Deputy head quits to open forestry nursery

Emma Rathbone is setting up a forestry nursery school called Little Explorers
Emma Rathbone is setting up a forestry nursery school called Little Explorers
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A nursery will help youngsters become at one with nature when it opens next month.

Little Explorers Nursery, run by teacher sisters Emma Rathbone, 36, and Amy Crook, 33, claims to be the first dedicated forestry nursery school on the Fylde Coast, and promises to build children’s knowledge of the outside world through hand-on woodland experiences.

Twelve jobs will be created at the nursery, in West Drive, Thornton, which will have an outdoor mud kitchen, huge sand pit with a platform and pulleys and a digger, a ‘water wall’, woodland climbing area, and outdoor stage.

The garden will also feature a full-size safari jeep, and a gardening and vegetable area.

The nursery’s interior will have a woodland theme, as well as high-tech smart boards and iPads.

Staff will also walk youngsters to nearby Tower Woods on a weekly basis so they can climb trees, splash in puddles, and build rope swings.

Emma, who quit her job as deputy headteacher at Charles Saer Community Primary School in Fleetwood to chase her dream, said: “On a personal level it has been a very hard decision leaving a profession I love, but this is a dream I can’t wait to pursue.

“My sister and I have always wanted to open our own nursery and we wanted our own children to attend a forest school but there was nothing nearby.

“Our children, like us, love nature and outdoors and we wanted to be able to offer this to our local community.”

The nursery’s application to convert a former house into a nursery and build an extension was met by objections from neighbours citing worries over traffic, noise, and the impact on house prices in official documents

Next door neighbour Gillian Metcalf threatened legal action against the council, while Steve Garside from nearby nursery Mary Poppins argued it would ‘squeeze’ competitors’ profit margins.

But the council gave the green light after Little Explorers said a survey found the increase in traffic would be ‘negligible’, said a natural sound barrier of hedge and fence could muffle noise, and argued the area’s only forestry school in 20 miles would actually boost house prices. Two comments in support of the nursery were also lodged.

More than a dozen families have already secured a place at Little Explorers, the nursery said.

It will cater for 12 babies and 35 children aged from two to five, from 7.30am until 6pm on weekdays.

Forest schools originated in Denmark in the early 20th century and became popular in the 80s. Because they help boost confidence and self-esteem, their approach is held in high regard by education watchdog Ofsted, Little Explorers said.