LESS than a year after launching a new project in woodland near Ilminster, a firm giving children the chance to get outside has been nominated for a top rural business award.

ROAM was launched at the end of October, and has seen near instant success with its range of forest school classes and fun outdoor activities.

The business was the brainchild of Somerset chef Aaron Driver, and he worked with former teacher Richard Akers and retired policeman Tony Crowter to start the project.

The woodland is part of the Dillington Estate and can be found by heading out of Ilminster, through Whitelackington and turning right after the St Mary the Virgin Church.

The trio has 10 acres to transform for their use, with more than three acres of that already being enjoyed.

The new company is up with a chance of winning a Rural Business Award 2019/20, held in partnership with Amazon.

Tony said: “We are delighted that we have been shortlisted.

“The whole aim is to get people outdoors and connecting with nature. Our feedback has been really positive.

“It is relaxed and friendly up here. We don’t force children to do anything.

“Some get involved in everything. Some choose not to and they come up and play.

“It is about them getting their own experience and their own learning.”

As we as hugely successful sessions for children, ROAM is pushing its new range of events for adults spearheaded by chef Aaron.

Richard said: “Aaron is a trained chef and so a lot of the food we do up here is incredible. He has done donuts, KFC style chicken, pizzas, calzones, quesadillas and more.

“It really is our unique selling point that makes different from other forest schools. It is not necessarily bush craft style. we are more ‘wild gourmet’.

“Some of it is us cooking and people enjoying, and some of it is people coming to cook.”

When ROAM started it found an immediate market for its toddler session and now runs them twice a week.

They have also had success with a weekly session for children who are home educated.

Richard added: “We are up to about eight or nine for that.

“We have more people trying to get on that but we try to keep the numbers capped because we want that to be a safe space for these children, and they need a bit more attention.

“It is about connecting with nature, but building up their confidence and self esteem as well.

“The acronym stands for Reach Out And Matter.

“Some of our home educated children led a session of cooking, or they did home-made slime once.

“They are now that confident to say ‘can we do this and can we lead it’.”

As well as developing their offering for adults, the trio plan to build an outdoor classroom so they are better prepared for windy weather.

In addition to their own regular sessions, ROAM has hosted one off events for birthday parties and local groups.

Tony said: “We have had schools up here - Manor Court, Winsham, Ashill and Hatch Beauchamp - and rainbows, brownies and guides.

“We had South West Karate from Taunton and they brought a group of 20 up here.

“He have had a lot of birthdays up here, and we will do barbecue food and roasted marshmallows and smores, and kids and adults love that.

“We provide a lot of the forest school staples, but then we do other things as well.”

The firms will battle it out against fellow rural businesses, entrepreneurs and enterprises from across the region for a place at the national final.

The regional final will be held in October 25, with the National Final next year.