Developing Muddy Boots Forest School – Wild Roots retreat day

I ran the Wild Roots women’s retreat day on June 24th 2017. I’ve been getting increasingly interested in women’s issues, earth based spirituality, health and well-being and I could see some real potential in Forest school type activity aimed at women. I decided to trial a retreat day aimed at mothers who bring their children to my Muddy Boots children’s activities.

I used Permaculture design tools and Looby’s design web to plan my activity. I did most of my planning in a sketchbook, so have photographed the pages and posted them here to show my designing.  I did not work through each anchor point in a clockwise circular order, instead I dotted around instinctively and as felt appropriate.

For ease of reading, I have grouped activity for each stage of the design web under its title heading in this blog post as we move around in a clockwise motion. Please bear in mind that this does not represent work in chronological order. For example, I brainstormed activity ideas before I decided on a pattern for the day – obviously! Not the other way around as it appears if you read each anchor point in order.

I have included photos from the retreat day scattered throughout the post to illustrate what actually occurred on the day.



I’ve found it useful to try to sum up my vision in a sentence. so here goes…

My vision for this design was to create an event for women that combined a relaxing and inspiring retreat day with Forest school ideas and activities. 

wild rootsThis is the flyer/poster I created for the day, the activities on offer should show a flavour of my aims for the day.

IMG_8145I used permaculture ethics; earth care, people care, fair share, to help me create my vision for the day.

IMG_8162I brainstormed my aims for the design which were quite wide-ranging. I ensured this design fulfilled multiple functions for me on both a personal and professional level.

IMG_8167I considered whether to try to take part in someone else’s festival/event or whether to set up on my own. I did a PNI to consider this and talked it over with a few friends and my husband. In the end I decided to go it alone on this occasion as I had the location and the potential clients available. I would however like to bring this type of event to a festival in the future.

IMG_8166I attempted to make my vision more achievable by setting myself some SMART goals. Looking back I can see that these goals were not SMART at all. They were just a bunch of really quite vague goals! I’ll  look again at these later in the reflection phase of the design cycle.


I see helps and limits as two side of a coin, so it made sense for me to link these two stages together.

IMG_8146I began by doing a brief brainstorm as a survey, I looked at my boundaries, resources, and considered who the intended clients were for the event. I then used PASTE to think more about specifics of the site.

IMG_8156The six thinking hats activity really helped me to consider my vision, helps and limits in more detail.


It was really important to me to use natural patterns in my planning and in how I planned the flow of the day. I spent quite a while considering this and finally settled on using the moon cycle – something that I’m really interested in following in my own life. 


IMG_8151IMG_8158IMG_8159I considered how the waxing and waning of the moon could relate to the feel of the activity planned in the event.


9.30-10AM Arrivals,

Fruit/ herbal tea, coffee and raw chocs

10-10.30 Welcome circle

Walk to the meadow

10.30- 11.00 30 mins energizing yoga sequence and


11.00-11.30 Foraging walk around the woods
11.30 – 12.30 Making oils and balms

Soup making on the campfire

Flower mandalas

12.30-1.00 Shared lunch

Time to rest in hammocks and bell tent

Inspiring books available to read

1-1.30 New moon intention setting circle or extended lunch break
1.30-2.30 Making flower mandalas

Dream catchers

Hapa Zoma

2.30-3.15 onwards 45 mins Relaxing yoga sequence Soundscape

Gong meditation and yoga nidra

3.30 onwards. Elderflower cordial and foodie treats

Evaluations and session ends


IDEASIMG_8152I brainstormed potential activity ideas and then looked at some of them in more detail, then analysed them against permaculture principles before deciding which to choose.

IMG_8154IMG_8155IMG_8153Some of the activities I eventually decided upon for the day are shown in the photographs below. 

IMG_6840Foraging for medicinal and edible greens



I created sheets listing plants we could forage for and their edible and medicinal uses. Click the links to download the sheets.

IMG_6819Yoga in the meadow

IMG_6826Gong meditation and soundscapes to accompany our yoga

IMG_6848Making herbal lip balm and massage oil



Click the links to see the recipe and method sheets.

