A wild new camp is coming Fulham Palace this summer. And there’s a chance you can send your child for free thanks to its bursary scheme.
The wild education holiday camp, called First Hand Experiences, features woodland exploration, bug hunting, growing and cooking all in a day’s work for its little visitors, aged 3 to 11-year-olds.
It’s the brainchild of former teachers Justin and Louisa Baker. It grew out of a desire to connect children with the natural world and encourage positive behaviour and a love for the outdoors.
“We want children to have chance to enjoy nature and at Fulham Palace there are so many opportunities for that,” explained co-founder Justin, who previously spent six years working at the nearby Lycée Français, in Clancarty Road.
As part of the camp’s launch at Fulham Palace, a free bursary place is set to be offered to a child in the borough, allowing them to experience all the activities for themselves. And although the outdoors holiday sessions are new to Fulham Palace this year, children have been getting back to nature with First Hand Experiences since 2010, when the first camp launched in South Park.
“I’ve always been really impressed by how much London has to offer in terms of green spaces,” added Justin. “But working in schools, I felt like kids weren’t getting enough of nature – they had a nature deficit.”
The husband and wife team have always been keen to make fresh air and open space a major part of the camps. There’s certainly plenty of outdoor play in the camp at Fulham Palace, where children are encouraged to run, sing, forage for leaves and enjoy the insects.
Part of the day is spent making art projects and preparing their own meals in the Jessie Mylne Education Centre, the restored former stable block at Fulham Palace.
“Sometimes on the first day the children don’t know how to just come and play in woods. But by the second day they will be making up their own games,” said Justin, who is dad to Baxter, two, and Florabelle, 10 months. “We want it to be a real learning experience for them, but it is as much about making friends, being happy and together.”
The camps are split into two distinct groups: Palace Pioneers for 3-5 year olds, and Wild Explorers for those aged 6-11.
Fishing at a trout farm, picking fruit and vegetables in Surrey, and dipping and wading in the River Wandle are just some of the adventures on the cards.
“The themes are a great way for primary school children to learn and it starts to make sense to them how everything is connected,” pointed out Justin. “There’s an element of challenge, and a purpose to the activities.”
Working with the team of camp leaders is resident chef Nena Foster, who has worked on creating food for Guardian Cook, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s magazines. Which means no packed lunches – as each child brings their own empty boxes to fill with the delicious meals and snacks they have created as part of the day’s activities.
“We try to talk to the children as real people and food is a big part of that,” explains Justin. “Making their own meals and cleaning up after themselves is important. We do recipes that are really quick, and are often raw, so the children can do a lot without waiting for things to go in the oven.”