FRUK Night Time Forest School for 8 – 11 Year Olds

Last night we launched our brand new Night Time Forest School sessions for older children, which was so much fun! After picking the children up from school and getting kitted out in our warm clothing,  hi vis and head torches we headed out into Hackney Marshes for the climbing trees. We roamed via the canal, the stone circle and  the filter beds. Along the way we listened for birds and heard a blackbird making a warning call, we’re lucky one of our staff members is also an ornithologist so has been teaching us how to recognise different bird songs.

The weather was on our side, no wind, mild and only a few spots of rain. For snacks we had hot chocolate with banana & blueberry cake which the children ate perched high on the stones at our own mini Stonehenge in Hackney, known as the stone circle.

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We put new boundaries and rules in place whereby the children were each given a  number and when we called, “numbers”, the children responded with their allocated number so we knew everyone was with us and safe. We decided upon a hyena warning call, that if made, by the Forest School Leader the children learnt they had to respond immediately by returning to us.

One of the children correctly predicted that it would get dark between 4.45pm and 5.00pm. We checked and it was fully dark at 4.50pm. Each week it will get darker earlier so it will be interesting to track this over the course of the sessions. On the marshes we got a great view of the skyline of Stratford light up and a few fireworks too.

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We stopped by a container filled with water and when we shone our torches we spotted lots of mini beasts in the water including a water boatman.

Tree climbing took on another dimension  in the dark. We also walked very quietly through the wild spaces hoping that we would come across some wild animals, perhaps a fox. The children’s imaginations were fired up and one child was convinced he saw a wild boar!

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At the end of the session the children decided what they wanted to do over the next few weeks to include cooking on the fire, roaming further into the marshes and playing games on site. We can’t wait for next week!

It’s our Birthday!!! Celebrating 5 amazing years at Free Range Urban Kids Forest School.

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5 years ago this week, on the 5 November, Lizzy and I launched Free Range Urban Kids Forest School. Some thought we were crazy to launch in the midst of winter but we were determined to make our dream a reality and bring Forest School to Hackney. As mothers of young boys we knew our children, and also, those in the community needed more outdoor time. What an amazing journey it has been. So many wonderful memories have been made and we reckon over 500 children over the years have been to our setting and experienced child led outdoor play and learning at our Forest School. Since we began both Lizzy and I have shaped and grown the business and have done various qualifications and are both now qualified Early Years Educators and hold the positions of Manager and Deputy Manager, respectively, as well as Founders and Directors. We have a wonderful team whom are dedicated and experienced, who go above and beyond, to create a nurturing and exciting environment each and every day.

Since then we have had 2 Ofsted inspections, our most recent one in January 2019 we received a grading of Good with Outstanding Elements.

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We have expanded the business from our initial offering of 2hr sessions a few times a week in 2014. To now offering a Forest Kindergarten for 3 – 7 year olds, 5 days week during term time. Holiday Clubs  for 3 – 8 year olds. A Nature Club once a week for 2 – 3 year olds and their parents and carers. An After School Club for 4 – 8 year olds. Plus this week we launch the newest offering, an After School Club for older children, catering for 8 – 11 year olds. This is very exciting as this will be held in the dark so will bring a whole new experience for the children who will be kitted out with head torches and lots of his vis!

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We have worked closely with the local schools too as our registration with Ofsted includes offering places up to the age of 7. Our Kindergarten provision enables those who wish to defer starting school or to Flexi school to attend our setting until they are ready for formal schooling. We currently also have Year 1 children who attend us 1 day a week and 4 days at school plus home schooled children. We can see the wonderful progress these children have made and continue to do so and how Forest School complements and enhances their overall learning and progress. Of course we are very strong on certain areas of the curriculum such as understanding the world and physical development but Forest School is brilliant for ensuring all areas of the curriculum are met to ensure happy, healthy, resilient, motivated and creative children who know how to keep themselves safe whilst engaging in risky play.

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Below are some of the wonderful testimonials we have received from parents:

My partner and I feel so blessed to be able to send our son to FRUK. It’s the only setting we wanted for him.
Being so child-led is perfect for him, who has a series of highly unusual interests –  snails, mushrooms, and lately warning signs and electricity pylons. The FRUK team have always supported him to explore his interests and design learning opportunities for him and the class around them.
Our son needed a very long time to settle into the FRUK setting and the team were hugely adaptable to this – I suspect a full month may have been the longest settling they have ever had, but he felt the process to be at the right speed for him, as did we.
The quality of the staff at FRUK is always superb – so many staff have additional areas of expertise (arboriculture, ornithology…) but they are all without exception totally focused on the children, and operate with more patience and enthusiasm than I could dream of. Staff are always enthusiastic to see the children – even out of the setting environment, and even in the case of staff who no longer work at FRUK. Parent of 5 year old

I cannot speak highly enough of the staff at FRUK.
There is an environment of high nurture , individualised challenge and fun.

Learning is incorporated into every aspect of forest school life and no opportunity is missed to maximise each child’s potential. Themes for the week are expanded into creative , motivating and fun activities both on and off site.

I have been supported to facilitate my child’s settling in and accessing learning after a prolonged break from school and all staff show a high level of understanding of his complex and sometimes challenging needs. Staff have also been proactive in providing evidence and support re EHCP assessmnt.

Communication with parents is outstanding , with daily verbal and written feedback (Famly) and the photographic evidence of fun and learning regularly providing updates and observations of achievements.

As a parent of a child with additional needs I have found the flexible and individualised approach to learning , the caring team and positive approach to parental involvement all contribute to an outstanding setting.

 

Being able to offer provisions for children from 2 years of age, and now up to 11 years, means that the children can be part of FRUK for their whole childhood as they move through the the different provisions at FRUK. At our recent half term Holiday Club there were a group of children who first started at FRUK when they were 3 years old who are now 6 and 7 years. Having known these children for a long time. It’s so wonderful to see how they behave so positively when they return to us for fun and freedom. Their knowledge of the natural world, such as trees and birds, has stayed with them. They remember all the boundaries and safety rules and they played wonderfully all day at our setting, with no conflict, using only the natural resources and the environment. They let the younger children join in their games.  Deeply absorbed  in role play for the entire day, they needed no prompts from the adults and knew what they wanted to do,  it was a joy to observe.

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FRUK operates from a small corner of South Millfields Park in Hackney but we also venture to nearby wild spaces too, visiting woods, wetlands and local nature reserves too. There are just so many memories to fit into one blog post to mention but our enthusiasm and drive at FRUK has not waned as each day is filled with awe and wonder as the natural environment brings new discoveries all the time as the seasons change.

img_1135We can truly say we love our job and are so glad we decided to launch FRUK. It’s been a life changing experience sowing the seeds of conservation in young people, through encouraging and nurturing a love for the natural world.. Here’s to the next 5 years at FRUK!!! A huge thank you to all those that have been involved with FRUK over the years, from the staff, the parents, the volunteers, members of the local community and of course the children. We could not have done it without you all involved in this journey.

 

Our week at FRUK 20.01.17 Icy & frosty adventures & the first signs of Spring

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The frozen pond at the waterworks

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A child relaxing in a hammock whilst writing in her notebook

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Exploring ice

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Lighting a fire 

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First signs of spring as the Elder trees have begun to show new growth

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Afternoon nap in the hammock

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A visit to the horses at Lea Valley Riding Centre

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pretty chalk creations

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A ladybird we found sheltering in the worm cafe

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Ice crystals after a visit from Jack Frost

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Frost covered foliage 

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Finding a quiet corner at FRUK to catch up with friends

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The children love to mark make wherever they see fit. 

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Clay bears made for our Goldilocks story

 

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Teamwork

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Using the loppers to cut branches from old Christmas trees for den building 

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Mark making in the frost

16.12.16 Our week at FRUK

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An amazing sunset at FRUK

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Making Lanterns 

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Lanterns hanging from the trees

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Pretend Play – Sleeping

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Tool use at FRUK with secateurs

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Leaf crown

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Creating letters from sticks

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Mark making using the loose parts of bricks that we have on site

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Numbered bricks

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A lady bird that came to say hello

02.12.16 Our week at FRUK Forest Kindergarten

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A leaf skeleton is fun to look at closely

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Studying mini beasts

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Mark making at FRUK takes many guises, here we mixed food dyes with mud.

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A rare bloom in December

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Appreciating the local art

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Frost encrusted leaves

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Mark making in the frost

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The children really enjoy being able to extend and lie flat whilst chalking

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Den building at Wick Woodland

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A favourite bathing spot for the wildlife with swans, geese, mallards and coots

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Leaf bouquets

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A mystical engraving we discovered on one of our walks

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Making bird feeders using pine cones, peanut butter & seeds

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A den we found in Wick Woodland

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Exploring shadows in the wide open spaces of Hackney Marshes

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A visit from Jack Frost

Our week at FRUK 18.11.11

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Den Building Area at FRUK

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Fun in the hammock

 

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Wood work at FRUK

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The family of swans that we always encounter on our travels

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On our walks the urban environment becomes our climbing frames and obstacle courses

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Balancing

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The kids love stomping in squishy squelchy mud

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Bracket fungus that one of the children spotted and pointed out 

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Our FRUK site bathed in gold

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A double rainbow we were so lucky to see during a walk in the marshes

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Fun in the den building area

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Honey Fungus

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Rolling back a log we found these mini beasts 

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Slugs discovered living under a log

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Crocus

Our week at FRUK 04.11.16 – Halloween, Samhain & FRUK 2nd Birthday Celebrations

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Millfielfds Park shrouded in thick fog on Halloween morning, the perfect backdrop for the days spooky activities

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Dew covered spiderwebs we found on Halloween

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Pumpkins for carving

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One of the tools we have in the FRUK toolkit is a palm drill that our Kindergarteners can use by themselves to create holes in our pumpkins

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Halloween at Forest Kids Hackney

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Fires as the days get colder

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Upcycling activity – discarded firework tubes that will make an ideal home for solitary bees in our bug hotel at FRUK.

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With the clocks changing we now see stunning sunsets that filter through the tall conifers whilst we pack up the site each day to leave no trace.

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Bird watching – we saw Herons. Swans and Coots

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Chalk Creations 

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a strange new fungi forming that we found all over our  Forest School site one morning

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A visit to the stone circle

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At FRUK we practice child led activities. One of the children asked if he could do some hammering. We got the tool kit out and he searched our site for pieces of wood. Then set about hammering nails to create a structure of his own design. 

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Snack time at the FRUK Nature Club

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Roaming Day – Middlesex Filter Beds Visit

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Canal Side Walk

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Autumn Hues

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A carpet of red and gold leaves to crunch through on crisp sunny days 

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We ended the week with a party with family and friends of FRUK with sparklers, glow sticks, hot chocolate and mulled wine for the grown ups. Thank you to all those that came and celebrated with us our 2nd Birthday. We’ve achieved so much in such a short space of time and had oh so many adventures in our favourite place outdoors! 

Our week at FRUK 28.10.16 – Half Term Forest School Holiday Club

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Lining up for hand washing before lunch 

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Autumn Leaves

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Fun in the FRUK Mud Kitchen 

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Pumpkin designs being created before the carving 

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Rope Play

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Our carved pumpkins and Diwali lanterns

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Fungi we discovered 

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The FRUK rope swing

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Colouring in Rangoli designs

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Cooking popcorn over the fire 

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Mud Cakes

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Our creative area 

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Looking at picture books in the sunshine

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Autumn Leaves

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Den Building

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Den Building 

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Spooky Bats

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Snack Time

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Halloween Masks

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The FRUK Book Corner

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Reading and colouring at FRUK

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Halloween Masks

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Den Building – a home for the squirrels was created

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Free Play on the fallen log

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Creating Diwali lanterns

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Catkins have appeared on the Hazel trees

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Learning new knot tying techniques

Our week at FRUK 14.10.16

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Cooking dinner

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Mud Kitchen

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Studying conkers

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Loose parts

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A mini beast

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Checking on the worms

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Pretend play – sleeping

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The last of the blackberries

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Mesmerised by the fast flowing water at the lock

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Climbing trees at the stone circle

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Mark making

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Fun with wool to make webs and traps in the trees

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Watching the seasons change

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A huge fungi

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using the claw end of the hammer to pull out nails

Our week at FRUK 07.10.16

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Climbing at Hackney Marshes 

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Experiencing the changing of the seasons as the leaves turn golden as we head into Autumn

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Finding dandelions

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Our topic this term is ourselves. we created 3D images of our faces inspired by the sculptor Kimmy Cantrell

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Mark making in the ashes of an old fire we stumbled upon during one of our walks 

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Running through leaves

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Running across the wide open spaces of Hackney Marshes

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Lea Valley Filter Beds walk

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Autumn hues as the bramble leaves change colour