Outdoor-learning school taking on charity status

Mark Tuff leading one of his outdoor-learning sessions.
Mark Tuff leading one of his outdoor-learning sessions.

A popular forest school, which helps youngsters with additional learning needs, is being turned into a charitable organisation, and the launch party is tonight.

Alnwick father Mark Tuff runs his sessions from woodland sites at Howick Hall Gardens and Kirkley Hall, near Ponteland, allowing children to thrive in the great outdoors.

Equipping youngsters with the skills to light fires, use gardening tools and grow vegetables might not be the traditional approach to learning, but Mark believes it is effective.

His sessions aim to have an educational purpose and break down barriers, giving youngsters with specific needs the chance to build confidence in a non-judgemental environment. Now, Mark, whose own son has autism, has decided to turn the operation into a charity, launching under the title Clarty Commandos – Outdoor Learning for All. A party will be held at The Plough, Alnwick, tonight, everyone welcome.

Mark said: “We’ve decided to become a charitable-incorporated organisation so we can improve our infrastructure which will help us provide a stronger, better product, and I am really excited about it.

“I realised there wasn’t really any outdoor learning provision like this. The sessions teach children to learn and develop through free play, understanding and adventure, which leads to engagement. The sessions are good for the parents too, giving them the chance to meet others in the same boat and share experiences.”

The project has gone from strength to strength and recently the Percy Hedley Foundation – which supports disabled people and their families – approached Mark to work with its post-18 members.

In a further endorsement of Mark’s work, he won the Community Partnership Award and Provider of the Year at the recent Percy Hedley Awards.

Mark also delivers home education, young entrepreneurs classes and pathways to employment. Produce grown at the forest school’s allotments are sold at Alnwick Market, developing employability skills and community links.

Tonight’s launch party will start at 7pm. There will be a fashion show with Alnwick’s Hotspur 1364, a photo booth, disco and a charity auction with a range of great prizes. Tickets are £5, available from The Plough or Hotspur 1364.

For details, visit the Lone Tree Hill Outdoor Experience Facebook page.