Torbay Young Carers attended a bespoke Forest School session, designed to give them the space and freedom of our four-acre orchard to themselves for an afternoon of fun, quiet reflection or the opportunity to talk freely if they wanted to.

This was the first time we had ever met this particular group of Torbay Young Carers.

Our remit was to enable the Young Carers aged between 14yrs-16yrs to cook over an open fire – an activity requested by them.

However, our Forest School session seem to impact more deeply than we set out to achieve….

They set up the food preparation and cooking, and after everyone had enjoyed their burgers, beans and hotdogs, their next activity involved splitting into teams and creating dens from ropes, tarpaulins and natural resources found on the land.

These shelters were tested thoroughly afterwards – the Leaders pouring water over them whilst the Young Carers huddled inside their dens screeching with delight and hoping they’d covered any holes in the roof!

After this activity, over a welcome hot chocolate, one Young Carer, T, reflected that she hates going back to her school after the school holidays because the majority of her friends will always be sharing their holiday stories – sun-drenched exotic beaches and skiing frolics usually the most popular – whereas for her there were never any tales to tell, not even a trip to the beach to dabble in rock pools. She’d never been on holiday because of her parents’ persistent medical conditions and resultant ill health. Holidays were something that other people had, never her.

Don’t get me wrong – this beautiful and strong young lady wasn’t wallowing in self-pity, feeling sorry for herself or showing any bitterness towards her friends, she was simply saying honestly how she feels left out in school because she doesn’t ever have anything to talk about that could possibly compare to her friends’ holiday adventures. However vital you are to your family’s and parents’ well-being, doing the chores and meeting their personal needs just doesn’t sound as exciting as skiing down a mountain slope does it? Being a daily heroine isn’t as glamorous as it sounds!

But today…today, she said she could go back into school with tales to tell from Forest School, unique adventures and experiences beyond the daily humdrum, something the other girls lounging on their beaches wouldn’t have done, something worth talking about and sharing with her friends, something different from her normal life of supporting her parents and spending her school holidays between the four walls of her house. She said it felt good to have something she’d done that she could feel proud of…

Reflections from Young Carers like this make all those wet and windy days when your hands hurt and your ears ache from the cold, all your hard work, blood sweat and tears to try and make a difference to young lives – it makes it all worthwhile!!