummer fairy party. Session three was a much more reflective session honing in  on using a stick to tell the story of a journey. I'll let you decide which one I was involved with. All sessions were very different and really demonstrated the breadth within which forest school could be applied.

Friday was a goodbye day with some games in the woods followed by one and one sessions looking at future areas to develop and help with assembling the forest school portfolio.

Evenings were very interesting too. I explored Quaker woods and the surrounding heading up to Glass Knott, found a mossy den that was like a goblin cave, ate lots of wood sorrel, tracked animals and best of all tried out sleeping in a hammock.

On reflection the feel of the week was marred by understandable jitters about assessment and the portfolio. However when in the swing of things everyone excelled and demonstrated their passion and skills for outdoor learning.

Who do you trust with your children?

CONTACT US for free advice and guidance.

CONTACT US for free advice and guidance.

We've had a number of complaints and anecdotes about another outdoor education company that claims they are a forest school provider. Its always sad to hear people haven't had the positive experience they expected.  Often these experiences are fun until something goes wrong. Some of these stories are outrageous so its best to make sure things are legitimate before you hand over your loved ones.

As part of our advice to schools service built on my 15 years experience in education we prepared a safety bulletin for schools some time ago which we'd like to share again because it seems the message isn't getting through. Please feel free to share any of the links.

As a parent I would strongly recommend that you scrutinise any forest school nursery or holiday club that is for kids only i.e. parents drop off in the morning. You can view what they need to do in this document. Basically if they're doing more than 2 activities and parents aren't about then they need to register. If they haven't then you need to think why not?

Do they have a facebook page? Have a look at the reviews and not just the positive ones. How did they react when things went wrong?

If you have problems with any organisation that claims to be a forest school then you can report them to the Forest School Association. There is a code of good practice they should follow. See our bulletin here.

Nobody find Risk Assessment particularly exciting but as a parent you want to know the company you're taking your children to has done its homework. Don't be embarrassed to ask for a risk assessment. See our original bulletin here.

Like Risk Assessments they should have Public Liability Insurance to cover any eventuality. btw if they're using land without permission then its probably not valid so make sure they've got a licence agreement. See original bulletin here.

Are they as they should be? A CRB/DBS tells you that. Is it as clean as you think? As a parent you have a right to query this to make sure staff are competent and safe. Or will you just take it on trust. See our CRB bulletin here.

See our competency bulletin here.

Its certainly worth having a conversation about these safeguards and don't feel embarrassed. You as a parent/carer/teacher have a right (in fact a duty) to make sure everything's above board and any company working with children recognises that and can provide what you need no questions asked.

Enjoy the holidays!

Events for June

EVERY MONDAY* -  Appleton Forest School 10am at Lumb Brook Valley. Sessions are at least an hour but often stretch on to midday if we get into things (which we usually do). This is an ongoing series of child led sessions. Recently we've done some tool use with under 5s, explored, identified trees, stream walked, made hazel hurdles, bean poles and more. Its very organic and often involves participants influencing what happens at future sessions.

PRICE £5 a child with sibling discounts, etc. NB – 1st and 15th June session are not running as we’re away on training courses, etc.

SATURDAY 6th June – BEAR HUNT at New Moss Wood – Join us at our Woodland Trust Wood on the Manchester Mosses. After porridge we’ll be searching for the 3 bears, Paddlington, Sir Bearmund Hillary and other colourful characters before building them dens. Once settled we’ll start a fire and have a campfire Teddy Bears Picnic.

PRICE £10 a child with sibling discounts, etc.

SATURDAY 13rd June – Wet n Wild at Lumb Brook Valley. A nature walk down the stream and you will get wet. “Canyoning for Beginners

PRICE £5 each. Only 6 places for each walk!

SATURDAY 20th June  - 10am Midsummer Forest School- at Gorse Covert Mounds - Join us for the penultimate longest day. Exploring, Dens, fire cooking, story telling and more.

PRICE 10 a child with sibling discounts, etc.

SATURDAY 26th/SUNDAY 27th June. Birthday parties. We’re hosting Birthday parties at Appleton and Gorse Covert Mounds. Get in touch for your big day. We make it extra special!

Appleton Forest School

UPDATE - Now moved to Friday!

Every Monday 10am Lumb Brook Valley

£5 per child

We've been running forest school sessions for our 'regulars' since February 2015 and its been a lot of fun!



Looking back of our sessions my first thought  is one of pride. I've seen Forest School build our pupils' confidence grow in leaps and bounds. Ranging from 2 to 14 year olds at first there was trepidation with going off path and into the Brook but soon this became normal so every session begins with a dip in the stream to have a look. This is led by the children - there's always this desire to explore and investigate.

