It was a lovely day in the forest, the soft mulch of fallen leaves, the deep patches of rich mud tugging at the boots, the sunlight sparkling through the over-arching trees. We followed the trail of coloured ribbons; round the bushes, through the thickets, under the straggling brambles, over the mossy fallen logs, until we arrived at the cluster of Hobbit houses.
There was the smell of wood-smoke, mingled with dampness in the clearing as small gnomes staggered and scampered in their Mini-Boden sweaters and Scandinavian salopettes. Little Luciens and Berties, Rubies and Aramintas, attended by their Eco-friendly Mummies explored the dangling wind chimes, the percussion instruments made from empty plastic milk cartons (plastic!), old tin lids and chunks of bamboo.
Sheltered beneath a massive well-used parachute they were encouraged to paint and print their little hands on to a giant Anti Global-Warming banner, and the Mummies were urged to come and march with the banner and the little gnomes.
The hand-prints were all in the most natural of colours, shades of raw earth: beige, olive green, sludge and mustard.The paints had been hand-made, ground up from earth and bark and berries, totally, utterly natural.
For this is one of the many Forest Schools, earnestly run, carefully giving their little middle-class patrons the chance to get down and dirty in the name of saving the planet.
There were other things to do, of course. Drawing with locally made charcoal and pieces of genuine chalk rock seemed popular. There were paint brushes and a jar of water, and one small Bertie mashed up some charcoal into the water and took a deep and obviously satisfying swig of the mixture while his Mummy was talking about bamboo fibre nappies. ("Tell me, Chloe, have you ever, ever, used a disposable nappy?")
There is the opportunity to paint stones, peel fruits, finger paint, jump along stepping stones, walk through a tunnel, and generally to have an awfully big adventure in the forest.
Then there is a real live fire, lots of flaring twigs in a real fire pit, and things can be toasted and spread with home-made jam or even peanut butter out of a jar (just like at home). There is tea, disappointingly ordinary, bog-standard tea for the Mummies and the one attendant Granny, and fresh water for the little gnomes.
The Mummies and the gnomes (and even the Granny) all get frightfully dirty and have to get changed and cleaned up before getting back into the Volvo.
And then it's a bit of a chore, getting through the school-rush traffic and the city centre in time for tea.