Nature Conservation Ranger Team

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020 8559 2316

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Areas served:


London Borough of Redbridge James Leal Centre, Snake Lane East, Ray Park, Woodford Green, IG8 7JQ

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January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December


5 to 7 years, 8 to 10 years, 11 to 13 years

The James Leal Centre is a new state of the art, eco building within Ray Park, which was officially opened in Dec 2009. Packed full of sustainable features with a bold contemporary look, it is well designed to meet with the modern needs of all users.

Listed under: Day Trip Destinations | Environmental Studies | Wildlife and Nature Reserves | Team Building | Special Educational Needs (SEN) | Parks and Gardens | Outdoor Education | Ecology & Green Awareness | Environment Centres | Adventure Playgrounds | Science | Geography | Conservation

What we offer

The James Leal Centre is a new state of the art, eco building within Ray Park, which was officially opened in December 2009. Packed full of sustainable features with a bold contemporary look, it is well designed to meet with the modern needs of all users. Located adjacent to one of the borough's new premier children's natural play areas, fully equipped outdoor gym area, tennis and basket ball courts, it is also a good place to start/end your walk or cycle along the River Roding ‘Roding Valley Way’.

The centre also has its own cafe, a partnership venture between the London Borough of Redbridge, RCHL (Redbridge Community Housing Limited) and the Learning Disability Partnership, providing a quality cafe service (including catering for school parties). The cafe runs as a Social Enterprise, providing employment for adults with a learning disability. Training (accredited), work experience and job tasters for school and college students are available on request.

The borough's nature conservation ranger team, based at the centre, leads on various outdoor educational activities in and around the centre. There are five different themes, all with a focus on wildlife and the natural environment and all designed to link in with the national curriculum.

After the Storm:

Using story, puppets, role-play and simple activities, pupils are encouraged to explore a range of habitats before creating a suitable home for their animal friends.

Meadows and mini-beasts:

Pupils will use a range of survey methods to discover the wide variety of living things that can be found in Ray Park's wildflower meadows

River ramble:

Using fieldwork skills, pupils will investigate the River Roding and the wetlands that form an important feature of Roding Valley Park.

Tree explorer:

This activity opens pupils’ eyes to the fascinating world of trees, including their variety and structure. Following a range of activities, pupils will discover why trees are so important for animals and people.

Science zone:

A range of hands-on activities based in the James Leal Centre classroom to investigate the key themes of the centre, including habitats, life cycles and keys.

Each of the above are taught using themed backpacks and activities, resources being designed to focus on a selection of topics including life processes, habitats, living things and rivers. The themed backpacks allow pupils to feel like real rangers, with plenty of scope to undertake fieldwork, including the use of binoculars, microscopes, bug dials, maps, quadrants and tape measures.

The science zone activities, based in the Centre's indoor learning space, encourages the exploration of living things and their environments through a range of hands-on activities ranging from animal handling to making bug ID dials.

Visits can either be self led (with intro and wrapping up at the end with one of the rangers) or fully ranger led.

The ranger team also leads school trips to other parks and open spaces in the borough, including Claybury Park and Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve.

‘Tales from Claybury Woods’ is Claybury Park's brand new educational resource packed full of imaginative stories; woodland tree, plant and animal information; and creative and easy to follow wildlife-themed activities. The stories and activities are aimed at KS1 and KS2.

The stories and activities are designed so that they can be used at Claybury Woods; your local park; or even in your own school grounds. The nature conservation team can lead a guided outdoor session but do encourage teachers to explore the resources with their classes. There are 14 different stories, all with a focus on the natural environment.

Example stories and activities:

  • Why the Trees Whisper
  • Making drainpipe dragonflies
  • How Flowers came to the Woods
  • My piece of the story

Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve is a another site geared towards education, being an enclosed site with limited public access, it is popular with schools as a visit destination. A fragment of the Great Forest of Essex, and former site of a Royal Hunting Lodge, it still has much historical interest, with some remains on site giving clues to its former purpose. Science, Geography, History (particularly the Victorian period), English and Art are covered in the pack

Coach parking must be agreed in advance during booking for the James Leal Centre and Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve due to limited space and access. Claybury Park only has street parking available.

No private vehicles are permitted into Ray Park towards the James Leal Centre unless agreed during booking. Unauthorised vehicles caught parked inside the park or opposite the centre may be subject to fines.

We recommend visitors to our sites use public transport if possible.

For more information on what we have to offer please visit http://www.redbridge.gov.uk/cms/the_environment/nature_conservation/the_outdoor_classroom.aspx

If you would like to make the most of your schools visit to Redbridge please have a look at what our colleagues at Redbridge Museum and newly restored Valentines Mansion have to offer for schools:


What makes us a great choice?

