When Clare's daughter Scarlett was starting to get mobile, Clare started looking around for groups that were nature based, relaxed and local... after coming to a dead end she started visiting Sydenham Hill Wood on a weekly basis with a friend and her baby and toddler. When that friend went back to work she started up Nature Play: South East London in July 2011. Word soon got around and before she knew it there were other parents joining her for a weekly dose of nature!
"I grew up in the countryside and so felt very strongly about passing on that love of nature, the earth and care of the environment on to my daughter - especially as we were bringing up our baby in a city! There was only one way to do that as far as I was concerned and that was to get in amongst nature regularly.
As Scarlett gets older, the brief changes. At first it was about discovering the environment, now it's about physical and imaginary play... all are essential to brain growth as it turns out.
One of the most surprising bits to the whole Nature Play experience for me, is that we the adults get just as much out of the weekly experience, we come out relaxed and grounded. It's what I wanted for my daughter, but forgot that I needed it for myself too."
Clare now lives in Rutland with husband Nick and their two daughters Scarlett and Olivia.
"Before our son Alisdair arrived we have been doing walks around local woods, gardens and parks. We love being in the outdoors and wanted our young boy to be part of this. We have been taking him out in nature since his first week of life!
After looking for an outdoor based group for young children I heard of Nature Play and immediately fell in love with the philosophy of letting children out in nature to have some wonderful unstructured time."
Maria started up Nature Play Croydon in February 2013.
Nikki Hatchett hosts the Croydon Group with Maria.
Hannah Pattison and Isobel Butler
Friends Hannah and Isobel started looking around for an outdoor playgroup when their babies were beginning to get mobile but couldn’t find any in the Peterborough area. After meeting Clare, Hannah was inspired to set up Nature Play Peterborough and the group started in August 2015.
“We will never forget our very first Nature Play Peterborough session. Lost in the heart of our woodland, we let them ‘go’. A hush descended as from the safety of our laps they soaked in through every cell of their being- the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. Soon, when they were ready we followed their cues to move off our laps. My daughter Florence stomach crawled slowly and with intense determination towards a leaf hanging down, mesmerised by the sunlit patterns moving through it, a look of wonder and joy on her face. Isobel’s son Johnny realising the floor beneath him was alive and changing, began delving his fingers down into the soil. We’ll always remember how they both looked as they wordlessly passed a stick back and forth. Utterly ‘in the moment’ as babies always are, we were mindful and respectful of what they chose to play with.”
“Needless to say, it quickly became all of our favourite time of the week- connecting with each other and nature. Each time we take the track into the woods, one of us is sure to exclaim ‘Look how much it’s changed since last week. It never ceases to amaze us how each session leaves us refreshed and energised. Taking a step back and mindfully watching our children as they choose to daydream, explore, interact, roam around- wherever their play takes them, we enjoy the lack of agenda and appreciate them for who they are in that moment.”
Paula Rozmysl, Paula Ko and Clare Welburn
"I had always been an outdoorsy person, I grew up in a small city but the countryside started at the end of my street. I rode and we had a family dog so lots of my free time was spent outdoors and that was something I wanted for my children too. We moved to this little bit of south London called Plumstead exactly because it had so many great, green spaces but in the year I had gone back to work full time between my two children my eldest had not really been in nature in the way I had envisaged. The first time my son was at Nature Play he would wipe the mud off his boots with his gloves. Within a year he had completely changed and he is now always at his happiest in the woods. The weekly rhythm of spending time in this wild setting is now just a normal part of his childhood experience." Clare Welburn
East Singapore Group
East Singapore Group
"I was running out of space and scape at our city-flat home as my daughter, Violet, was very much into movement so the only place left to go was out! Violet was always in awe of the outdoors and nature. It energises us both. I was fortunate enough to meet Clare and expressed my anxieties and excitement about bringing my then 3 months old to the South East London group hosted by Natasha and Ana. I was sold!- We went the very next week, we've never looked back!"
Nature Play East Singapore began in October 2016.
North West London Group
"Growing up in a Bavarian valley on the foot of the alps, being outdoors has always been the place I felt most happy and at ease. I was curious if I’d be content in a big city, when I moved here 7 years ago to join my husband. It didn’t take long until I fell in love with the beautiful green spaces of London and naturally I seek to spend most of my free time there. When I ask my almost 3 year old boy in the morning, what he wants to do, mostly he replies “going to park, Mama“.
I believe it’s necessary for the future of our planet that we learn to connect with it, the earlier the better. That’s the main reason why I decided to volunteer for Nature Play. Also great that it encourages free play, feels close to how I grew up, I can relate to that.
You don’t need to bring money to come to the sessions and the location in Sandy Heath is stunning, a real treat to be there."
Sally Mesner Lyons host the South East London Group
Effie Manou hosts the Thessaloniki Group
Kat Parr Mackintosh hosts the Richmond Group