“I visited WAM Woods today with my brother who has special needs. I often provide respite for my brother to give my parents and other siblings a break. It is really difficult to find places to visit that cater for children with special needs but the staff were fab and very welcoming! We travelled 40 minutes to visit WAM Woods but it was worth it and we would definitely come again. There really needs to be more places like this as it gives much needed respite to families and also a fun experience for the kids!”
We were delighted to offer our first SEND Exclusive Day in the WAM Woods, in the Autumn half term on Tuesday 26th October 2021. These pictures are from the Pumpkin Craft Corner, and Sensory Storytelling workshop. Keep scrolling to see other pics from our pilot sessions earlier in the year, and for information about the day!
Exclusive SEND days in the WAM Woods
WAM Youth provided some outdoor SEND pilot sessions for families during Spring half term and the Easter holidays, as we intentionally explored making our provision more inclusive. Many thanks to those who took part and who provided valuable feedback to help us know what is important to you and how best to meet your needs. You can see what we got up on our SEND days below!
“So friendly and welcoming. Peaceful, relaxed and stress free. We loved it.”
“Thank you to you and your team so much for a wonderful experience [yesterday]. We all loved it, the children really enjoyed all of the activities. It was very valuable to us to be able to attend this SEND session as the places in the community we are able to access can be very limited. All of the team and volunteers were very friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental, engaging lots with the children. It allowed us to freely participate without feeling under any pressure. We haven’t had many opportunities to do something like this due to our daughters needs, therefore her siblings have also been missing out. This was such a lovely and enriching time for us all, which we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do during the holidays. Thank you for all of your help, support and kindness, we really appreciate it.”
“It’s been one of the only times as a parent of a SEND child that I’ve felt comfortable, It was heart warming to see and feel.”
What to expect from a SEND exclusive day in the WAM Woods (note session times on different dates may vary):
To offer you the greatest flexibility, you may enjoy the day for any length of time between 10am-4pm. A schedule will be provided closer to the time so you know exactly what is on, when. An example schedule can be found below.
Upon arrival, you will be given a pack which includes a map of the woodland, instruction sheets for different activities (such as mud art, nature trail etc to be explored at your leisure) and a printed schedule, in case you want to join an instructor-led activity or join us for snacks around the fire. The ample wood strewn around the woodland offers endless opportunities for den-making. We also will have a sheltered area, and a space with free play games and activities such as Giant Jenga, Badminton, Lego, and a Sensory Tent. During the day there will be opportunities to enjoy sensory storytelling.
Many children benefit enormously from spending time in our woodland. Being in nature makes for a peaceful and therapeutic environment.
|Activity (fixed time)||Morning Session:||LUNCH||Afternoon session:|
|Welcome & entry|
Guided tour around the woodland (Badger)
Pond-dipping try-out (Butterfly)
Slack Line try-out (near Badger)
Sensory Storytelling* (Vole)
End of session
Activity (time window)
Free Games (Owl)
Ropes Maze (Deer)
Pumpkin Craft Corner (Pumpkin)
Mud Kitchen (Squirrel)
|You are free to bring a packed lunch or continue exploring our woodland!|
Please note activities will not be supervised by volunteers during this time (apart from the fire).
|Last entry 3pm|
About our woodland:
Our 19-acre woodland is based in Evesham on the Vale Park Industrial Estate. You can find us by typing WAM Woods into google maps. It is a 25 minute drive from Cheltenham, 20 mins from Tewksbury, 40 mins from Gloucester, or 15 mins north of Winchcombe.
The entrance is just a short walk up an off-road track away from any traffic with a large expanse of vegetation either side. On arrival at the woodland, the beauty of trees growing and natural vegetation greets the eye. The ground can be uneven and therefore difficult for wheelchair users, however, we are actively working to make our woodland more accessible in this regard. Our woodland is kept as natural as possible with an open boundary all around to allow passage for animals such as deer and can become very muddy so wellies and warm clothes are needed! To encourage wildlife (both big and small) any fallen trees are left to rot naturally with just the roots protruding as a trail of their existence. This large natural space allows young people to feel a sense of freedom and truly be themselves.
You may also be asking yourselves “Are there any toilets?”, Surprisingly yes! We have a compost toilet which was handmade by our young people who already attend the woodland, the toilet is completely private but does have a step.
Please see the video below to gain an insight into what our woodland looks like.
Here are some answers to questions you may still have!
What is the different between your SEND Exclusive Days and your Family Days where additional needs are also welcome?
Our feedback from families who accessed our SEND pilot sessions was that some wish to access mainstream services and integrate with neurotypical children and families; and others appreciate an environment where they and siblings feel more comfortable around other who understand them and possible challenging behaviours etc. Our SEND exclusive day also has more volunteers stationed at the various activities to help entertain and support you and your child, to help give you a bit more of a break (even though on both days your child remains in your overall care.) The family day is more independent and less supported by volunteers; you are more left to your own devices to explore the woodland, which you may prefer. We are developing both provisions as we are committed to becoming more inclusive as an organisation.
Can we come as a family?
You are very welcome to come as a family. Just include the details of your party upon registration. You may also include a PA as part of your family group, or your child may come with just their PA / PA's.
