This guide is intended to equip teachers and group leaders with all the information, contacts and links they need to easily make use of the many greenspaces within the West Dunbartonshire area.

In a world full of concern about climate change and biodiversity decline it is important for children to link in with their local countryside. Schools have a huge potential - and arguably, a responsibility - to give children access to natural environments. By embracing learning both inside and outside the classroom, children discover that learning occurs everywhere, at all times, not just when sitting quietly at a desk.

Taking the curriculum outdoors can have a hugely beneficial effect on the learning and development of pupils. It not only improves problem solving skills, communication and collaborative working, but also physical and mental health, wellbeing and resilience.  By allowing children to explore and experiment in the great outdoors it helps to foster a lifelong appreciation of the natural world.  

West Dunbartonshire is in the fortunate position of having many local greenspaces including Local Nature Reserves, parks and woodlands. Balloch and its surrounds in the north of the council area are also part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. So there is ample opportunity for pupils to enjoy learning outdoors. 

If you would like to book a session with the Countryside Ranger or a group visit to a council greenspace please get in touch.

Nature Scot developed the Greenspace Map for Outdoor Learning in collaboration with Ordnance Survey (OS) and Esri UK as part of the legacy from the Learning in Local Greenspace project. It is an interactive web mapping tool to help teachers find a potential greenspace for outdoor learning close to their school.

Find your closest park, local nature reserve or greenspace 

If you are just making one visit and using many locations within a park, moving around doing lots of different activities then you do not need to book to use a Park in this casual way for outdoor learning. You can just turn up. But be aware, that a group may already be there and have an official 'permission to use' a specific site that you had in mind, so with this approach you must be flexible. However it is useful to let the Countryside Ranger Service know. They can liaise with the local grounds maintenance team and advise you of what areas might be out of bounds for emergency work or if other groups will also be visiting. 

If you wish to guarantee use of a specific outdoor space or use a specific space on a regular basis (more than once) with a group please get in touch.

We have a number of sites around the West Dunbartonshire area which have been specifically identified as Forest School sites

Forest School Sites must be booked through the Countryside Ranger Service. These sites provide the opportunity to work with a group over a number of weeks or months. Some locations are in high demand and as such can get booked up quickly.

The West Dunbartonshire Countryside Ranger Service manages a council wide forest school bookings diary to avoid double bookings, record the frequency of use and to safeguard the carrying capacity of the sites. First time users of the forest school site must undertake an orientation of the site with the local Countryside Ranger, please get in touch.

Due to an increase in demand for these sites, they will be regularly monitored. If it is evident that the sites are being degraded, we reserve the right to cancel bookings to allow the site to recover.

If you feel that there is an area that could be used as a Forest School site which is currently not a designated site please get in touch to discuss this option.

Risk Assessments

You are responsible for carrying out your own risk assessment of the site prior to your visit. The risk assessment should reflect individual circumstances and must be kept up to date in these times of rapid change. Risk to the group leader/teacher, assistants, participants and other park users should be considered. If you would like to meet with a Countryside Ranger prior to your visit, please get in touch.

The Right to roam

The right to roam or more correctly, right of responsible access was enshrined in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which establishes a statutory public right of access to land for an individual (not an organised group) for recreation and relevant educational activity if exercised responsibility. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code captures what is meant by responsible.