About Mersey Forest
In Windmill Hill we are fortunate to be surrounded by such beautiful natural woodland and wildlife. We owe a lot of this to The Mersey Forest Partnership, who continue to work tirelessly to insure that our surroundings not only remain full of natural idyllic green areas, but that these areas also becomes a more prominent feature of our lives. It’s a well recognized fact that one of the best way for people to enjoy life and tackle issues such as depression is to embrace our natural landscape.
The Mersey Forest is a growing network of woodlands and green spaces across the Liverpool City Region and beyond, which has been creating ‘woodlands on your doorstep’ for 20 years. Back in the early 1990’s, 12 areas of England were chosen to be the focus of long-term tree planting programmes aimed at improving the local environment for the benefit of people, wildlife and the economy. The largest of these designated Community Forest areas covers more than 500 square miles of the Liverpool City Region and North Cheshire and is named The Mersey Forest.
Through community and partnership working The Mersey Forest Partnership has planted more than 9 million trees, equivalent to five new trees for every person living within the Mersey Forest area. Praised as a “visionary concept”, their ‘more from trees’ approach brings a whole host of environmental, health and economic benefits.
Windmill Hill is a prime example of how a community can embrace the surrounding woodland that makes up part of the Mersey Forest, with its natural environment intertwined with the housing estate itelf, adding that bit more of a pleasant feel to the area. You don’t have to go far to find ideal terrain to enjoy a stroll, it’s no wonder that Windmill Hill is a part of the 22 mile long Mersey Valley Timberland Trail.
Pupils from Windmill Hill Primary School have been reaping the rewards of The Mersey Forest initiatives since their Forest School was created around it in 1996. Children attending the Outstanding Ofsted rated school are grateful to have outdoor education as an important part of their curriculum.
Children take part in Forest School once a week, they learn all about nature and gain basic outdoor skills through a series of natural play activities. Children are significantly more active on days when they take part in a Forest School session than they would be on an ordinary school day.
The largest study of its kind entitled, “Encouraging play in the natural environment: a child-focused case study”, was carried out into Forest Schools by Liverpool John Moores University, The Mersey Forest and Deakin University in Australia.
The findings indicated that Forest Schools not only encouraged social skill development, but also helped children develop with confidence when interacting with the natural world, understanding, interest, motor skills and leadership skills, all of which are important components of a child’s development as well as having key links to their connectivity with nature.
“The early findings from the children’s study clearly show that during Forest School sessions, children are not only more active than they would be on an ordinary school day, but they also more than fulfill the NHS recommendation for daily physical activity. Given the national rise of childhood obesity, particularly in deprived areas, and the well-documented links between spending time outdoors and health and wellbeing, these are timely findings. The next step for us will be to publish the research in a peer-reviewed journal.”
Research Assistant at The Mersey Forest – Clare Austin (2014).