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Who we are

Hakeford Woods Forest School CIC was set up in 2015 by Stuart Young, a teacher who had been teaching Science, specialising in Biology and Environmental Studies in in North Devon for the previous 12 years

Why Forest School?

When Stuart attended a Forest School Leaders' course with Bridgwater College in 2014, it confirmed the benefits of Forest School and other natural experiences to children and adults of all ages. Research in recent years has shown the benefits of regular contact with nature for people of all ages and backgrounds and his work as a teacher, made him aware that not everybody has the opportunity to access natural spaces as often as they could. Furthermore, setting up a Forest School centre had been a dream as  with his young family they embraced being outdoors in the local environment. 

What is a Social Enterprise and a Community Interest Company (CIC)?

"Social enterprises are businesses that trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment.  They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community.  And so when they profit, society profits."


"A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders."


It was essential to us that Hakeford Woods Forest School was set up to benefit the local community. Staff providing a service will need paying, the running costs such as resources and insurance will need to be covered, but after that, the profits made will be put towards providing services for the local community. This can include free sessions for specific groups, providing assisted places for Pupil Premium Students or subsidising transport costs for groups. Running as a CIC also has the potential to provide other benefits including enabling us to apply for a variety of grants that may not be possible to standard limited companies.

Why Hakeford Woods?

We started searching for a Forest School site in early 2014. Initial enquiries proved to be frustrating, but in the Spring of 2014 we visited Hakeford Woods and fell in love. The site had been kept as a wildlife sanctuary from hunting whilst in the ownership of The League Against Cruel Sports for several decades and the meadows and woodland had been left to nature. Our visits to the site have included regular sightings of foxes, deer and owls. 


After our initial consultation with the owners (Wildlife Woodlands), we applied for planning permission for a change of use to educational use.  This was necessary to ensure that we will be able to run Forest School sessions here on a long term, full time basis. 


After the planning process, we had to gain the approval of The League Against Cruel Sports. Although they were no longer the owners, they have retained the sporting rights on the land to ensure protection of the local wildlife for the future. As we hoped, they were supportive of our plans to have a limited impact on the local environment, whilst providing a significant benefit for the North Devon Community.

Other Staff and Volunteers

At the current time Stuart is working predominantly with Iona Dowling to deliver the regular Forest School sessions at Hakeford Woods. We also have a number of other qualified and experienced staff who work with us when we have larger or additional groups.  We are always keen to meet other suitably qualified and experienced staff to assist with running our sessions. Furthermore, willing adult volunteers are always very welcome to help maintain our site for both Forest School use and wildlife conservation. 



Safeguarding and Child Protection

All staff and volunteers working with young or vulnerable attendees will have enhanced checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service, dated within 5 years and at the current home address. Hakeford Woods Forest School will not employ people with unsuitable DBS certificates. All volunteers and visitors will be vetted by gathering references/employment history/ a record of qualifications/ or because we will have had prior personal knowledge of the person. If the visitor has a DBS certificate relevant to working with children or vulnerable adults, this will be checked by the management of Hakeford Woods Forest School. Participants will not be left unsupervised with a visitor or volunteer where no DBS certificate has been seen.

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