Down by the River
This unique nursery school, on the banks of the River Ribble, provides a truly inspirational learning environment for young children, writes Kate Ford
We all expect our children to be well looked after at nursery, to be nurtured and encouraged to mix well with others. We expect them to make progress in their personal and educational development and to gain in confidence, too.
Do we, though, anticipate that they might spend their day inside a boat on a riverbank, or put on their wellies and waders to explore delightedly the shallow waters of the same river? Can we expect them to be taught in a huge beach hut with their very own adventure playground just outside the door?
That is exactly what children can enjoy at the River School, part of Ashbridge-on-Ribble Nursery in Preston, a pre-school learning environment like no other available anywhere in the UK.
A pioneering development in nursery provision, the River School comprises an impressively refurbished fishing vessel, a beach hut with outdoor decking and an adventure playground, all located next to the river with a grassed area in the middle where children can sit, play or eat their lunches.
“The fishing boat, called Ardent, was dilapidated when the nursery first brought it to the site,” explains Nazma Ahmed, director of HR and nursery operations. “It was completely renovated inside and out, and now provides an original and inspiring learning space which is second to none.”
It really is quite something, with classrooms on the lower deck and a more open-plan space on the upper deck, used for story time, role play and water-themed activities. There’s even a slide from the upper to the lower deck and, in front of the boat, the ground has been designed to resemble rocks and water pools.
“It creates the impression of the boat having run aground,” says Nazma, “and the undulating landscape is perfect for the children’s physical development.”
Alongside the boat, the beach hut has classrooms on the lower level, outdoor classrooms on the decked area and is home to the River School library. From the decking, with its toughened safety glass, the children enjoy fabulous views of the river.
The River School has direct access to the riverbank where a shallow section of water is used for paddling and exploring wildlife. “Whatever the weather, children can play and explore the outdoors,” says Nazma. “We have wellies, waders and wetsuits, so they really do have a lot of fun.”
Activities are led by a specialist outdoor practitioner working alongside two qualified Early Years Teachers, to provide the best preparation for school.
Although the River School is the base for children in their pre-school year, all the children at Ashbridge-on-Ribble Nursery can enjoy its stimulating facilities.
Ashbridge-on-Ribble is one of four top nurseries operated by the Ashbridge Independent School and Nursery group, based in Hutton, which also runs Ashbridge School, an independent primary school for children aged four to 11.
London Road, Walton-le-Dal, Preston PR5 4AD