IMG_6913Making willow dream catchers

IMG_6894Making flower mandalas

PRINCIPLESIMG_8149I chose four permaculture principles at random and brainstormed which questions, thoughts and ideas they raised for me. 

I talked about Permaculture during the event, mentioned the ethics and principles and brought along lots of Permaculture books for the reading tent to signpost people towards further learning about Permaculture. I invited my local Permaculture friends to attend the day and Anna B came along. I mentioned her and the local Permaculture courses during the intro to the day, and directed people to enquire with Anna if they wanted to learn more about Permaculture. 

INTEGRATIONIMG_8168IMG_8169I wanted to ensure this design was fully integrated into my life and fulfilled both professional and personal functions for me. I thought hard about what I wanted the functions of the design to be. I tried to find multiple elements for each important function to ensure that nothing was missed out. 

I also wanted this design to make me feel more integrated with other people. I normally work on my own, which can feel quite isolating. So an important element for my professional development was working with others. I managed to get five excellent partners on board; a yoga teacher, sound meditation facilitator, an artisan bread baker, a raw food maker and another Forest school leader. More details about each of them can be found on the Muddy Boots website page about the retreat day here

I also wanted the event to integrate women with each other. Magic happens when women gather and I wanted to facilitate that magic! IMG_6899IMG_6859

ACTIONIMG_8163The action phase of the design web, for me, is all about the practicalities. How to get from ideas to action, how to make things happen. So this is where I sort out the nuts and bolts, actions plans, finances, timescales etc.

I had six months run up to actioning this design, so quick decision-making and good planning were key. There were moment when I really floundered and wondered whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but the support of my team proved invaluable. It was lovely working with other people, I feel I was lucky in who i’d chosen to work with and we worked well together and supported each other. I’d love to work with these people again in the future. I’ve already turned down 1 opportunity to run this event again as it would mean doing so without some of the team. I’ll try to schedule in another retreat day for summer 2018 and have everyone on board again.

Finances – One of the goals for this day was to run a profitable event.  The financial break down follows.

INCOME  TOTAL £425 ( £25 per person X 17  attendees)                 



£50 Jodie H food

£15 Dave B bread

£20 Other food and drink purchased

£84 Jodie K Forest school assistant

£75 oils and balms activity materials

£20 plants for activities

£25 Dream catcher activity materials

£20 Flower mandala/ Hapa Zoma activity materials

£7 Facebook promotion

£24 basic session costs, photocopying, laminating etc

BALANCE £85 (£425 – £340 )

So I was able to pay myself the balance left after all expenditure had been paid out. This was just £85 or £9.44 per hour for 9 hours work. Not a lot of money for working 9 hours  (8am-5pm) on the day of the event, not to mention the many days work I’d put in the planning. So this is definitely not sustainable or repeatable. My time and hard work is worth far more than that. Normally I pay myself and my assistant a minimum of £12 per hour. I honoured my assistant’s £12 per hour rate but couldn’t afford this amount for myself – which was rather gutting. 

 The goal of needing the event to pay for itself was met in part, thanks to the yoga teacher and sound artist offering their skills for free.  I’d definitely need to reduce costs and charge more if the event is repeated. I’d need to pay them next time and I need to make far more money to pay for the hours I put in for planning and preparation. 


MOMENTUMIMG_8161IMG_6861I tried to find a balance of moments of momentum and moments of pause during the retreat day. The quest for balance is something that I’m deeply involved in and getting better at! On reflection, there was too much activity during the day and the quiet moments I’d hoped to build in got lost in the quest to keep everything running to the timetable. 

The momentum in the run up to the event was great, I felt very motivated to run this event and excited to explore a new area of work. The tight timescale also kept me moving. After the event, initially I felt great momentum to schedule in another one straight away. After a few attempts to co-ordinate diaries with my team, it proved too tight to fit in another retreat day before the colder weather came in. One potential date in September did look good for a while, but I was offered work at a local festival for the day. So this seemed too good an opportunity to turn down.

