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Hampshire's Countryside

Outdoor Learning at Countryside Parks, Sites and Gardens

The Countryside Service supports the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto launched by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills in November 2006.

“Learning outside the classroom has great benefits for children and young people, bringing learning to life and inspiring them through real life experiences". Find out more at the Learning Outside the Classroom website LOtC pages.

The Countryside service works with schools, local authorities, parents and carers to provide an exciting range of teaching and learning opportunities outside the classroom. Look at ‘Learning at our sites’ to see what is on offer around the County and at ‘Local area case studies’ for ideas on how to explore your own locality.

Some of the benefits of outdoor learning

  • Develops key skills
  • Promotes health and fitness
  • Raises achievement
  • Improves social skills
  • Develops independence
  • Makes learning more relevant
  • Stimulates, inspires and motivates
  • Improves attitude to learning
  • Encourages responsibility
  • Supports a wide range of curriculum areas

Add a sense of awe and wonder to the learning experiences of young people from early years to university age by using one of Hampshire's country parks, countryside sites or gardens as a fabulous outdoor classroom.

Our dedicated and experienced staff at each site work closely with teachers in the planning stage of a visit. They can make suggestions for the day’s programme of work, supplying excellent tailor-made information in order to meet learning objectives for both guided and self-guided groups.

A pre-visit is strongly recommended so that teachers can familiarise themselves with location, facilities and safety considerations.

The wide range of activities represented offers children a wealth of learning opportunities outside the classroom – take advantage of what Hampshire’s countryside has to offer.

Hillier Gardens
Every year more than 14,000 children enjoy learning at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.
180 acres of beautiful gardens provide really inspirational places to help children learn outdoors and enjoy interacting with the natural world, via a great variety of topics.
Our experienced and enthusiastic staff can provide fully guided day visits, linked to any of the National Curriculum Key Stages but tailored to your class’s particular needs.

Staunton Country Park
A Regency estate with a walled garden, glasshouses, ornamental farm, maze and 400 hectares of Parkland. The Education Service provides a programme of guided sessions and independent packages from early years to adult education courses on a variety of topics. Continued Professional Development days for teaching staff are also available. Education pack available for download.
tel 023 9245 3405

Lepe Country Park
A coastal park of shingle shore, cliffs, wildflower meadows, woodland, river and recreation areas fringed by the North Solent Nature Reserve, Lepe is the ideal place to bring learning to life. There is plenty of historical interest with the remains of a major D-Day launching point on site. Ranger led and self-led groups, activity packs and equipment available for hire.
Suitable for all age groups.
tel 023 8089 9108

Yateley Common Country Park
Hampshire’s largest common, with woodlands, heathlands, ponds and a middle stone age site. The ranger staff provide an education service to local schools and have an education brochure on their web page. Suitable for KS1 and KS2.
tel 01252 870425

Queen Elizabeth Country Park
Hampshire’s largest country park with 600 hectares of dramatic downland and beautiful woodland located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A wide range of educational opportunities are available with activities suitable for all age groups from minibeasts through to conservation and countryside management.
tel 023 9259 5040

Westwood Sites
Encompassing Westwood Woodland Park with spectacular views over Southampton Water, Netley Common with its Bronze age tumulus and Whiteley Coppices, an ancient woodland. These three sites are alive with wildlife and history. Ranger led activities for local schools.
Suitable for KS1 and KS2.
tel 023 8045 6484

Basingstoke Canal
Constructed at the end of the 18th century to increase trade between Hampshire and London. The Hampshire length of the canal has many interesting and surprising features. Bring your group to the Canal Centre for the day where a package of activities is tailored to your requirements covering the history, wildlife and maintenance of the canal.
Suitable for early years, KS1 and KS2.
Canal Centre, Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett, Surrey, GU16 6DD
tel 01252 370073

Farley Mount Country Park
Superb chalk downland and ancient woodland 5 miles from Winchester. Many educational opportunities on offer, from early years to adult education. Rangers can tailor the visits to suit your needs upon booking.
tel 01962 860948

A spectacular Iron Age hill fort, historically one of the most important in Europe. The 40 hectare site near Stockbridge has been extensively excavated by archaeologists since 1968. The high banked defensive earthworks were brilliantly designed over 2000 years ago. A visit to the Museum of the Iron Age in Andover is a must. Rangers can tailor the visits to suit your needs upon booking.
Suitable for all age groups.
tel 01962 860948

Royal Victoria Country Park
Overlooking Southampton Water, the Park was once the site of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital and includes parkland, woodland, seashore and ponds. The former Chapel is now the Park’s Heritage Centre. A wide range of environmental education activities and also Victorian social history.
Suitable for KS1 and KS2.
Netley Abbey, Southampton, SO31 5GA
tel 023 8045 5157

Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve
The Nature Reserve covers more than 120 hectares of the Lower Meon Valley. High quality hides provide spectacular views of the wildlife and a network of paths and boardwalks lead through rare and unspoilt landscape. Easy access to the shingle and sand of the beaches at Hill Head and Meon Shore with extensive mudflats exposed at low tide. A varied programme of activities linked to the curriculum both on and off site.
Suitable for all age groups.
tel 01329 662145

Manor Farm Country Park
A working farm of a bygone age set in a scenic landscape of farmland and ancient woodland on the banks of the River Hamble. Living history activities give children hands-on experience of Victorian life in the farmyard, cottage or school room whilst the varied landscape provides opportunities for field studies. Visits tailor made to your needs.
Suitable for early years, KS1 and KS2.
tel 01489 787055


Stepping outside the school gates - no coach required

Many Hampshire schools are making good use of their local area as a context for learning or as a learning focus.  Local exploration enables children to widen their knowledge of familiar and unfamiliar places and by engaging with their own locality they will hopefully develop a sense of responsibility for it.

This guide aims to inspire you to rethink your approach to local area work and to provide you with new ideas to generate projects in the area around your school. It was originally intended to showcase examples of local area work including access to Hampshire’s rights of way network but it has evolved to include case studies where the network is being used directly or indirectly.

The Case Studies

The projects described in each case study vary in the approach taken, curriculum areas covered and learning value. Where planning documents are available they are included. Some projects have been generated by the schools themselves and some under the guidance of HIAS (Hampshire Inspection and Advisory Service) via Jeff Stanfield, the County Geography Adviser/Inspector. Work is continuing and these case studies will be added to.

Curriculum & Learning Value Links

According to Jeff Stanfield, the County Geography Advisor/Inspector there are many good reasons why schools should be using their local area, not least because it contributes to the Geography curriculum!

  • Community Cohesion - since September 2007 schools have been required to promote community cohesion within the school’s locality – local area investigations are of major importance (case study 2).
  • Every Child Matters (ECM) – sets out the Government’s approach to the well-being of children and young people by giving them the support they need to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. Local area work can support the aims and objectives of ECM:
    ‘Be Healthy’ - exploring how we feel about the places in our personal local area which elicit strong feelings in us be they positive or negative (case study 3);
    ‘Enjoy and Achieve’ – the investigation of recreational opportunities within their immediate locality and travel to play area (case study 7); ‘Make a positive contribution’ – involving young people in helping to decide the future of places and environments from local to global scale (case study 2).
  • School Travel Plan – the Hampshire Safer Routes to Schools programme, delivered through individual School Travel Plans, aims to reduce unnecessary car trips to school and encourage parents, pupils, teachers and visitors to travel to and from school in safe, healthier and more environmentally sustainable ways, for example walking (case study 1).
  • Learning Outside the Classroom – (LOtC ) DCSF produced a manifesto in 2006 aiming to get children and young people out of the classroom for high quality, memorable learning experiences. These experiences can take place in the school grounds, in the local environment or further afield (all case studies).
  • Citizenship – taught as part of Personal Development Learning (PDL), pupils learn about themselves as developing individuals and as members of their communities (case studies 1, 2 & 7)

What is a right of way?

The rights of way network which includes footpaths, bridleways and byways is a free local resource that can be used by anyone. The history of the network provides an insight into the working lives and needs of people who have lived in a local area over many centuries, some footpaths date back as far as the Bronze or Iron Age. Using map resources the development of a community can be traced and the rights of way identified over the passage of time. Youth groups such as the Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh Award use footpaths for navigation exercises but there are many good reasons to use the network to get out into your local area. Rights of way can be used as a means of getting to a specific location in your local area or they can be used as a resource for historical investigations, environmental work or community projects.

A right of way is a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes using other modes of transport.

  • Public footpaths are open only to walkers
  • Public bridleways are open to walkers, horse-riders and pedal cyclists
  • Restricted byways are open to walkers, horse-riders, and drivers/riders of non-mechanically propelled vehicles (such as horse-drawn carriages and pedal cycles)
  • Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) are open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles, though they may not be maintained to the same standard as ordinary road

The Rights of Way Team in Hampshire is part of the County Council and they are responsible for over 3300km of footpaths, nearly 750km of bridleways and more than 500km byways. Much of this extensive network stretches across the Hampshire countryside but many footpaths also extend into our villages, towns and cities. These paths can offer access to your local area and the countryside beyond providing a valuable resource for learning, recreation and sustainable transport.

Find out more about rights of way.


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