Ways into Hinchingbrooke Country Park – a fantastical guide

By Deb Wilenski with Caroline Wendling
With a foreword by Robert Macfarlane
In collaboration with Ruby Class, Cromwell Park Primary School, Huntingdon

Deb Wilenski and Caroline Wendling have watched and listened – patiently, perceptively – over months to these children, and what they have learnt from them is astonishing. To read this book is to see innocently again, and to renew your sense of words as being able to forge and conjure. It brims with the power of make-believe.
Robert Macfarlane
(author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places and The Old Ways)

Drawing on a ten week project with local school children, this richly illustrated 40 page guide invites readers to see Hinchingbrooke Country Park as never before: through the real and fantastic journeys of a class or four- and five-year-olds, through their stories, secrets and speculations.

Thus the authors make visible, develop in the old photographic sense, what it is the children are doing: the learning and creating which is taking place.  They preserve and translate for adults what has been called the children’s ‘high intent’, that seriousness of purpose, however light-hearted, which animates children’s free activity and informs it with educational value.  In doing this their miniature discloses another facet of itself.  Argument as well as artefact, it reminds us in a time of objectives-led teaching, imposed curricula, ‘ability’-grouping and test-driven imperatives, that children are already adept interpreters, explorers, namers, discoverers and meaning-makers, and are avid to be trusted to be so.  Look out for the flame-coloured cover of this finely-worked book, a flicker of that Promethean heat which sparks to life.

Patrick Yarker taught English for twenty years in comprehensive schools in London and Norfolk.  A co-editor of the pioneering education-journal ‘FORUM: for promoting 3-19 comprehensive education’, he is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Applied Research in Education at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

A full review was written for Forum, extracts of which can be read here.


Other reviews include:

This insightful and exhilarating book offers a doorway for everybody and anybody to discover the outdoors as it has never been seen before.
Jan White, Author and Advisor on Outdoor Provision, reviews the book here.

Ways into Hinchingbrooke Country Park should be subtitled: ways into the wonder of living landscapes.

The vast majority of children have few connections with the natural world. The dangers of such impoverishment to children's sensitivity, creativity and understanding of life are immense. This book shows how important it is to enable children to reconnect and open doors that have been closed for far too many children for far too long.
John Bangs, former Head of Education at NUT, Honorary Fellow, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education.

By helping children mentally to possess Hinchingbrooke Park, the Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination project is making some very important magic in young lives.

My two children accelerate alarmingly as we approach entrances to woods. They are happiest playing among trees. They spin fabulous stories about bizarre forest inhabitants. Who am I to disagree? For me, as a parent, it provides wonderful access to a child-like state of imaginative play. It makes me remember my past, and re-access more fluid parts of my (increasingly ossified) brain. As a filmmaker I am inspired by the yarns they spin. I love to watch as nature lights their fires.
David Bond, director of Project Wild Thing 

The Harvard Professor David Perkins talks about learning in captivity and learning ‘in the wild’ the ‘limitless universe’ there to be explored not by being told but by inquiring, asking questions, finding out – for yourself and with a little help from your friends. Keeping imagination and insight alive is made possible when there are ‘learning destinations’ (in the language of the Children’s University) such as Hinchingbrooke Country Park.

Thankyou for sharing Ways into Hinchingbrooke Country Park. I plan to make it one of my next learning destinations.
John MacBeath, Professor Emeritus University of Cambridge  and Chancellor of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire Children’s University