What ages is it suitable for?
As each child will attend the session with their parent / family or PA(s) we are happy to accept young people with SEND up until 25 years old.
Where do we park?
Parking is on the road, and the woodland can be accessed by walking along a track. Disabled parking is available closer to the entrance, but is extremely limited. Therefore, if you are in need of disabled parking, please request this at the time of booking. However please be aware the woodland is only suitable for those able to walk moderate distances.
What should be bring?
Bring a packed lunch if you are in the woods over lunch time. It is always a good idea to wear rubber boots, especially if your child wants to play near or in the pond or at our mud kitchen! Please always clothing appropriate for the weather, (waterproofs in case of rain) and to make sure you are warm. We do not have running water so you may also want to bring hand-wipes.
Is it Covid-safe?
One of the wonderful things about being outside is it dramatically reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission. We will create an environment conducive to social distancing and actively encourage that. However we cannot control each individuals behaviour, especially those who do not understand the concept of social distancing. Therefore each parent or personal assistant will be agreeing to an acceptance of risk upon registering for this event and to encourage their own child to maintain social distancing.
Are the paths suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs?
We are obliged to maintain the woodland in a natural state, and we are sorry that it currently does not have easy access for wheelchairs or buggies. The paths can get very muddy / slippery in the rain, but when it is dry it is a bit easier to navigate if you are feeling brave; just bear in mind the paths are very bumpy! The campfire areas do not currently have vehicle access. We are on a journey to make our provision more inclusive and would very much like to find creative solutions to this in the future.
Are there toilet and changing facilities for wheelchair users and baby changing?
We have a compost toilet (see above) which has limited space inside, and neither does it have a hoist. Please communicate with us if you need nappy changing facilities and there is a shelter we can point you to which can provide some privacy.
Do we have to do all the activities?
You are completely free to join in with scheduled activities, or to do your own thing.
What happens if it rains?
You would be amazed at what fun can still be had even in the rain! It is usually only very strong winds that oblige us to cancel a day we have organized in our woodland. However, we do have covered areas and the trees also offer a layer of protection. Saying that, we always recommend warm and waterproof clothing and appropriate footwear.
My child absconds and I’m worried about safety. Is it a contained space?
Due to the size and nature of our woodland, it is very difficult to fully contain it. There is a bramble bush that lines one side of the wood. In normal circumstances it would be very unlikely your child would find easy opportunity to escape. However due to the increased vulnerabilities of children with special needs, we do require a parent or personal assistant to be present and responsible for your child. It may also comfort you to know that there are no close roads or traffic to worry about, and we do have CCTV at our entrance.
Is there a danger of others wandering in?
The CCTV at the entrance to our woodland which would identify any suspicious activity. However, as our woodland is not contained, it should be treated as any other public space you would take your child requiring your close supervision.
What about fire danger?
Any fire will be supervised at all times, and is often a popular space to hang out and chat over a drink or snack. However if this causes stress, we can identify these areas on a map so you can avoid them.
Will there be any axes or knives lying about?
We do have instructor-led sessions on various bush-craft activities including knife skills in WAM Youth outdoor education sessions, but these will be safely locked away during our open day.
My child has coordination difficulties. Are there many obstacles?
Our paths do have naturally growing trees and protruding roots which make for an uneven surface, and can get muddy and slippery in the rain, so depending on the severity of your child’s coordination difficulties it may be more challenging for them to enjoy our woodland. The best idea is to try it and see.
Can we bring our dog?
As some children are frightened by dogs, we are only allowing Assistance Dogs for the time being.
My child has a lot of allergies. Is there anything naturally growing in the woodland that is poisonous to the touch or to eat?
Just like any outdoor natural space there are a variety of plants that grow in our woodland and we are discovering new ones all the time! We don’t advise eating anything you find in the woodland (except when being guided by someone we know is trained to recognise edibles) If your child has known allergies to particular plants we advise you to get in touch if you are concerned about this. Our staff are trained outdoor first aiders if other injuries were to occur.
How do I get there?
The WAM Woods are located just off Vale Business Park near Evesham. The location can be found in Google Maps by searching for WAM Youth https://goo.gl/
Turn off the A46 into Vale Business Park (opposite Frankie and Benny’s and McDonalds.) Follow Millenium Way over the next roundabout to a T-junction. Take a left onto Enterprise Way and as soon as you pass Primafruit on your right turn immediately right. There should be a sign for Robert Welch and a raised yellow barrier. (Be aware there are two Robert Welch buildings on the Business Park so don’t follow Google Maps to Robert Welch as it may take you to the wrong one!). Please park on the road, and walk down the smaller road/track to the woodland. (Closer disabled parking at the end of this track can be pre-booked, but is very limited and not guaranteed.)
Are there any supermarkets or facilities close by?
There is a Morrisons and other local amenities a short drive away.
Who can I talk to for more information?
Carla Thraves our Community Youth Worker coordinates the Exclusive SEND Days and can be contacted on 07736 950035 or email@example.com
Leanne Greenwood, our Outdoor Education Officer coordinates our Family Days and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to seeing you there!