Cooking with Fire  safely

Cooking with Fire  safely

Another regular is fire building. Fear of fire has grown into respect. Pupils can now safely identify and collect appropriate firewood - deadwood, tinder, kindling and logs, build a fire and light it with a flint and steel. We've made char cloth and cooked on the fire. We've developed and agreed safety rules which we all follow. This is something we can only do with the express permission of the land owner - so thank you Woodland Trust - and is carried out in a 'leave no trace' way.

            Hazel identified  and ripe for coppicing

            Hazel identified  and ripe for coppicing

Most sessions we use tools to make something. We've learnt to identify plants and in particular hazel.

A hazel hurdle/habitat pile made by 2 - 14 year olds and parents.

A hazel hurdle/habitat pile made by 2 - 14 year olds and parents.

Lumb Brook Valley has an abundance of hazel and with the permission of the Woodland Trust we've been coppicing hazel (cutting it back). Coppicing makes hazel live for longer and develops an understory - leave hazel too long and it turns into quite a large tree. This reduces the burden of maintenance by the trust so hopefully we're saving them money to spend on other things. By cutting it back every 12 years or so you prevent it turning into a tree  and help the herb layer get more light. At Lumb Brook that means more bluebells!

Using a bow saw, loppers, bill hook and knife we've used hazel for:

  • Den Building
  • Raising a fire pan off the ground
  • Building our fire safety tripod
  • Making handles for toasting popcorn and for our pond dipping sieves
  • Making walking sticks
  • Habitat piles for hedgehogs
  • Protecting the stream bank
  • Making a hurdle habitat fence

Our greatest achievement is that we've got children using tools safely, recognising dangers (such as a sharp blade) and taking appropriate precautions. The only injury we've had is Rawdon's pride when he fell over in the mud on a bear hunt.

What's next?

Sessions are child led so we'll see where we go but due to our passion, commitment to and love of nature we've now got another land owner on board to use even more woods in Lumb Brook Valley. We'll update you when all the paperwork is in place but this will give our pupils the  chance to develop their own site for forest school - so more exploring, more tool use, more learning and more fun.

Why not contact us to book onto a session? Have a look at our Appleton Forest School Facebook Page where we post site specific updates or alternatively our Fairy Forest School page for upcoming events.


Once upon a time . . .

Wakey wakey! The blue bells have rung. Spring time is here! Time to wake up!

Wakey wakey! The blue bells have rung. Spring time is here! Time to wake up!

Spring has sprung and the fairies are waking up

On the run up to Midsummer Eve we're guiding the young and young at heart into the fairy woods.

We need your help to return our fairy tales back to their own land before its too late.

Will you:

Try the 3 bears porridge?

Retrieve 3 blind mice and a flower fairy?

Reunite the Big Bad Wolf with his Granny?

 Find the 3 not so little pigs and build them a stick house?

Climb a hill with Jack and Jill?

Blow a frog a kiss and turn him into a prince?

Courtesy and bow for the King and Queen?

Meet a fire breathing dragon?

Join us exploring the woods for a 2 hour magical hunt with stories and games. Discover the magic of the natural world before settling down for some treats and hot dogs (sorry 3 little pigs) cooked on the campfire.

Price £10 per child - Discounts for siblings, Woodland Trust Members, etc.

9:45am meet up for porridge

10:00 set off

12 noon campfire lunch

SATURDAY 16th May - New Moss Woods nr Glazebrook

SUNDAY 17th May - Lumb Brook Valley, Appleton

SATURDAY 30th May - Gorse Covert Mounds, Birchwood


Events for May


Its a chilly start to May but soon it'll be lovely and warm (hopefully).

EVERY MONDAY - Including Bank Hols. Appleton Forest School 10am at Lumb Brook Valley. Sessions are at least an hour but often stretch on to midday if we get into things (which we usually do). This is an ongoing series of child led sessions. Recently we've done some tool use with under 5s, explored, identified trees, stream walked, made hazel hurdles, bean poles and more. Its very organic and often involves participants influencing what happens at future sessions. PRICE £5 per child with sibling discounts, etc.

Sunday 10th May - PRIVATE GRUFFALO BOOKING at Gorse Covert Mounds. Get in touch if you'd like your own personalised session for family or friends.