The borough's Nature Conservation Ranger Team has been providing outdoor school themed education for well over 10 years, as well as visiting schools within the borough. The James Leal Centre and our other sites, Claybury Park and Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve, offer a structured and safe learning environment for school children, with staff that are experienced, know the areas inside out and are well resourced with materials, equipment and props to make your school trip one that your class will remember for a long while.

The James Leal Centre, in particular, is easily accessible by public transport (15 minute walk from Woodford central line station, bus 275 stopping immediately opposite the park gates) and by road. Not only that, due to its location your class can experience a contrast of different habitats from formal park to river to country park, all within walking distance. The play areas and outdoor gym facility, called the ‘AdiZone’, adjacent to the centre, also make lunchtimes fun for the kids, as well as opening up the possibility of a PE/games session for part of your stay here. The centre's on site cafe also means that food and drink is available throughout the day, including the option of pre-booking catering for your visit.

Claybury Park and Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve are excellent examples of ancient woodland, both with a magical feel and magnificent veteran trees. Both sites have educational packs we can work towards, in particular Claybury Parks story book is a great way of combining stories with the outdoors. A free copy of ‘Tales of Claybury Woods’ is available to all schools who book a class session at Claybury Park.

Group Sizes Catered For

The centre can only accommodate one class (30 children approximately) at a time. Visits to our other parks and open spaces, such as Claybury Park, are also one class (30 children approximately) per Ranger. A maximum of 3 rangers are available at any one time.

Materials, Resources & Information Provided

Information relating to each trip booked with us will be provided by the ranger team during the trip. Samples are available on request in relation to our site packs and those booking onto our self led Ranger Pack sessions will be automatically sent instructions prior to visit. Hard copies of ‘Tales of Claybury Woods’ will be available to those booked onto a Claybury Park visit, alternatively a CD with the book is available for teachers who are interested but who have not booked a Claybury Park visit.

Photography, Filming & Audio Restrictions

We welcome schools to bring cameras to record their school trip, in accordance with their policy on photographs and the wishes of members of the public using the centre and park. Images can be downloaded onto a memory stick from the digital microscopes, for projects or as a momento.

London Borough of Redbridge cannot take any responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged equipment during trips to its sites.

Risk Assessment Details

Please call the rangers to arrange a pre-visit for risk assessment purposes. We expect all visiting schools to prepare a specific risk assessment for their trip, taking into account the needs of their individual pupils. Your schools EVC (educational visits coordinator) should be able to provide you with more information relating to this.

We do expect good adult supervision to be provided by visiting schools, on average six children to one adult ratio.

Education Officer Information

Please contact the Nature Conservation Ranger Team to discuss your trip, 020 8559 2316


Pricing Information

Ranger Pack Sessions at the James Leal Centre:

(flat rate for all schools)

Ranger led session: £60.00

Self led session: £30.00

Ranger sessions at Claybury Park Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve and other parks and open spaces in the borough:

(flat rate for all schools)

£30.00 per session

Clothing Requirements

We recommend that all children and adults are dressed appropriately for the weather as our sessions will be outdoors. Good footwear is recommended and we advise against sandals or flip flops.

First Aid Information

All our rangers are first aid at work trained and briefed on how to react in an emergency. However the visiting school must provide a first aider who can deal with the specific requirements of its class pupils (e.g. medication or special needs care).

Available Facilities

The James Leal Centre has a cafe which is open all year round providing hot and cold food and drinks including ice creams during warmer months. The cafe has the capability to cater for your trip with menus available for school lunches. Please remember to mention this during booking so we can put you in touch with the cafe direct who will be able to work on your budget.

Packed lunches can be eaten in the centre classroom only holding a maximum of one class. More space is available outside the centre in the picnic areas found in the play area

The centre also has two interactive kiosks schools can use animal tanks and an exhibition about the centre and the local area's natural and cultural history.

The park also has:

Large natural play area with a range of play equipment for all ages and abilities.

AdiZone or Outdoor Gym with a large range of outdoor gym equipment climbing wall basketball and five a side football area.

Basketball courts

Tennis Courts

Access to the River Roding at the back of the park

Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve is adjacent to the new Redbridge Cycle Centre a state of the art cycling facility with tracks for off road and road cycling BMX and stunt jumping. Part of the London 2012 legacy. Bicycle hire and changing facilities are available including toilets snack machines and large car park. Please let us know if you would like to know more.

Accessibility & Disabled Facilities

The James Leal Centre is fully accessible for disabled users with accessible toilets space and the ability for authorised vehicles to drive right up to the centre entrance inside the park. The Centre space is all on the ground floor.

Please contact us regarding Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve and Claybury Park.

Opening Hours & Information

The centre is open to the public Tuesdays to Sundays all year round.

School sessions can take place in the centre Tuesdays to Fridays between 09:30 – 15:30.

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