Enchanted Forest excites and stimulates senses
By Darren Lum
Published July 11, 2017
After a year of work and planning by the Haliburton Home School senior students, excitement was in the air as they shared their Enchanted Forest at Abbey Gardens with the public on June 25.
The Enchanted Forest is a place for the young and the young at heart to get away, create and break free from convention.
From the main entrance, visitors are brought down a path past the Enchanted Rapids (a repurposed children’s slide) while to the left a twinkling path catches the light, reflecting randomly placed minerals that lead to the Gnome Home and Fairy Garden. Next to that is the Theatre in the Woods where shows and creative productions are encouraged to be staged. To the right of the theatre is the Off the Trail Art Studio where paint is available to conjure up images and apply them to translucent plastic sheets framed in wood. Other main areas include Bog Bakery, Harmony Hallow and Kids’ Construction. There is an opportunity to make an assortment of faces, using fist-sized stones adorned with pre-painted facial features – think Mr. Potato Head. Paint markers are left out for anyone to make their own designs.
With support and encouragement from Abbey Gardens, the most senior home-school students Anabelle Craig and Helen Williams, both 13, and 10-year-olds Olivia Humphries, Lillian Ramsdale, and Gabriel Humphrey were central to the concept, work and execution.
Anabelle beamed when asked about the public space. She was amazed at the transformation, particularly by how much progress there was the past 11 weeks. It started out as a single path with a few low-lying branch walls. It has grown to a network of defined pathways, leading over an undulating terrain of natural space, punctuated by hits of colour and lit by a smattering of sunlight. It’s about the size of four tennis courts.
Anabelle and Lillian are satisfied with the forest for now, but understand there may come a time to update and change things to keep it fresh for visitors.
Too busy to enjoy the forest, the senior students at the official launch said they appreciated the help from the younger home-school students, who assisted with painting and also provided ongoing feedback about the features of the forest. The young home-school students have been dubbed the Enchanted Forest Crew in training and have the T-shirts to match.
This idea was inspired by Brandon Jarvis, a parent and local blogger (rightbrainedmom.com), who has an enchanted forest at her home and is a proponent of stimulating children’s minds with outdoor learning using repurposed items.
The public enchanted forest is open during Abbey Gardens’ regular business hours, which is currently seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Abbey Gardens’ Irene Heaven, who regularly saw the home-school students this past year for lessons, said this kind of project gave the students a chance to give back to their community.
She was proud of them for meeting their goal.
“To be able to open to the public is pretty special,” she said.