In the middle of a field strewn with daisies, Theo, 4, Alice, 4, and William, 3, are playing trains. They run along a narrow plank balanced on several old tyres that bounces as they jump on it, making chuffing noises and screaming with laughter when they lose their balance and fall in a heap.
Nearby, Ethan, 4, has wound double-sided sticky tape around himself and is rolling in the grass trying to get daisies to stick to him. Millie, also 4, clutches a piece of wood that she has selected from a pile and drawn on in coloured crayon. All over the field small groups of children are playing, running, shrieking, laughing and enjoying the bright spring sunshine.
This is not just playtime. This is the Farley Outdoor Learning nursery in Wiltshire, where the classrooms are invariably empty and the children spend all day, every day, outdoors – even the babies, who, at six months, entertain themselves in the sandpit or, when it is time for a nap, fall asleep gazing up at the sky in a series of sturdy Silver Cross prams parked in the courtyard.
And while today is sunny, Sue Palmer, the school’s principal, assures me that the children are outside whatever the weather, even in the rain and snow. “The best thing in the world is a huge downpour, because you get your coat on and you’re jumping around in it,” she says. “With us the children get wet and they get covered…