So the momentum that we’d built up was lost and to date, we’ve not yet scheduled in another day, but I hope to do so soon and get something in the diary for summer 2018.


During the event we had a ritual fire, set new moon intentions and wrote a list of things we appreciated on one leaf and things that no longer served us on another leaf. The things we wanted to rid from our lives we threw into the fire and the things we wanted to claim we hung from the trees.

I have thought about what I appreciate after the event too and created the list below.

  • I appreciate the help, love, support and skills gifted to this event by everyone involved in the running of the day.
  • I appreciate that friends, family and strangers all booked and paid to attend the event.
  • I appreciate the faith shown in me by people who attended the event, especially those people who’d never been to a Muddy Boots event before.
  • I appreciate the woods for accepting us into their space for the day with welcome.
  • I appreciate that mother earth left me a Jay feather to find when I first arrived on site, a good omen for the day
  • I appreciate the weather being kind on the day, still, dry and warm.


To reflect on this event I began by, looking back at my goals and doing PNI analysis for each goal. I decided to separate some of my goals out, to make them more specific as I’ve learnt the benefit of doing this from other evaluations I’ve carried out during my diploma pathway. 

To create an event that teaches women new skills The retreat day taught lots of skills, but I have no way of knowing whether these skills were ‘new’ to the participants or not, other than info gathered anecdotally during conversations had during the course of the day. I could have included a question in the evaluation each participant completed about new skills.
To create an event that teaches women about nature We talked lots about the nature specific to the woods where the day was held, what was growing and what we could use these plants for. This goal needed to be more specific. I would have liked to provide more quite times for the participants to soak up being in nature without so much activity to pre-occupy their minds.
To create an event that teaches women about the patterns in mother earth I showed images of the moon cycle and explained how this had influenced my planning for the day. We chatted about moon cycle/ menstrual cycle links and peoples experiences of these. This goal needed to be more specific in mentioning the moon cycle.
For the event to be profitable Yes the event made a small profit if you do not factor in paying myself I worked for well below minimum wage and many hours unpaid to make this event a success. I gained far more positive outputs than just financial outputs from putting on this event. These less tangible profits are not measured but they are plentiful and make up in part for the lack of financial profit.
For the event to be repeatable Yes I feel I can repeat this event successfully and learn many lessons from this first event. I’ve learnt lots and know what changes to make to make the event better – mainly, charge more, make the event longer and don’t try to do so much in a short timescale!
For Muddy Boots to explore the expansion into Forest school activity aimed at adults Yes this was a great first trial into working with adults. I really enjoyed working with women and feel this is something I’d like to explore further. The event excluded men, maybe I need to do a lads and Dads day or similar to redress the balance at some point? I’ve tweaked my Saturday Forest school sessions in reflection to the retreat event. They are now marketed as ‘Family forest adventure days’ and far more adults attend which is a big positive.
For me to learn new FS skills I attended oils and balms workshop and two foraging days in preparation for these workshops in the retreat day. So yes, I did learn new skills. I’m really keen to learn and teach more about foraging and now try to include this in my sessions whenever possible and suitable.
For me to learn new teaching methods The new moon circle was new to me. I didn’t feel particularly confident in leading the more ‘woo woo’ new age bits. I loved it, but it’s all new for me. It would be good in the future for me to attend some events like this as a participant to gain ideas from more experiences teachers
To explore new business partnerships Yes I worked with new people
To reach new audiences Yes 8 of the women who attended (out of 17) were brand new to Muddy Boots. I hadn’t expected so many new people would attend, A great new yield and 5 of them have gone on to bring their children/ grand children to my regular classes.
To create a diploma design Yes this event led to a diploma design for my portfolio The fact that I knew I had to write this event up for my portfolio led me to improve my planning techniques and approach the event more thoughtfully.
To spend time with like-minded women I certainly had a lot in common with many of the women who attended. Another vague goal!
To strengthen connections The event strengthened my connections with the people on my team and made new connections with many of the participants. Many of who have stayed in touch and/or attended more Muddy Boots events.
To challenge myself to explore my edges. I have furthered my knowledge of herbal and wild foods and this is possibly leading me onto doing another of my diploma designs on the subject. I explored teaching methods and subjects that were new to me Another vague goal!

