Who we are

Team – the staff and volunteers

Bright Woods Forest School CIC is a non-for-profit Community Interest Company. This means that all of our profits are reinvested to benefit the local community.

Our staff members have a vast amount of experience in delivery of Forest Schools programmes, outdoor education and creative activities. They are qualified in Outdoor First Aid, are DBS checked, hold Food Safety certificates and are members of the Forest School Association:

Gemma McColl

Gemma, who joined the team shortly after, spent more than 14 years working in community arts and ran a successful Educational Arts business, working with children throughout KS1-3, before becoming a qualified primary school teacher.

As a freelance artist, Gemma worked with schools and community groups delivering various workshops, which were inspired by the Reggio Emilia enquiry-based approach of early childhood education.

The ethos of the Reggio approach and Forest Schools sit comfortably together as they are about empowering children and helping them to be resilient problem-solvers in the future. Gemma is a qualified Forest Schools Level 3 Practitioner.

Louise Shepherd

Louise started with us as a volunteer in 2018 before becoming an integral part of the team. She is a keen nature enthusiast with a particular interest in wild flowers, trees and lichen and has a wealth of knowledge.

Prior to joining Bright Woods, Louise was a family support officer in a primary school and while there, she completed her Level 3 Forest School qualification and enjoyed organising and facilitating sessions such as pond dipping, bug hunts and fire lighting.

Louise is also a qualified secondary school teacher and spent many years leading scout sessions, supporting children from 6 to 18 years old with bushcraft and camping activities.


We also have a number of volunteers who contribute to the varied aspects of running of our Forest School including wildlife conservation and practical work as well as assisting sessions and events.

Please get in touch if you are interested in our volunteering opportunities.

Our Ethos

Bright Woods Forest School CIC believes in children’s rights to play, access the natural world, experience appropriate risk and a healthy range of emotions.

We believe that children who are given the freedom to play in the outdoors and get dirty and wet are simply happy children. Such children are more fulfilled, less prone to depression and more connected to the world around them.

In 2017, as away of helping us to fulfil our values and ethos and provide sessions to as wide an audience as possible, Bright Woods Forest School became a not for profit Community Interest Company.

Our Values 


Promoting self-expression, self-awareness and the freedom of choice. The liberty to question everything and see answers in nature.


An environment that unleashes the imagination, inspires play and embraces independence; the beginning of a life-long adventure.


Opening the doors to nature and encouraging play. We experience the woodland in a unique way.


Sharing our passion and knowledge of the natural world. Nurturing and guiding the next generation – our future ambassadors to nature.

Nature, Play, Adventure

Learning inspired by nature, the freedom to play and the magic of adventure.

What is Forest School?

At the heart of everything we do at Bright Woods is the Forest School Ethos. Forest School is an principle based on a fundamental respect for the learner and for their capacity to initiate and drive their own learning and development.

  • It is an inspirational process, that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.
  • Forest School has a unique way of building independence and a positive attitude towards learning, giving children and young people the opportunity to explore the natural world around them. 
  • Opportunities should be on-going rather than stand-alone sessions in order to give learners a deeper understanding of their own surroundings and enable them to use it as a medium to learn important life skills.
  • Forest School encourages learner-led and initiated learning. The leader’s role is to ensure safety, facilitate activities and to provide a catalyst for ideas rather than directing the sessions.
  • Forest School offers participants the opportunity to take risks and discover the concept of real actions and their consequences by being receptive to the natural environment and others involved.
  • Activities can include: shelter-building, fire lighting, foraging, campfire cooking, use of tools, woodland crafts and games. Please check our Offer section for further information on Forest School programmes.

For more information go to the website of Forest School Association > www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school

Where we work

We run sessions from our site at Deepdale Nature Reserve or we can come to your location. We can deliver work across County Durham, Darlington and the surrounding areas of North Yorkshire. Please contact us for more details.

Our site at Deepdale Nature Reserve has temporary shelter and accessible composting toilet with baby changing facilites. We run activities in most weathers, however in the event of high winds or thunder & lightning the sessions will be rescheduled or a full refund offered.

Our private site have a meadow, woodland and stream

Health & Safety

‘Play – and particularly play outdoors – teaches young people how to deal with risk. Without this awareness and learning, they are ill-equipped to deal with adult life. Outdoor play and learning is an important part of our children’s education.’
~ Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive – HSE

At Bright Woods Forest School CIC, we are fully committed to the Health & Safety and general comfort of all people involved including leaders, clients, participants, volunteers and partners. We carry out risk assessments and risk benefit analysis for all of our activities and sites.

The following documents are available upon request:

  • Outdoor and Forest Schools First Aid Certificate
  • Food Safety Certificate
  • Public Liability Insurance
  • Handbook with Communications, Policies and Procedures
  • Portable DBS
  • Risk assessments
Outdoor First Aid Training in Northumberland
Outdoor First Aid Training in Northumberland
Best Social Enterprise

Best Social Enterprise