New Conker Club will see kids grow in confidence amid nature

A former television producer/director is turning part of the extensive grounds of her historic home into a unique outdoor play club where children run free experiencing nature.

The historic Horbling Hall. EMN-220404-175345001

Sian Levan, 33, and husband Edward, 42, a film and TV executive for Warner Brothers, moved with their boys, Gryff, four, and Rex, three, from London three years ago to live in Horbling Hall, in Horbling.

The oldest parts of the Grade II listed hall are Georgian, with Victorian additions, but it is thought a house has stood there since Jacobean times. It was also used as a wartime hospital for recovering soldiers in the Second World War.

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Sian had specialised in animal programmes but also worked on Channel 4 show Food Unwrapped and digital show, Combat Dealers.

The vineyard at Horbling Hall. EMN-220404-175325001

She said: “I was getting more into nature programme documentaries and then fell pregnant. My work does not mix well with motherhood as it was mostly in the USA and so I was keen to find something I can integrate with my family.”

She wanted to make their home and grounds more self-sufficient. They have a successful vegetable patch, they are hoping to get a beehive, some Silkie chickens and some Ouessant sheep, a hardy little breed from France.

Sian added: “When we moved here my husband planted a vineyard (his dream project). We currently have 300 Pinot Noir vines growing nicely, with another 100 being planted this spring. All organic. We hope to be making wine in 2025, but this is a hobby and passion as opposed to a commercial venture.”

She did a course in forest school teaching as well as training in bushcraft as so the Conker Club is her immediate, exciting project getting off the ground, where children can immerse themselves in the great outdoors in a dedicated wild patch within the grounds of the hall beyond a paddock, dominated by a larger horse chestnut tree and nicknamed The Mud Wood.

Lots of mud will be involved in the Conker Club sessions. EMN-220404-175225001

“My passion is in storytelling and drama. You will be hard pressed to know who is more involved in the role play – the children or me!” she says.

“At the Conker Club we are beyond passionate about play and the natural world around us, and it’s our mission to share this with as many children as possible. Nothing nurtures young minds like the wonders of nature and children thrive in the woodland environment.

“We encourage children to take the lead, make their own decisions and set their own challenges in a safely managed environment. By allowing our little Conker Club members the time and space to enjoy the woodland in their own way, we will see their confidence, self esteem and, of course, friendships grow week on week.”

She said: “The house is beautiful, it has a lot of trees that are hundreds of years old.

Sian and Edward Levan with Gryff, four, and Rex, three at Horbling Hall. EMN-220404-175235001

“The Mud Wood has the advantage of being enclosed on three sides and relatively sheltered. We have some great trees for climbing and rope swings and a lovely shady ‘Tree Cave’ for our mud kitchen play. There will be lots of climbing, digging, swinging, sliding and den building opportunities throughout the sessions.”

Sian said: “We will be having small campfires and cooking. Sometimes they’ll be pre-lit, other times we will build and light them together if any of the children show an interest in this. I will discuss fire safety with the children at the beginning of each session.”

She said there is no age limit but generally she expects children 10 and under to be benefit most. She stressed it is not a nursery, but a club where the parents will stay as well.

“I like coffee and cake, so rest assured they will always feature in our sessions,” she said.

Sian Levan with Gryff, four, and Rex, three. EMN-220404-175245001

Sian ran a pilot session last autumn which generated a lot of interest from the community.

She is launching the first club sessions on Saturday, April 22 and they will then run on Friday and Saturday mornings and Saturday afternoons.

To find out more call 07449936533 or email [email protected] or book at bookwhen.com/conkerclub

Early days in the vineyard at Horbling Hall. EMN-220404-175255001
Lots of things to do in the wilderness. EMN-220404-175305001
Campfire cooking will feature in the forest school sessions at the club. EMN-220404-175315001