FAIRY TALE WOOD Saturday 16th May 10am-12 noon New Moss Wood, Glazebrook. The 3 bears will be serving porridge to set us up for our adventure . Join us as we wander the woods in search of fairy tales and try making a house of sticks before the big bad wolf blows them down.  Followed by hot dogs (sorry 3 little pigs) cooked on a campfire. PRICE £10 per child with sibling discounts, etc.

FAIRY TALE WOOD Sunday 17th May 10am-12 noon Lumb Brook Valley, Appleton.

FREE MINIBEAST HUNT Saturday 23rd May - Exclusively for our Fairy Forest School Facebook friends. All you have  to do is like, follow and share our facebook page. More details on facebook.

Don't forget our Appleton  Forest School for the BANK HOLIDAY.

HALF TERM - TUESDAY 26th May - NEOLITHIC VILLAGE at Gorse Covert Mounds. Our favourite session so far exploring nature and building dens. Campfire Lunch Included. PRICE £10 per child with sibling discounts, etc. See our previous blog here.

HALF TERM - WEDNESDAY 27th May- BEAR HUNT at New Moss Wood, Glazebury. 9:45am Porridge, 10am set off and teddy bears picnic for lunch with campfire cooking. PRICE £10 per child with sibling discounts, etc. See our previous blog here.

HALF TERM -THURSDAY 28th May - WET n WILD. A nature walk along the length of the Dingle for adults and/or children. You will get wet. 10am (lasts up to 2 hours) PRICE £5 each.

HALF TERM - FRIDAY 29th May - FOREST SCHOOL FRIDAY. A bit of everything! Using tools, dens, camp fires, nature.  Great for those thinking of taking up forest school. Great for home educators or teachers, nurseries, etc. thinking of introducing forest school or families just wanting to get outside and do stuff! What is forest school? Find out here.

 FAIRY TALE WOOD Saturday 30th May -noon Gorse Covert Mounds. The 3 bears will be serving porridge to set us up for our adventure . Join us as we wander the woods in search of fairy tales and try making a house of sticks before the big bad wolf blows them down.  Followed by hot dogs (sorry 3 little pigs) cooked on a campfire. PRICE £10 per child with sibling discounts, etc.

WET WILD WALK Saturday 18th April

Walk the length of the Dingle Stream

 See the Dingle from a whole new perspective

Inspired by a wet day on New Zealand's Inland Pack Track we offer this opportunity to . . .


No path. Just water, rock, mud and sand.

Great for adults and children seeking a wet wild adventure.


We're proud and excited to travel Lumb Brook Valley from the valley floor giving a unique perspective of the woodland wildlife.

We'll give you the opportunity to go under the bridge "In at the Deep End". You'll stoop under branches and wade through pools, climb over rocks and slide down mini waterfalls. You'll find the best route to travel down streams with minimal impact to the stream and find the safest route.


We'll examine the bank and look for evidence of bank voles or other wildlife to make sure we leave no trace and we'll look into the water to see what lives there. You'll learn about the life of a stream and how it affects the woodland around it.


You will get wet. The maximum depth we can go to is 0.5m - that's knee length on most adults. You'll be sitting in the stream, lowering yourself over slippy rocks and you'll need to get over worrying about getting wet feet.


We can only take 6 at a time on this journey because we'll want you to tread where we tread until you start to recognise hazards and treat them appropriately. We avoid log jams as these have the potential to trap ankles and there are overhanging branches which well stoop under or if safe climb over.

The water is cold but not that cold. You need to trap water to keep warm so its a good idea to wear thermals if you have them. There is the occasional bramble so long sleeves and trousers are important.  Waterproofs help keep the wind off but don't expect to stay dry. We'll bring a thermos of warm squash for a much needed injection of heat.

The water isn't clean but it isn't exactly dirty either. As with all open water in the UK there exists the chance for contamination. The stream is mainly source from agricultural (crop rather than animal) groundwater. There exists as with all open water the potential for Weil's disease so as a precaution we advise covering any cuts with a waterproof plaster and washing hands after the event and before eating.

Wellies are not so good because they'll soon be full of water, have poor grip, rub and will stick in the mud - best wear old shoes that you don't mind getting wet or muddy. Old trainers or walking boots are best. Shoes change shape when they're wet so wear a thin inner sock and thicker outer socks. Waders if you have them are great.

The stream rises and falls with rainfall. After heavy rain the stream can rise and flow increase but we'll never go deeper than 0.5m and we'll guide you round any dodgy bits.


You'll begin your journey from Green Lane. Meet us there or we'll walk you to the start from our usual meeting place on Dingle Lane Bridge.

PRICE: Introductory offer £5 per person for an exciting wet and wild walk including refreshments.

Contact us to book.