The great outdoors

Sarah Blackwell in Endcliffe Park
Sarah Blackwell in Endcliffe Park

Sarah Blackwell, aged 46, is the founder and chief executive officer of Archimedes Training, an internationally renowned forest schools, beach schools and outdoor learning training provider based in Sheffield.

She came to Sheffield in the winter of 1985 following the death of her father-in-law and has never left. She is extremely passionate about her company and its work, which has trained over 4,000 Forest Schools and Beach Schools practitioners since 2001 and involved more than 250,000 children. Archimedes is piloting international courses in Australia this year.

Sarah has four children and a dog.

Woods behind Endcliffe Park cafe

I love this spot. It’s a wonderful place to sit on a sunny day. It has always felt like a calming oasis where I can relax and reflect. I came up with the idea for Outdoors and Up For It here – a one-day practical course that equips learners for a range of outdoor activities, which they can share with their children in any outdoor space.

I wanted a course that would make it really easy for adults to take their children outdoors. It was here that I wrote the course’s ‘recipe book’, stuffed full of 100 different activities for playing outdoors.

Corner of Langdon and Croydon Street

I used to live in the house on the corner of Langdon and Croydon and it holds a lot of memories for me. My two eldest were born there – one with a midwife and one without! My son, Aaron, who is autistic, set my clothes on fire by accident. I won’t be forgetting that in a hurry! Before living in this house I actually lived in a bus, so sticking in one place for five years was a big change in my life.

Collard Manson, Devonshire Street

This is my favourite shop. Their clothes suite my quirky style, and the quality and the customer service is brilliant. When Archimedes Training was invited to the British Embassy in Sydney last November as part of a trade delegation, I needed something to wear urgently. I ran to the shop and they took control. They had me kitted out in no time. My favourite item I ever bought there was a charcoal dress that I can wear anywhere – dress up or dress down. The perfect staple.

Bingham Park

My great grandad used to push his wheelbarrow through here full of knives when they needed sharpening at the mill. It feels steeped in family history, it’s like going back to my roots.

We use knives and other tools on our forest schools courses and I would love to design an Archimedes knife to sell in our online shop.

General Cemetery, Sharrow

The cemetery really has so much to see and discover. It has a beautiful chapel with Egyptian-style architecture, which was apparently in vogue when it was built. The Friends of the Cemetery run some fantastic walking tours about once every month.

I learned that the gate over the river at the site entrance is designed to depict the crossing of the Styx, which is the river around the land of the dead in Greek mythology. I always learn something new when I go there!

Lady Cannings Plantation

This is a cavernous plantation that separates Ringinglow from the moors. It’s a lovely, rugged kind of place. It’s on the edge of an old Roman road and again, it’s the history that captures me. It spurs my imagination and stimulates my creativity.

I have been known to take my hammock up there and just spend time letting myself absorb the natural environment.

Norfolk Arms, Ringinglow

You can’t beat a good pint after a cold walk in the woods. They’ve got a great fire, a cosy atmosphere, and our dog, Boy, enjoys the biscuits the staff give to him!

Sheffield train station

It might sound a little strange but I love the idea that you can just catch a train and go anywhere. Most of all I like to get out to the beach! This is why I enjoyed creating our new Beach Schools practitioner courses so much and it’s great to think that they are now running across the UK, giving so many people the opportunity to discover the joys of the seaside.

Unfortunately a lot of adults, both parents and teachers, don’t take their kids to the beach, either because they’re concerned about safety or they don’t know what kind of things they can do with their kids there.

The course gives adults the skills and the confidence to take them into that environment and the children get to climb rocks, explore caves and feel the sand between their toes.

Porter Valley

It’s amazing that just by stepping out of my house and walking down the road, I get the benefit of such wide expanses of woodland and countryside all the way up from Ecclesall Woods to the Peak National Park.

This winding brook is an inspiration for so many people and it’s now set to be home for the Archimedes forest kindergarten. The school will run on Scandinavian educational principles that focuses on the early years.

There is a local church hall where children, aged three to five, will meet with their backpacks, lunches, warm clothes and wellies and spend the whole day in the valley exploring, climbing trees, digging in the dirt, building dens, cooking on campfires and having a jolly good time!

The Porter Valley is the perfect setting.