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Free Range parents launch nursery in city haven



As the hubbub of city life bustles around them, a group of Hackney children are having a more serene experience outside with nature.


Whatever the weather, children as young as two at Free Range Urban Kids are spending their nursery days outside in South Millfields Park listening to birdsong, exploring, climbing, going on mini beast adventures and learning about nature. They’re building dens, listening to stories and acting them out, eating picnics and forming friendships.


Sessions follow the rhythm of the seasons and are tailored to the time of year.


It’s all thanks to Hayley Mitchell and Elizabeth Hassay… two local parents who wanted their own children to attend an outdoor nursery.


Hayley said: “We are hooked on the Forest School ethos, the more we explore and experience it, the better it gets. Our site has given us so many unique memories already: The birds who launch into evening song high in the conifers next to the site, hundreds of them singing together; stunning sunsets, beautiful mushrooms, morning mists and changing autumn colours.


“Each day is magical, we love seeing the children exploring, climbing and learning firsthand about nature whilst forging new friendships.”


The journey began when Hayley discovered Lea Valley, the marshes and the canal during her pregnancy - it became her haven away from the hustle and bustle - a place to get away and relax.


She added: “After my son was born I found Forest Kids Hackney, who meet several times a week and spend time together outdoors. I loved it and so did my son, who was not happy at indoor playgroups and I knew he needed to be outside to be able to interact with other children positively. We still go to Forest Kids and have made some great friendships.”


With the nearest Forest School in Highgate, Hayley decided to open her own and she enlisted Lizzy to help.


Hayley added: “We cram in work when our little ones sleep, hold meetings and interviews in the park. We have completed paediatric and outdoor first aid courses; hired wonderful Forest School practitioners, gathered together Forest School equipment. I am currently doing the Forest School Level 3 training too.”


Base camp features a tarpaulin over the trees to provide cover from the elements and two pop up tents (one a cosy area and the other housing a potty).


Free Range Urban Kids launched on November 5th with two hour outdoor play sessions on Wednesday and Friday mornings and afternoons. Their next milestone will be to become Ofsted registered so they can offer full time nursery care five days a week.


Numbers are growing rapidly and many families are booking for the whole term.  Sessions cost £16 when booked as a block of six or more sessions.



To find out more or book your place email

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