Bringing Fire to Led by the Wild…..

Watching the flames of a camp fire flicker and dance can sooth and relax, captivate and intrigue us.  It can offer warmth through the colder months, warm a kettle, toast a marshmallow or provide us with a hearty cooked meal. It is of little surprise therefore that the camp fire is a central element to a forest school and it was an important milestone for Led by the Wild when we were in a position to install a permanent fire pit on our site. 

Building of the Fire Pit

Day One …Once a suitable location had been chosen, we set to digging out the pit to a depth of approximately 30cm creating a metre square pit. It was a bit of a challenge due to compacted clay soil with several rogue roots hampering our progress. With our small but willing crew of ‘assistants’ we then added a layer of pea shingle bringing up the level 10cm or so. (Total time 2 hours plus additional half an hour spent soothing out the small assistants’ extra demands!)

Day Two … fifty fire bricks were lugged down to the clearing from our parking area in wheel barrows, it took a few trips and the path definitely felt longer by the forth journey. After using the spirit level to make sure the layer of sharp sand we added was indeed level, we began to decide on the best configuration for laying the bricks in what felt like a giant game of tetris! Once happy with our arrangement we levelled each brick as we embedded it in the sharp sand base, constantly checking an rechecking with the spirit level. Three hours later, we brushed the remaining sharp sand between the bricks and stood back to admire!

Children and Fire…

Fire is dangerous, despite its many benefits so educating children to have a healthy respect for fire is of paramount importance. During our sessions, we foster children’s natural wonder and show them safe methods to light and use fire while being aware of the potential hazards.

We begin with how to create sparks using a flint and steel; showing how the sparks are created and controlled by the the positioning of the fire lighter.  When we feel they are confident and safe with this, we move forward practising lighting cotton wool balls. Each step is monitored closely by a qualified Forest School Leader who will be following our safety briefing checklist. Depending on age, behaviour and situation, we then proceed onto assisting with the lighting of the main campfire or using kelly kettles. Every child knows how to behave safely around the campfire while still enjoying being able to cook, or simply sit and relax bathed by the warm glow.

Why let children light fires?

  • Educating children about the hazards of fire creates a healthy respect for its dangers

  • Lighting a fire using a fire striker takes time. This helps to build a child’s perseverance skills and resilience

  • Lighting a fire is not dependent on age or ability and as such is a great leveller as all have an equal chance of achieving. It is an esteem builder.

  • By allowing children to light fires in a controlled way, it demonstrates trust in that child and helps build their self belief and confidence

  • Children learn that fire has many purposes

  • It can help foster awe and wonder, inspiring questioning about fire and its science

Furnishing the Fire Area…..

We decided that we would make benches  for the fire circle seating liking the flexibility it offered in terms of numbers of places. Tom prepared the logs that were to become the uprights using wood coppiced from the site and the bench seats were up cycled planks. Seven benches fitted perfectly allowing a two metre gap from the fire pit with spaces to exit the circle between each so all that was left to do was construct them and dig the upright posts into the ground for stability. Each post needed a 45cm hole dug, there were two for each bench, before the top plank was added and screwed in space. Three hours of excellent team work and we were finished, the fire circle was complete!