I was lucky to have another student of Permaculture attend the retreat day event. Anna very kindly agreed to do me a PNI reflection after the event.

Muddy Boots Womens Retreat June 2017 PNI from Anna B

Positive Negative Interesting
Outdoor venue easy to find, good directions, concise and informative emails regarding content. Good parking. Wild wee. This made me giggle. Mention to take your tissues home with you if you do wild wee
Good signage once in the wood Dog walkers and other park users stopped frequently to read the signs – but didn’t learn anything about what was going on Use this to promote your courses to the local community – tear off strips/phone number/website etc.
Framing the day and mention of permaculture Explain briefly what the three ethics are rather than only naming them Thanks for the mention – a couple of people asked me more about P and graceworks and hopefully I’ve encouraged one person to investigate the courses on offer
All activities are optional I wasn’t clear when some activities had finished (morning forage) and the next activities had begun. Not sure if the hand raising is too formal for this type of course, or perhaps a chime of a small bell/cymbals would work?
Provision of quiet secluded reading space Great range of books
Provision of hammocks to relax in Lovely to lie in them and rest
Provision of hot and cold drinks and snacks available all day Label the morning and afternoon snacks, and why they are special Great to be introduced to raw chocolate snacks – (would love this ladies contact details)
Emily being available to meet & greet, and do insurance/risk assessment document Emily being behind the drinks/food table – position yourself closer to the entrance so you are the first contact, then send people in to the tea-table, and indicate where is a good place to put your bag
Morning circle – lovely to sit down for a change and listen to other people’s reasons for being there – nice adaptation of more permie mc’s
Morning yoga – really nice to do this outdoors in an alternative location to the base camp. Adored the scents used, and the music. Not that confident in the yoga teacher’s skills
Forage walk – lovely to split into smaller groups, and have an ID sheet. Naughty sunshine the previous week making some things on the ID sheet “go over”
Lotions and lip salve activity – really really enjoyed this, great to make something to take home with me. Slightly crowded table – perhaps stagger the participants with other activities, or split the activity into chunks so that all who want to play a part in making
Lunch – adore a shared lunch and potential to try new and interesting dishes. Great to have some soup made from foraged items The buckets were a little unstable for us larger ladies Suggest people bring a folding picnic chair with them unless happy to sit on the floor (not all physically able to do so)
Afternoon activities – Lovely to try new art forms Use of sticky back plastic for mandals – perhaps making them on the floor (and biodegrade), or using PVA to stick to pieces of recycled card or recycled plastic gels (arrghh still plastic I know!)
Afternoon yoga – really lovely to do some more yoga to close the day But…perhaps a meditation session instead as this felt a bit too physical
Pack up – top idea to ask people to do 1 thing – it is the “1” that gets people to join in and then sometimes they do 2 or 3. I hope this helped you pack up a bit quicker Even though I brought too much with me that in the end I didn’t need, I would have been happy to carry one bag or a trolley’s worth to the edge of the park, or your house when leaving.



I am now in the pause phase of this design. I’m taking time out from it, reflecting on lessons learnt and considering my next move. I’m glad to be able to take this time before needing to jump straight in again and run another one.

I’m learning lessons from nature, as following the autumn pattern of letting go, resting and renweing before I re-commence planning in the springtime.

UPDATE I’m really excited to reveal that . have another women’s retreat day planned for 30th June 2018. I will be working with the same partners as last year along with a few new link ups. I’ve began to advertise the day already and have had lots of expressions of interest. Its looking like the event will be sold out and hopefully more profitable this year. I’ve learnt so much from doing this design and will make best use of this knowledge in planning the next event.

Using Permaculture in my Forest School leader training

In late 2014 I decided the time had come to do my Level 3 Forest School leader training and add Forest school activity to my Muddy Boots business. This training would allow me to set up my own Forest school. I undertook training in early 2015 and wrote in numerous blog posts including here.

