It was At Play in the Woods that first drew my attention to Sam Harrison, but then I noticed that either photos of Sam or his name were popping up all over social media: invitations to get involved with the St Nicholas Fayre, invitations to a free Family Play Day on the Salthouse Fields; seeing him centre stage at the Clevedon Christmas Lights event, the Primary School Cluster Choir and the Mayday event; a member of the Clevedon Community Resilience Team, Plastic Free Clevedon and PACT; a committee member and huge supporter of the Air Cadets and very recently 1st VP to the Clevedon Lions. This is one very busy man!
When we met up I asked Sam what was the best thing about living in Clevedon and yes you guessed it – the community. Not surprising really, given that he has invested so much time and energy into the community.
Sam has lived in Clevedon all his life and bringing up his own family in the same area means that he is very much in touch with what is going on. Like most of the Clevedon people that I have interviewed, Sam loves the fact that he’s living in a town that is very supportive and inclusive. Being on the coast and surrounded by such lovely parks and woodland is of course of equal importance to Sam whose passion is getting outdoors. He works with horses on a daily basis and manages land in Portishead, Clevedon and Chelvey.
Sam is the father of four delightful children, Aleera aged thirteen who is part of an Army Cadet Squadron and employs the survival skills learnt from Sam in the field; Adrian aged eleven who enjoys archery lessons with his dad and toasting marshmallows; Kara aged seven who loves everything related to woodland fairy hunting, unicorn parties and mud kitchens and baby Zoey who is just six weeks old.
The family are also proud owners of two family dogs Magic and Lucky, as well as two horses called Pedro and Moonshine. Kate and Sam have plans for Moonshine to become part of a riding centre for disadvantaged children; Sam has supported Kate through the first of many courses she will need to manage such a centre. They will extend the centre to include outdoor pursuits and Sam’s Forest School. Busy times ahead!
Trying to balance work, family life and Sam’s commitments to the local community is by no means easy and Sam readily agreed Kate is a wonderfully supportive partner.
Sam’s fondest memories as a child in Clevedon were those of being allowed out to wander the river banks behind his parents’ house, climbing through sewer drains on the edge of the river, setting up a little den inside, climbing through to the next section…. He admits that if his children dared to do anything similar now he would be horrified!
Even as a toddler, there was evidence of Sam’s love of the outdoors, his yen for exploring and his passion for fire as he is seen here helping his grandfather light the hearth.
What better way to satisfy his need to be outdoors than At Play in the Woods, situated in the very beautiful Brickyard Wood which is pre 1800’s ancient woodland in Chelvey, surrounded by fields going back to medieval times.
I hadn’t realised until we met up, that At Play in the Woods isn’t Sam’s only business! He has a children’s entertainment company called Discos & Magic that does birthday parties, discos and magic shows. His inspiration for this was Stuart Purnell who ran Absolute Bounce and Spectrum Sound and Lighting. Working with Stuart gave Sam the confidence to buy his own kit and start out on his own at the tender age of twelve! Check out Discos & Magic here:
As Discos & Magic grew and Sam was being asked to support larger, more varied events so he decided to branch out and set up DMevents who are now involved in a range of activities such as concerts, shows, fairs, festivals, charity fundraising, security and much more. He believes that the success of DMevents is related to his strong customer service ethos and his belief in teamwork. He always works very closely with his clients to ensure that he offers exactly what is required and exceeds their expectations. Check out DMevents here:
Sam’s favourite event is the St Nicholas Fayre on Hill Road. He works closely with a small committee, a volunteer team and his brother Kenn and friend Gary who make sure that the event runs smoothly for those working and those enjoying the evening. It’s a lot of work that he chips away at all year – recruiting stall holders, securing licenses, health and safety, risk assessments, the list is endless but he loves every minute of it and gets huge satisfaction from seeing it all come together. Thank you to Carli Collins for the photos. Check out her website here: and find out more about St Nicholas Fayre here:
Believing that these events strengthen the community and seeing how well supported they are, Sam aims to put on more and more. The next big event that he is in the throes of planning is a Family Wellbeing, Music and Arts festival. There’ll be more about that on social media very soon. All the best with this Sam.
