St Nicholas' Primary School, Marston, Oxford
NaturEscape’s exciting second project is St Nicholas’ Primary School in Marston, Oxford. A site this time with its own miniforest: a narrow corridor of trees running the length of the school’s boundary with the Marston Ferry Road cycle path and a busy road.
There are plenty of trees but in order to realize the School’s vision of an urban forest school site,where children can learn and explore and wildlife thrive, there were challenges to address: limited access due overgrown brambles, risks of rotting trees, debris and a lack of screening from the road.
Our design brief from staff and children was to maintain the wild forest scape but create discovery zones for dens, free play and physical adventure, nature observation and learning, hammocks, a fire pit for group cooking, storytelling and singing and spaces for quiet reflection. A NaturEscape to stimulate the five senses, with more wildflowers, places to watch butterflies in the meadow, toast marshmallows on the fire, touch, climb and listen to trees, with natural materials to mold and to create nature art, and breathe the scents of earth, plants and wood.
With this in mind our design opens up the middle area of the site creating a large space for a fire pit, a wild meadow area (good for pollinators). This open space will enable larger groups to gather surrounded by a “dead hedge’ providing shelter and also homes for mini beasts, using existing site material.
Venturing into the forest area natural screens from hazel and climbers will provide enclosure and some privacy from the road. Paths journey to left and right under tunnels of existing sycamore, leading to den areas and open glades for groups, circle time and cloud watching. The children have asked for a treehouse or platform and climbing. We will leave dead wood for rot holes, home to wet- loving forest creatures and discovering creepy crawlies. Den building areas provide opportunities for young engineering and construction projects, or to create imaginative areas for play,
There is so much potential in the NaturEscape different zones for nature learning and eco awareness. We will use as many natural materials as possible and increase the biodiversity of the site, and together with the staff, children and school community, unlock its potential as a place which enhances the wellbeing of people and planet.