I am delighted to be able to introduce Nic Harding as our new Projects Officer. Nic joins us from Wirral Council, where he has worked for the past 19 years. Nic’s appointment has been made possible by funding from the Ashden Trust for the next two years. Nic will be developing a range of projects that will underpin the FSA’s Support Strategy for members and others wishing to bring about Quality Forest School For All.
Gareth Wyn Davies
Nic’s Story …
For as long as I can remember I have loved the outdoors! Catalyzed by staying with my grandparents in Helsby as a child and my mum’s imagination. I spent many hours exploring Frodsham Hill with my cousins and finding new adventures that invariably led to muddy feet, mucky hands and a brain full of fantasy creatures, swords, slingshots, and goblins. Childhood flew past and despite struggling at school, I made it through college and escaped to Nottingham University to study Life Sciences. It was during this time that I got a chance to study Biology in Space in association with the European Space Agency. I returned home from University with my head filled with information on parasites, hideous diseases and a drive to never spend another moment in a capsule or laboratory.
I worked delivering food at a local hospital which was really hard work, long days and terrible conditions, and after getting heatstroke for the fourth time after working all day in the palatial dishwasher I decided it wasn’t for me. I craved nature and trained in outdoor pursuits, enjoying all aspects of the work, especially when working with children and young people. I met some amazing people and had a lot of fun.
During this time I was introduced to a new career as a Seasonal Ranger in a park I had been using to teach orienteering. I thought I would stick it out for a bit until I could decide what I wanted to do with my life. It was about four years later I realised I loved the job and for the next 19 years I moved from park to park, providing practical management, and volunteer coordination, public events, fundraising and teaching out in the woods and rivers of Wirral.
In 2004 I was invited to train as a forest school leader, little did I know how it would change the way I looked at life completely. I trained with Simon Shakespeare and loved every second of the course, coursework, and teaching. I started running Forest Schools in 2006 and championed experiential learning throughout our local area running bespoke educational packages for primary, secondary, adult and the un-included. The time was not right for Wirral to fully embrace the forest school concept and I continued delivery alone for a while relying on volunteers. After much persuasion I convinced our Head of Service to allow me to pursue forest school by creating a partnership which took the responsibility away from the local authority and provided a small income into the sites on which we delivered. And so in 2010, two great friends and I set up our first company together called Stream Education Ltd, to deliver Forest schools, experiential learning and bushcraft skills. We had an amazing, if very tiring year delivering sessions across the North West.
After a year my friend’s careers had taken off and I continued working as a Ranger. This time, however, we had convinced the local authority that Forest Schools was amazing as we could now prove it’s effectiveness, with evidence we had collected through the work we had done with Stream. I became the coordinator of Wirral Forest School in 2012, and had several very successful years delivering and coordinating sessions across the Wirral with our team of 10 – 15 Forest School Practitioners (lvl3) and helpers (lvl2) to children, teens and adults. In 2018 I moved into a secondment working on strategic projects, income generation projects, and delivery projects.
I was enjoying my new role but was missing Forest School enormously and joined the FSA and started going to training courses, and helping friends as sickness cover to keep my hand in. I attended a training course through Kindling Forest School and Branching Out, on therapeutic play, and another on Challenging Behaviour Outdoors run by John Cree. As I sat in the courses I realised that I had to get back to Forest School immediately as that is where my passion lay. It was then I spotted the Project Officer post on the FSA Website and applied.
FSA Projects Officer