The Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery in Letham, Fife, opened its invisible doors for the first time in 2008, as the realisation of a vision long held by its founder, Cathy Bache, to create an experience for pre-school aged children of complete immersion in the natural world – with nature as teacher. As Scotland’s first ever outdoor nursery, a unique, and highly acclaimed philosophy and practice has evolved in the woods, with each turn of the seasons. Our pioneering workshops have unfolded naturally alongside the nursery itself, providing an insight into the ways of the Secret Garden, and attracting attendees from around the world, and from diverse backgrounds.
At the Secret Garden we acknowledge a need to be fully present and comfortable in the woods in order to wholly support the children. Mindful practice and feeling solid in our own being is truly where our roots lie. Connection to nature is fundamental to our holding of the children, and as staff we skilfully extend the children’s curiosity, enabling them to learn about the world and about themselves, through play in the woods. We encourage resilience, and confidence in the children whilst holding the space for them; unobtrusive, calm adult energy.
We invite workshop participants to experience the woods and what it is to be a Practitioner here. Walking in Cathy’s footsteps, ‘we explore how the Secret Garden’s practices have evolved as an intuitive nature based, and natural understanding of the growth and development of the child’. Everything we do is underpinned by the three indicators of the philosophy of the Secret Garden – Presence, Nature, Play.
Cathy was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to early years play and education in June 2017, shortly before she passed away. The nursery has since gone on to win the coveted Nancy Ovens Award for Play for the second time, and Cathy was nominated in the ‘Advocate’ and ‘Lifetime Achievement’ categories at the recent Learning Outside the Classroom Awards.
We are honoured to continue sharing the nursery’s unique and celebrated practice through the workshops which Cathy so carefully crafted and look forward to welcoming more of our colleagues in the Early Years, Primary and Outdoor Education fields to experience the magic of a day ‘In the Woods’.
We offer several workshops throughout the year but can also run bespoke courses for groups – please do get in touch if you are interested.