As part of the wood workshops I run with Stephanie Walker, Wooploft was one of the most ambitious.
Pupils from Tynewater Primary School’s P7 class designed and built the structure in one year year under the auspices of International Year of the Forest, and with a grant from the Forestry Commission. The aims of this workshop included teaching the children about the properties of wood, its use in buildings and an understanding of how it responds to local environmental, climatic and cultural conditions. The choice of building type, use and location was largely left to the children.
The original intention was to build the structure in the playground of their school at Pathhead. However in the end bureaucracy and health and safety regulations got the better of us and instead we chose to build the structure 17 miles away at Wooplaw Community Woodland in the Scottish Borders, between Lauder and Galashiels.
The design was an amalgamation of the children’s own designs – a 2.5m square hut raised 2m above the ground. It sits discreetly in a line of mature beech trees, well hidden in Summer. There is a large balcony cantilevered out to the South over the steep banks of Allan Water some 50m below. It is an ideal place to nature watch, camp and play.
As much as possible of the structure as possible was prefabricated in the school playground to a size that six children could manhandle the panels themselves. This was no mean task. The children were also made to collect many barrow loads of stones from the river below which were used for foundations. Some of the more agile boys were sent up the beech trees to remove branches.
This was a truly collaborative project with parents and local tradesmen helping. Thank you to form teacher – Mrs Fiona Kenny, the head teacher – Douglas Lawson, the committee of Wooplaw Wood and all the helpers from the community for all your support.
You can visit Wooploft any time, in the beautiful grounds of the first community wood in Britain – Wooplaw. There is a Wooplaw APP which can be downloaded free that describes the wood including an interview with one the pupils, describing the making of Wooploft.
Wooploft is now one of the huts in A Thousand Huts campaign run by Reforesting Scotland.
Click here to hear an interview with John Fraser, P6 pupil Tynewater School, with Wendy Ball of Locus Focus – Heritage Guides, now in the HES SCRAN’s archive.