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Outdoor Play Week launches at Alice Holt Forest

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children having fun at alice holt

Take a leap into the wild at Alice Holt Forest and join the tremendous adventures on offer for Outdoor Play Week with the Forestry Commission and Play England on 13 March.  From den building and fire making to cycling and mini-beast hunts, children of all ages can come and join the fun for free.

Families are welcome to come along between 10am and 4pm, meet at the cafe and sign up to one of the many activities including hide and seek, sensory forest experiences, blindfold trail and orienteering sessions. Advance booking is not required and families who come along will have the fantastic opportunity to win one of 10 family tickets for Go Ape! (conditions apply).

A survey for Natural England found children are spending less time playing outdoors than ever before, as much as 90 per cent of their time is spent indoors. The attraction of TV and computer entertainment has increased, in a Childwise survey the average child spent nearly five and a half hours a day in front of a screen.

For children to maintain good health an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity is recommended every day.  According to Forestry Commission research, this level of exercise is reached for just 20-30 minutes on an average school day, compared with 1.5 hours on a day spent in the forest.

Outdoor Play Week is an initiative supported by the Department of Health, Natural England, Play England and Wellbeing South East, which is being run to give families a taste for outdoor fun and adventure. Families, schools and communities are also welcome to organise their own outdoor play events.

Helen Wallace, education manager at the Forestry Commission, said:

“Alice Holt Forest visitor centre is very safe and welcoming, there’s always a member of the team out in the forest and lots of people are about.  We also offer so much for children from natural play areas, to play trails, cycle tracks and plenty of opportunity for free play in the forest, such as, making dens to hide in or paddling and splashing about in streams. The forest is nature’s playground.”

Children can experience a whole raft of benefits from outdoor play including improved fitness, greater emotional wellbeing, improved self-esteem, confidence and better social skills.  Spending time in nature puts children in touch with their senses and has a calming effect, helping people to cope with stress.

Before children spent time outdoors in the forest, children said ‘bad’ weather and the threat of getting dirty might prevent them from playing and being active outdoors.  Afterwards these were actually viewed as positive aspects of being outdoors and spending time in the forest.

So grab your wellies and come and join the Forestry Commission team for some fun and games at Alice Holt Forest south of Farnham, Surrey, GU10 4LS, at Bucks Horn Oak, off the A325 near Birdworld.  For further information on the activities being offered by the Forestry Commission visit

Outdoor Play Week activities at Alice Holt are free although normal car parking charges apply.   For information and help with organising your own outdoor play event please visit


Please credit Grant Pritchard for Den building photo.

1. A recent report suggests that children and young people (aged 5-16) spend on average 2.7 hours per day watching television, and 1 in 10 say they watch more than 4 hours per day (Childwise, 2009). The report highlights that almost all of those surveyed had a computer at home and nearly five and a half hours a day are spent in front of a screen.

Childwise monitor report 2008/9.

2. A survey undertaken for Natural England asked questions of adults and children about their contact with nature (Natural England, 2009). Adults were asked to talk about what they had done as children and the survey found that although adults stated that they had played outdoors 40% of the time as children, children today only did this for 10% of their time.
Natural England. 2009. Childhood and nature: a survey on changing relationships with nature across generations. Report to Natural England by England Marketing, Cambridgeshire.

3. Lovell (2009) looked at children at a Forest School in Edinburgh and found they did more physical activity in the wood than when they were in school or the playground.

Lovell, R. 2009. An evaluation of physical activity at Forest School. Research Note for Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

4. Participation in outdoor activities such as volunteering and Forest School can lead to particular benefits in terms of increases in self esteem and confidence.  There are improvements in social skills when activities include team related work (O’Brien and Murray, 2007).

O’Brien, L and Murray, R. 2007. Forest School and its impacts on young children: case studies in Britain. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 6: 249-265.

5. The Forestry Commission manages over 250,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of woodlands in England.  Most of this land is open for public access and the Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in the country. For further information visit

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.

6. Play England promotes excellent free play opportunities for all children and young people. Play England provides advice and support to promote good practice, and works to ensure that the importance of play is recognised by policy makers, planners and the public. Play England is contracted as the government’s delivery partner for The Play Strategy. Play England is part of NCB and is supported by the Big Lottery Fund. For further information call 020 7843 6300 or visit

Helen Wallace, Education Manager, Alice Holt Forest, Forestry Commission, tel: 01420 23666, email: