Adventure Education in Constitution Rise

Entrance to woodland on Constitution Rise
Entrance to woodland on Constitution Rise

Eltham based adventure learning charity WideHorizons plans to create an outdoor learning centre at a 5-acre woodland site on Constitution Rise, and has written to local residents to get their views on the idea. WideHorizons has a history that goes back to 1929, but was set up as a charity by Greenwich and Lewisham councils in 2004 to manage their outdoor centres. Subsequently Walsall council also became involved. They are now responsible for 6 outdoor centres, including their Environment Centre at 77 Bexley Road Eltham, and they provide adventure education experiences for over 30,000 children and young people a year.

WideHorizons staff and volunteers  will be at the woods on Saturday 15th February between 10am and 2pm if anyone would like to go and talk to them about their plans. The Google Map snippet at the bottom of this post shows the location of the woods in Shooters Hill.

Their letter to local residents says:

I am writing to you as a local resident to let you know about a recent change in management of a 5 acre woodland that is in your local area (see plan overleaf for reference).
Widehorizons Outdoor Education Trust is a local charity based in Eltham that provides outdoor and adventure activities for over 32,000 children and young people each year. We currently run 7 outdoor education centres including a day centre in Eltham, as well as providing professional teacher training and outdoor learning support services to schools, local authorities and youth services across London.
As part of our working partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, who own the woodland, we have been granted a lease to manage and develop it for educational use. We would like to use the woodland site to ensure that local schools and young people can access inspirational adventure and outdoor learning activities to support their learning and personal development, as well as other activities to support their curriculum studies including science, geography and the environment.
We intend on providing opportunities for young people from schools and youth groups to get involved with the woodland management and learn skills including practical conservation, woodland management and project management.
We would also be keen to work with local people from the community who would like to get involved with the woods management, development and to be kept informed of the various woods activities.
Please be assured that the activities we propose are planned to be low impact on the woods and we aim to have as little impact on local residents and the surrounding environment. We want to ensure that there is community support for our plans and will welcome any suggestions, concerns or general questions. We are currently surveying the woods to establish what remedial measures are required and there are no planned activities to use the woods until the site is deemed safe and fit for use.
If you would be interested in meeting us, and knowing more about what Widehorizons do and our proposals, a number of our staff and volunteers will be at the woods on Saturday 15th February between 10am and 2pm. Access to the woods itself is through a set of blue gates on the corner of Constitution Rise and Moordown.
In the meantime, if you would like to contact us directly to discuss any aspects of the woodland management, or if you have any specific concerns related to our proposed activities, then please do so using the above address.

The woodlands on Constitution Rise are shown on the 1866 ordnance survey map when they were part of the grounds of a large house called The Rookery, which was still there on the 1914 map. I shall have to do some digging in the archives to find out more about it.

Google maps snippet showing location of woodland on Constitution Rise
Google maps snippet showing location of woodland on Constitution Rise

Adair House

It’s not entirely certain what it is about Adair House (opposite the Herbert Pavillions) that makes it so popular with potential Free Schools, but not only are Shooters Hill Primary School of Arts interested, but as of this May they have a competitor in the shape of South London Free School. The executive head of the former indicated recently that they were no longer considering that site, and are now looking elsewhere for a home, so it remains to be seen how the South London Free School will fare in their ambitions to move in…their website has been quiet since May, so perhaps that scheme has gone the way of the fairies?

In any case, Adair House is currently empty, having previously been a hostel, and is owned by the council.

Free School Head talks to In The Meantime

This month, the local podcast In The Meantime, which is recorded at the Meridian Radio studio in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, features an interview with Mary Pfeiffer, the executive head of the of the soon to be Shooters Hill Primary School Of Arts. It’s far more in depth than any of the previous coverage seen in the newsshopper and mercury, and the educational philosophy of the school is discussed at length, which includes ‘creating the best business leaders’ and a commitment to ‘healthy competition’ in education. It was also revealed that Adair House, which is opposite the old Royal Herbert Hospital, is no longer going to be the site of the new school, although it wasn’t made entirely clear where, or even if, the new school has a home as yet.

Showing a neat sense of balance, the show also includes an interview with a head from the comprehensive system, Michael Murphy, the head of the newly built Crown Woods College. Many children from the local area go to Crown Woods, and it will be interesting to see how the ‘school of schools’ theory works out for the students who are joining up now. The head has plans to pave the future careers of all students from Trades to Oxbridge destinations in a non-elitist, comprehensive way, whilst also retaining community links to the lea…which sounds like a principled ambition, but will he persuade local kids who might otherwise commute to Bexley grammar schools to stay in the local area, and will the smaller size of each school (450 per school) help?