I used Permaculture in a variety of ways throughout my training and wondered if I could somehow link my training and my Permaculture diploma. I never did write up a full design for my FS training, but I have included a few mini designs here to show how interlinked my thinking had become.

IMG_8140I brainstormed how I could use my permaculture design skills to help me in different areas of my Forest school training.

IMG_8139 (1)I used the action- learning cycle to help plan a route through my training course.

IMG_8132I used Looby’s Design web to help plan a Forest School taster event that I ran in local woodland. Providing this event for free for the borough council was a first step in obtaining long-term regular use of council woodland where I currently run my Forest school activity.


IMG_8134I used the action learning cycle again to plan a programme of six practical sessions that I needed to run as part pf my training course.

IMG_8143I applied permaculture thinking and PNI analysis to consideration of finding a woodland site in which to run my six practical sessions.

IMG_8142I considered patterns, flow and rhythm in my session planning.

IMG_8144I used planning for real techniques in my termly session planning


The training course was lots of fun but hard work. I ran my six sessions for the course in the autumn of 2015 and was granted permission to run another block of six sessions in the council woodland. Its all been a great success, the council are very supportive and have allowed me to continue and I’ve been working there 2 or 3 days a week ever since.

Forest School skills day

This weekend I attended a Forest school skills development day in a local woodland. I have been to a few of these days before and always loved them. They are a great chance to spend a day in the woods, playing with new ideas, trying out unfamiliar tools and cooking lunch on a campfire. I learnt a lot from the other practitioners and have honed my skills at lighting Kelly Kettles in the pouring rain! The photos show a selection of the things that we got up to.

My Forest school sessions start after the Easter holidays. I will doing two weekly sessions for pre-school kids and their parents and a monthly saturday session for primary aged children. I am also doing two weekly allotment playgroup sessions and teaching photography every monday, so its going to be a busy few months leading up to the summer break! I can’t wait to get started. The build up is always hard, much of the work is front loaded, getting kit and sites sorted, advertising and administrating bookings and preparing my sessions. I enjoy every stage, but actually leading sessions is what I like best and its almost time now!


Emergency shelter out of a tarp


3 legged stool


Stick pictures frame, I thought these could be good for throwing a ball through too


rope spiders web


low balance beam


base camp set up to cook in


Wild garlic bread


Shave horse




Gypsy rose


Gear shelter


High shelter

Muddy Boots ‘Wild wood’

One of the reasons that I haven’t been blogging as often this year is because I am busy training to be a Forest School Leader. I am loving the process and the whole concept of Forest School. I have always felt very at home in the woods and am loving introducing other people to this gentle way of interacting with each other and the natural world and seeing people appreciating the wonders of our natural environment.

Yesterday I ran my first ever Forest School taster session. It was so much fun! Ten families enjoyed a morning in the woods, making nature crowns, reading The Gruffolo, making dens for woodland creatures and Gruffolo caves for themselves. We rounded off the morning with hot drinks made on the Kelly Kettles and a picnic in the dappled shade of the hazel trees. I will be taking bookings soon for my regular Forest School sessions which start in September. I am loving my career path right now!

Here are ten photos from the day. IMG_7174 IMG_7170 IMG_7179 IMG_7224 IMG_7222 IMG_7238 IMG_7223 IMG_7211 IMG_7196 IMG_7185

Influences Nov 2014- May 2015

Today sees me finally getting around to posting the third installment of my ‘Influences’ posts. This post covers what I have been up to over the past 7 months. During this time the Diploma designs that I have been working on are, My health and well-being and South Leicester food group. I have also been busy with running Muddy Boots allotment playgroup and training as a Forest School Leader. 


The six month health and nutrition programme that I started last summer called ‘Eat smile live’ came to an end in December. I also did a 30 day Spring cleanse with the same company during April and May. I learnt loads and made lots of new meals and have sustainably changed my diet for the better.

I took part in the Vegan January challenge, attending various events locally and being part of the FB forum. I managed the transition from Veggie to Vegan pretty easily and I am still eating a diet that is around 90% vegan to date.

