We've recently moved into a new home with a decent area of scrub woods behind it that my kids (and the adults too!) like to play and imagine in. The woods behind our house had been cleared for use as farmland and was abandoned from farming perhaps 20 years ago. So, through ecological succession, it's perhaps in the fast growing tree phase. While it's not exactly pretty with lots of messy trees and scrub, there were a few bare areas and paths already established that the prior owners kids used. There was also a small clearing that they used as a meeting area.
We cleaned up the area and saved all of the longer, straight branches that were maybe 1 to 1 1/2 inch in diameter for future use. We also found several larger rocks and saved them as well. Then, as fortune would have it, we had a large pine tree go down and I cut it up into longer logs (3-4 feet each) and saved them.
So, to continue with the story, this particular area has a really serene and almost magical feel to it despite the ragged nature of the woods. It is especially wonderful when the trees have leaves and the light through the canopy is very dappled. The paths are only perhaps 10 feet from our yard but you can hardly see through the brush to the paths and clearing. It's a wonderful place to escape and read, draw, or play.
Step 1: Materials
I didn't purchase anything for this transformation and used as many natural materials as possible.
Here is what we used:
1) lots of long branches between 1 and 2 inches in diameter - these were used to create a pale fence around the clearing
2) stones, perhaps the size of a football (soccer ball), that were found around the area. We collected about 40. These were used to make a dry stacked wall and as tables, chairs, and footstools.
3) pine logs cut to about 4 feet in length from a dead pine tree cut from our yard. There were also some dead fall trees laying in the area that were also cut into this length and cleared from the canopy for safety reasons.
4) I had to clear some of the brush from the yard and also saved several long sticks used to make an entry way.
5) A hand full of deck screws used to screw the entry way together
6) Landscaping rocks (about the size of very larger marbles) removed from the front yard. The prior owners had landscaped with these stones and we felt it was just too unnatural feeling and not giving anything back to the soil so we removed this and replaced it with mulch.
Step 2: Before
It was nice before, but afterward it is so wonderful! It was hard to walk without tripping and always stepping on sticks and rocks. Initially we removed any extra brush and stones and saved them for future use or disposed of them.
Step 3: Clear Ground Outline Paths and Areas With Logs
Initially we went to work with a rake and hoe to clear brush off of the ground and just make things a bit tidier. Then, the pine logs were used to outline the areas that were to be paths and the clearing. My kids had been using the clearing as their fort for a long time and had used sticks and rocks to make a pale fence around the clearing with one side being a dry stacked stone wall. It's not beautiful, but it is natural and it is something they did on their own. They're quite proud of it! However, I don't have a before or during picture of this particular area.
Step 4: Moving Rocks!
This part took the most time. It took 47 loads of rocks moved from the front yard to the back. We had this "landscaped" area in the front yard that was sterile feeling with not plants to speak of. The rocks also did little to add to the soil because they wouldn't break down. So we decided to get rid of them and instead of just throwing them out, we decided to repurpose them in the woods.
I ended up going about 3-4 inches deep with rocks in the woods. I think it turns out really nice!
Step 5: Build and Install the Entry Arch
I had actually done this one about a year ago. The woods were encroaching on the yard and so I had to cut them back a bit. I saved a lot of the sticks cut down and built this archway with my son. It's a pretty simple design with 4 7 foot tall uprights. Each side is about 4 feet apart and from front to back it's about 4 feet as well. The uprights are attached together with branches placed in X's all the way up. All of the sticks are attached together with 2 inch decking screws. It took about 2 hours and only required an electric drill and screwdriver. The uprights are buried 1 foot deep.
In hindsight I wish that I had made it 8 feet tall because I tend to hit my head when walking through if I'm not careful. I'm really wishing I was making ibles' when I made this last year. It's been sitting outside for a year and has developed some really cool shelf mushrooms and vines giving it a really cool look.
Step 6: Enjoy Your Paradise!
We're now enjoying our woodland wonderland as a place to think, draw, read, play, imagine, and just be.
Some adult sized seating
Extending the paths
Some fairy houses