I learnt a great deal about how to engage with people in a natural woodland setting. Tracy Falcon’s audience participation exercise at one of the art pieces has stayed with me, (creating the surprisingly real sound of rainfall!) as has the enthusiasm that every group showed in making the work and telling a narrative that was inspired by their piece.
Participant Clare Jackson


Stour Valley Arts and the North West Kent Countryside Partnership recently brought 28 group leaders together to learn about ways of working in the outdoors. ­­Designed for workshop leaders, the day workshop (12 September) was intended to reveal and experiment with ways of using the King’s Wood forest and other natural environments to improve wellbeing through creativity.


The outdoor studio in King’s Wood, where the workshop was held. Photo © Stour Valley Arts


The group, who came from across Kent and as far afield as Brighton and Portsmouth, first took part in an exploratory sculpture workshop. This was led by artists Tim Norris and Tracey Falcon, who between them have extensive experience of delivering workshops in the woods for all age groups and abilities.


Tracey and Tim talked about their involvement in past projects, presenting case studies from Stour Valley Arts’ archive of expertise in using the forest. The participants then split into groups to work together to make sculptures inspired by their surroundings. They used natural materials and techniques such as flint, chalk, and chestnut branches.  Participants then took a tour to one of the forest’s artworks, to consider how to interpret and use the work with their groups.


Volunteer Kirsten Garcha getting feedback on her piece from Artist Educator Tim Norris. Photo © Stour Valley Arts


Rob Oxley of the North West Kent Countryside Partnership took the group on a journey around the forest in the afternoon, demonstrating the technique of making journey sticks inspired by aboriginal traditions. The group considered the 6 Ways To Wellbeing, part of the Live It Well strategy for Kent and Medway, whilst in the forest, nourishing a sense of place by taking time to be silent as they sat under the fir trees, and learning new facts about countryside wildlife.


Rob Oxley from North West Kent Countryside Partnership showing the group how to create memorable journeys in the forest with journey sticks. Photo © Stour Valley Arts


“Inclusive projects such as Down Time (which led to this event) focussed on getting people who wouldn’t normally be able to access the forest to come - and training artists to work with them. People from across our whole learning programme report great benefits in visiting King’s Wood. Participants feel a deep sense of calmness in seeing undamaged beauty, and often remark that the chaos and challenges in some of their lives is not reflected in the timeless and still nature of the forest.


“We are thrilled to be able to share these positive experiences with other practitioners, thanks to the funding from the Big Lottery Fund Well Being programme under the chances4change portfolio.”
Amanda Thesiger, Curatorial Learning Assistant at Stour Valley Arts


Modus Films produced a filmed document of the day. Catch their short video HERE.


Workshop participants using their creativity to work with the forest. Photo © Stour Valley Arts