I am still involved in helping to facilitate the PDC in Leicester. I did some of the publicity for the event and designed this poster. perm flyer with logos jpeg


I attended the first three PDC sessions but have pulled back a little from helping out over the next few months due to being rather overwhelmed with other work and short on time. I hope to get more involved again after the summer holidays.

I began my Level 3 Forest School Leader training in March and am loving it. The course takes around a year to complete and involves practical taught sessions, practical assessments, lots of written assignments and the facilitation of 6 sessions of Forest school. It is taking up a lot of my time and head space, I plan on using Permaculture to help me to plan my 6 sessions and a taster session I have planned for June. I have wanted to do this course for many years so am thrilled to have made a start. The photo shows us all looking exhausted at the end of our tools, knots and den making assessment day.


I attended a two day Outdoor first aid course in April. It was a requirement of my Forest School training course, but was actually very interesting and useful for lots of areas of my life. I spend a night away from home, staying in a tiny room in a youth hostel, which was a real change for me, I have hardly spent a night away from my children or husband in 9 years!


This week I went on a wild food walk in a local Arboretum organised as part of National Vegetarian week. It was a lovely day and I saw lots of familiar faces there including some people who I’d studied Permaculture with over the years. The event re-inspired me to make the most of wild greens and I discovered some new uses for edibles in my garden, some of which I had previously considered to be weeds.

I attended the Permaculture Diploma accreditation of Reevsie. I was on his peer accreditation panel. After watching his presentation we had to discuss his designs and provide him with feedback. It was an interesting experience and great to see Reevsie complete his Diploma.

I am meeting regularly with six other families as part of the South Leicester food group  (I really need to come up with a more catchy name for this!) We have a shared meal, the kids play together, we share recipes and we order from Suma. The ordering process needs more work as it is rather long-winded currently. I am working on a diploma write-up about this group. Its been lovely connecting with a group of people, some of who are new friends for me and my children. We had a lovely day together recently enjoying good food, good company, and good weather! IMG_6668

I have taken part in three muddy runs, The Wolf Run in November, The Reaper in March and The Iron Run in May. Each of these invlved a 10KM run, lake swims, obsticles, mud pits and loads of fun. It is like being a kid again and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to find motivation for inproving their health and fitness. I have another run scheduled in for two weeks time, this time taking along my sister, I can’t wait! 11206608_10152818719262045_7253652698380650693_o


I set up a guild group at then end of 2014, especially for people who wanted to guild on weekday daytimes. Lots of the other local guilds are evenings and weekends and these times are not possible for me. We met up three times and chatted and ran through the four questions. The group seems to have rather fizzled out currently. I was a little fed up of being the person pushing for it to happen, so decided to sit back and see if anyone else made the effort. They haven’t! I am so busy at the moment that I can’t take on the leadership of the group so will let it do dormant for a while and see what happens in the autumn when people typically have more time for reflection.


I taught two three day Photography workshops in December and January to year 8 and year 7 students. That was good fun as always. I have recently started one-to-one teaching a teenager on the Autistic spectrum. I see her every monday and we take photographs, use the darkroom,visit the museum and galleries and are planning a photography exhibition together. She is fantastic and I really enjoying the calm pace and responsive way that I need to interact with her.

My Muddy Boots Outdoor playgroup is going from strength to strength. I put the price up this year and I finally take home a little money! This feels great after doing it totally voluntarily for 3 years. I am fully booked with a long waiting list so am exploring the idea of running a second weekly session. IMG_6620


My obsession with healthy cook books continues. I get a lot of enjoyment from a shiny new cookbook! I am cooking lots from the books below and feel I am finally beginning to master the art of meal planning! IMG_6678 IMG_6679 IMG_6680 IMG_6681 IMG_6682

