During the half term holidays, the National Trust on the Lizard was involved in an innovative project specifically for girls. In partnership with the Eden Project, and funded through Cornwall Council, we invited girls of all ages to spend two days camping in Tremayne Woods on the Helford river. Girls are particularly discriminated against when it comes to adventurous play, and are often left sidelined when boys are playing alongside. For this reason, the event was limited only to girls (and their mums). Over twenty girls aged from 5 yrs to 13 yrs attended the event, for some their first ever time camping.
We spent the first day building dens (which some of the girls slept in overnight!!) before we gave them a load of nets, ropes and swings to create their own adventure playground in the trees.
We then showed the girls how to make fire (without matches!) before they cooked their supper on the campfire. After roasting marshmallows we took them on a night walk in the forest to test their bravery (it was quite scary even for the adults!).
After a very sound sleep under canvas and their dens, and a breakfast cooked on the fire, we took the children down to the river where their task was to build rafts and row them out into the river. Great fun and all of the girls rose to the challenge.
Whilst the whole event was very carefully managed, it was heartening to see that this kind of event doesn't need to get bogged down in H&S red tape and unwieldy risk assessments. The kids were given the freedom to explore their own limits, discover the risks for themselves and push themselves beyond their own comfort zones. And of course, there were no incidents, no accidents, not even any tears. Everyone got very muddy, wet and tired, and had the most fantastic time!
As part of the project, we interviewed the children about what they wanted from the outdoors, and what barriers they felt were in their way. Their responses were videoed and this valuable information can now be used to encourage further debate about how the outdoors is perceived. For this particular group of girls, their love affair with the countryside has certainly been rekindled!
A big thankyou to the Eden team and Cornwall Council for making this event possible!!