It’s been pretty windy recently with storm Ciara and Dennis on the way. Wind can be so much fun and it’s a great way to learn about speed and forces. But when is it too windy for Forest School? In our training we explore when it’s too dangerous to take a group in the woods.
What are the risks of being in the woods when it’s windy? The main hazard is falling branches or trees. It was once so windy we were jokingly trying to guess which tree would fall down and an old beech tree fell right before our eyes. Risk is all about weighing up the severity of a hazard and the likelihood of it happening. The consequence of a tree falling on you are likely to be severe, the likelihood of this happening increases greatly when speeds exceeds 38 kph. In terms of risk benefit analysis, extreme windy weather doesn’t occur that often. I would argue that the risk of injury in a gale outweighs the benefit of attending a session in the woods on that day.
You could still run an outdoor session but run it in an open space where there is no large debris flying around. It’s worth trying to identify and risk assess an alternative site that you can use in extreme weather. It’s also a good idea to have resources that you can teach elements of bushcraft inside. For example you can master some basic knots inside with paracord and sticks.
Know your woodland
Even at lower speeds of 29-38 kph beaufort scale 5 it’s important to know your woodland. Old hawthorn, Elder and Ash are more likely to lose branches than some other species. There maybe some dead or diseased trees you’ve noticed. Make sure you do regular tree surveys and if you manage the woods employ a tree surgeon to ensure they are in safe condition. If the site is managed by someone else it can be useful to ask to accompany their tree surgeons so you have a better understanding of the site.
Use your judgement
Use your judgement and stay in areas you are confident in. It’s OK to mark out areas to stay clear of in windy weather.
Below is the wind scale document we use to help us determine risk.