I have not been able to continue helping out with the gardening club at my children’s school this year. I am too busy and I also felt rather under valued there. I have so many skills to offer the school but I am not willing to give these away for free forever! I enjoyed spending time there but have realised that if I spread myself too thinly, then all aspects of my life suffer. I can’t do everything all the time, so sadly I declined to help out this year. Maybe another year I can resume my work at school, hopefully in a respected and paid role next time around. I enjoyed reading this book below and would love to design a school garden one day. Maybe I will do this as a fantasy design?  IMG_6677

This book was on my Christmas list and I really enjoyed it. I loved the way the chapters were divided up like zones and the recipes look interesting. IMG_6676

I have had a quick flick through this but not read it cover to cover yet. I have pretty much decided that I don’t want to teach PDC’s, at least not to adults. I don’t feel I have the depth of knowledge. I am very interested in the idea of doing a PDC for teenagers, children or family groups, so will keep this idea bubbling away on the back-burner and see what comes of it in the future. IMG_6674

I have been going through a bit of a desert island phase lately. I re-read all three of Lucy Irvine’s books. Castaway is one of my all time favourites. I am learning about den making, knot tying, firelighting etc at FS training, so it was interesting to read about these skills in real life or death situations! I also watched The Island with Bear Grilles and enjoyed that a lot. I think I would cope on a desert island as long as I had a good supply of water, plenty of coconut trees and somewhere comfortable to sleep! IMG_6673

Twelve Principles for twelve months – April – Accelerate succession and evolution

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles.           I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the Principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time. April – Accelerate succession and evolution 


This image show wild garlic appearing this month in my garden. I have tried to use ideas I have learnt about Forest gardens and use edible plants that have similar traits to ‘pioneer plants’ or weeds. These plants are happy to grow in poor soil or neglected areas of my garden, they look after themselves and still provide me with a yield. Weeds are often the first plants to appear in the evolution of a garden. They enrich the soil and eventually make it more inhabitable for other more desirable plants.

This Principle is quite a difficult one, and one that does not really appear in any form in the 12 Holmgren principles. So I thought I would begin by defining the terms and under the ‘application’ heading I will considering what they could mean for my Permaculture journey.

Accelerate – To speed up

Succession –  The act or process of following in order or sequence.

Evolution – The gradual development of something.

So basically this principle is saying that we should seek to find ways in which to speed up the changes which naturally occur in a system and ensure that these changes are positive.


Accelerate Succession and Evolution: direct plants, animals, and soil life towards complexity and diversity to build our own climax species in a shorter time, forward your agriculture systems to more permanence, whether it is a grassland or a food forest. Utilize invasive species to your advantage; substitute your own pioneers and climax species that have multiple functions.                             Bill Mollison ‘Introduction to Permaculture’

Bill Mollison offered four objectives for fulfilling this principles in our design and management work

  • Using what is already growing
  • Introduce plants that will easily survive
  • Raising organic levels artificially
  • Substituting our own herb, pioneer, and climax species


I use this principle in my garden by observing which weeds grow well in which areas, then substituting them for similar plants that I have a use for. This speeds up the process of experimentation by ensuring the right plant ends up in the right place by following natures blueprint.

I am also using this principle in my career. I am trying to speed up the evolution of my career by a number of related processes;

1. Linking disparate areas that I am working on and stacking their functions. For example, my Forest schools training course requires me to plan, run and reflect on six practical sessions. This process can be written up as part of my Permaculture diploma as well for my FS training. These six sessions may be used as my Muddy Boots autumn season.

2. Seeking volunteering opportunities for Permaculture teaching and Forest school leadership. This helps me to network effectively, furthers my knowledge and practical experiences as well as being worthwhile activity that counts towards my courses.

3. Using Permaculture principles and techniques in the planning of Muddy Boots allotment playgroup. Also using new skills and ideas learnt in FS training in these session. This improves my environmental education practice and gives me a chance to test out idea for my FS assessment.