I nearly forgot to mention his most recent business, Sam’s UK Haunt which came about through his family’s love of all things Halloween! It started out as a little get together for family and friends to have some Halloween fun but over the years got bigger and bigger. Sam has amassed a great number of props and in 2014, bought a coffin to use as a prop outside of the house. These Halloween gatherings were so popular amongst friends and family, that he decided to open up the house and included a troupe of actors to add to the terror and fear inspired by the music and the special, spooky decorations. The community came in their droves and they loved it! The highlight was having their photos taken in the coffin which raised over £200 for charities. As they say, ‘it takes all sorts!’
Sam was involved in youth work and child care for over seventeen years, he hosts the free Family Play Days on behalf of the North Somerset Play Forum which he has been a member of for over fifteen years. He also sits on their committee.
Sam helped run Radio Dynamic at Portishead Youth Centre with Alan Roe, before moving to the Barn where he assisted with a group for young mothers and toddlers. He then went to work at Weston Youth Centre running a number of different groups and clubs. He also worked for North Somerset Council as a Play Development Team Officer for four years as one of the leads on the Play Pod scheme, followed by time at Puxton Park where he was the Park Supervisor. He has helped set up and run forest school sessions in a number of schools and settings. In 2017 when Sam was offered the use of Brickyard Wood he decided to stop all the outreach work and concentrate on setting up a fixed base for the use of Bristol and North Somerset Forest School Leaders and groups.
Throughout all of this time he kept his business’ running.
The idea of Forest School originated in Scandinavia and was introduced to the UK in 1993 by a group of nursery nurses from Bridgewater College in Somerset. They had visited a Danish Forest School and were so impressed with the ethos and approach that they were keen to develop their own programme. Forest School has been rapidly developing since then and is increasingly recognised and supported as a valid tool to support the development of children and young people. It continues to receive support from household names such as the Forestry Commission and the Wildlife Trusts.
Sam obtained his Level 3 Forest School and Leadership qualifications with the original Forest School Team. He also has Cache qualifications in Playwork and City and Guilds qualifications in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector and Children’s Behaviour which he gained at Weston College. He obtained his Outdoor First Aid and Pediatric First Aid qualification from FirstAid4Life.
Sam is well qualified on paper for what he does and he has always been involved with children and young people but he also has many of the other essential ingredients that make for good teaching: he’s passionate about what he does, he’s patient, caring and kind, generous with his time, he has a great sense of humour and he’s someone who has the ability to develop positive relationships with children and young people very quickly. Added to which he is hugely experienced, At Play in the Woods dates back to 2008 and of course he can draw upon a wealth of childhood escapades and learning as a beaver, cub and scout.
At Play in the Woods is a very dynamic business that Sam is understandably very proud of. There are Toddler Sessions every Tuesday & Wednesday where children get to explore nature through child led fun, hands-on activities.
During holidays which include half-terms, they offer Play & Stay session where the main objective is to have fun! Activities include den building, toasting marshmallows over a campfire, team games and outdoor play. For these sessions at least one adult must stay with a group of three children.
There are special birthday packages for children and young people of all ages: They can choose from archery, wand or staff carving, an amazing version of a woodland hide and seek game which involves building woodland shelters and camouflage, a treasure hunt or a magical woodland experience.
And last but not least there is the opportunity to indulge your inner warrior and have a bespoke hen or stag party. Archery, bush craft, green woodwork, tree climbing, cooking over an open fire are all on offer. Check out At Play in the Woods for yourself here:
Sam is well aware that a lack of work-life balance can take its toll in many ways but being self-employed offers him a lot of flexibility and enables him to balance all that he does. He’s become very adept at managing his time but if he does feel as though work is impinging too much on family time then it is easy for him to redress the balance. He’s committed to making it work and it is working. A big thank you to Sam for all he does for the Clevedon community and to his partner Kate who is so supportive of all Sam’s ventures.
If you’d like to know more about At Play in the Woods, check it out here: