Pre-schoolers to enjoy outdoor learning and play

9th June 2022

A pilot project to welcome pre-school children into St Osyth Priory Estate will launch in the Autumn, thanks to a grant from the Essex Fund.

The Fund, which is administered by Essex Community Foundation, has awarded £3,428 to St Osyth Priory and Parish Trust (SOPPT) to develop a new ‘Outdoor Explorers’ programme for pre-school aged children to experience nature-based learning on the site.

This will fund six sessions for little ones and their parents or carers while also covering staffing and set up costs across the 12-week development phase. This will create a scheme that can then be delivered annually as part of the core Education Centre offering and, it is hoped, benefitting hundreds of children and families.

Up to 20 pre-schoolers will roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the mud kitchen overlooking the Estate’s deer park before setting out on a walk to discover the grounds of the historic Estate. Under-fives and their mums, dads and carers will then stop for a snack and story time inside the St Osyth Priory Education Centre.

This will support early years literacy and give parents a chance to meet and chat. Sessions will end with a creative activity outdoors in which children will get stuck into a nature-based make and do task linked to a different fun theme each week.

A series of six sessions will cost £30 and individual classes can be booked at a drop-in rate of £7 per class for one adult and child. There will be no additional charge for twins and sessions will be open to children aged between 18 months and five. There will be 10 free places per session for families in receipt of universal credit.

Outdoor Explorers will be delivered by the Education Centre’s trained teachers and has been carefully designed to provide opportunities for a cohort of children who have been significantly impacted by isolation during the pandemic.

Education Centre Manager Laura Chesover said: “We know that the early years are crucial for social and emotional development and these children have missed out on so many experiences during their formative years because of the pandemic. We wanted to address that by creating a programme which is packed with new adventures and physical activity so that families can make up for lost time and make memories together.

“We also recognise the strain the pandemic has put on parents and carers of young children, so we’re creating opportunities for families to bond during these sessions so they can form support networks within their local community.”

Owner Tim Sargeant said: “We’re pleased to be able to build on the successful school trip programme with this new opportunity for younger children and their families and we’re confident they will benefit enormously from exploring the Estate.”

SOPPT Chair Conrad Payne said: “We are very grateful to the Essex Fund for awarding this grant and are excited to see the impact it will make on children and families. It is wonderful to extend the Education Centre’s work within the community.”

If you are in need of funding to help support a project idea or running costs, please contact our grants team on 01245 356018 or email