I can see this principle at work in the way my tutor Hannah Thorogood manages the PDC that I help out on. Year 1- people attend the PDC. Year 2 -people are encouraged to attend the course for a second time and help out around the edges, making tea, talking with participants etc. Year 3 – people are encouraged to take a more active role n the publicity and facilitation of the course and lead some aspects of the morning circle. Year 4- people are encouraged to facilitate the course or take a Permaculture teacher training course and lead some sessions. Year 5 – Hannah steps away to lead PDC’s elsewhere and the local course is self-sustainable and led by previous participants. We are in year 4 here and this example of evolution seems to be working quite well. We have a planning meeting next month to discuss how the PDC will work in years to come and to decide who wants to teach which areas of the course.

So my challenge this month is to really think about what I want my involvement in the local PDC to be. Do I want to do the TOT and train to teach PDC’s in the future? Do I want to write my own PDC aimed at children/teenagers/family groups? Do I want to investigate accreditation for PDC courses with a view to including them in school curriculums? Lots to think about here.


And finally this image shows how I ‘Accelerate succession and evolution’ in my flock of chickens, by buying in fertile eggs from breeds I am interested in and choosing the best broody hens to sit on the eggs and care for the chicks. This is one of last years chicks, in another 10 days we should be hearing the ‘Peep’ of new little chicks hatching out!

Happy Easter!  


Forest School teacher training

I am currently training to be a level 3 Forest Schools teacher. The course takes around nine months to complete and then I will be able to lead group of children or families for Forest School activities in the woods. Forest School teaches practical skills like tree identification, whittling, fire-lighting and den building alongside life skills like team-work, emotional intelligence and confidence building.

I am so excited! I have been wanting to do this training for years, but have never managed to find the money or time until now. I spotted a course in the woodland near to where we have our cabin, and decided to bite the bullet and book in. I have scraped together the cash and called in favours from family and friends to help with childcare. The course takes seven practical skills days and then 120 hours of writing. I have to plan and run six sessions for a client group taking then through a Forest Schools experience in either a wood belonging to a school or other setting. I am loving the course so far and thought I would share ten photos here on my blog that I took over the past few training days.


IMG_5846 The morning sun shining through the leaves still clinging onto a Beech tree.

IMG_5889Making an Elder bead necklace.

IMG_5884I co-lead a session making ‘nature crowns’ as part of a presentation on educational theory

IMG_5886 Making tent pegs by cutting and whittling a piece of wood.

IMG_5626 Collecting interesting tiny items on a woodland walk.

IMG_5629 Making a home for an owl!

IMG_5638 Using viewfinders to focus in on textures.

IMG_5831Lighting a fire using a flint ready to cook my lunch.

IMG_5641 Learning how to make a ‘wood-cookie’

IMG_5649My shadow looking enormous in thermal layers and waterproof! Full days spent out doors were wonderful but cold! It was very important to dress for the weather and drink lots of cups of tea.

Watching the Solar Eclipse

We took a little time out from my Forest school training course on friday (more about this soon) to watch the Solar eclipse. We noticed the temperature dramatically drop and the light slowly change to a weird dusk-like shade of blue. The sun looked hazy and the photographs that I took turned out very strange, with the sun looking not like a circle in the sky but more like it had been smudged and spread out in all directions.

IMG_5851 IMG_5860



IMG_5854  IMG_5849




Workshop. Forest gardens for Forest schools practitioners.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be included on a course that a friend of mine was running in Derbyshire. Like me, Sarah Spencer is studying for her Diploma in Applied Permaculture design. Sarah works at her local primary school and has designed and created a forest garden there. She lives on a nine acre smallholding and has another, more established Forest garden at her home. The one day course spanned both of these locations and was for teachers of Forest Schools, to show them how they could integrate Forest gardens into their teaching.

Sarah knows about my interest in Forest Schools and outdoor education, so she invited me to come along to the day. My role was to photograph the event, scribe for her when needed and provide feedback to be used in her diploma reflections. I certainly had a busy day fulfilling all of these roles as well as participating in the activities. I learn so much, met lots of interesting people and by the end of the day I felt even more certain that this is the direction in which I want my career to be heading.

Below are some images from the day.

sarah talksarah talkingleaf bashing mobiles stickman den obredimet on the grass plant dyes sarah house autumn walking legs barefootwalk garden rules sarahs garden sarahs house