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How To: Build a Woodland Den

Building a den in the woods is a great outdoor activity for the weekends or during their school residential trip, one that children will remember for a long time after.

Searching and collecting all the materials, using their imagination to visualise how the structure and working with classmates to create something amazing.  The sense of accomplishment they will feel when sheltering from the elements inside having built it all by themselves will last longer than the trip.

Our South Downs residential is based in Lewes in the heart of the South Downs National Part. Here children can expect to have fun with many great activities such as orienteering, camp fires, team challenges, archery and survival skills! (Visit the trip page on our site HERE to see the full itinerary. 

The den building afternoon is one of the children’s favourite activities. But don’t worry they won’t be sleeping in their dens, the excellent accommodation of our sites is one of the reasons our residential is so popular. The YHA accommodation is a stunningly refurbished Sussex farmhouse and barn, surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque views – the kids (and teachers!) love it!

If your child has been on our residential trips and now keeps wanting to make a den, sorry but it was fun!  So, we’ve called upon our team to help write this guide on building a den ready for your next weekend exploring the woods!

1. Find a sturdy tree
First things first, find a sturdy tree for the foundation of the den.  The den is going to be built up around the tree so you want to look for one that is strong and has nooks, crannies and knobbly bits which you can use to help build the frame of the den.

2. Gather fallen branches
Go and explore the surrounding woodland gathering a large a pile of fallen branches and sticks, try and collect a good variety of shapes and sizes to help with the building process.  You need to find a strong Y shaped branch which is going to be important for the dens frame!

3. Build a sturdy frame
To build the frame you need to wedge a strong stick between the Y in the Y shaped branch, and one of the nooks and crannies of the tree.  This is the main structure of the den so use your best sticks!

4. Strengthen
Lay your branches against your framework to make the walls of your den, pack them closely so it is as secure as possible. This step is important to make your den as safe as possible and to withstand the wind and rain so you can shelter inside.

5. Protect from the elements
Cover your den in leaves and smaller twigs, wedging them into all the gaps so it provides shelter from the elements and is good enough to live in!

Want some more inspiration? Head over to the Woodland Trust website for an interactive map to find your nearest wood. They have some great guides and information on woodland activities for a weekend exploring the outdoors.