Curriculum Links

Key themes: Literacy, Geography, Science

By the Riverbank links strongly with the EYFS curriculum in the following ways –

Children will:

  • engage in imaginative role play
  • share their thoughts, ideas and feelings
  • take part in problem solving activities
  • experience a rich language environment
  • be active and interactive

Inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows this is an interactive introduction for very young children to the world of this classic children’s book and to having adventures of their own.


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Programme Outline

The children are interrupted in their classroom by Ranger Ratcliffe as he looks for Portly, an otter that likes to have adventures.

Together they set off to search and encounter a river in the school hall. Despite close inspection of the foliage on the bank and finding several interesting things Portly is nowhere to be seen. The children and Ratcliffe cross to the far bank by way of stepping stones to continue their search. They discover a box filled with strange objects and a sign pointing to boats for hire. The children take a break while Ratcliffe arranges a boat so they can journey along the river.


Ratcliffe and the children board the boat and the emergency equipment is examined. The journey along the river presents a variety of hazards as well as opportunities to relax and enjoy the wildlife and natural environment. As they approach the wild wood Ratcliffe enlists the children’s help to transform themselves into fearsome monsters to scare off anything that might think of attacking them.

As the children arrive safely through the wood, at last Portly is found. The children give Portly advice about further adventures say goodbye. Ratcliffe thanks the children for their help and returns Portly home.



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Aim & Outcomes



Using “The Wind in the Willows” as a stimulus By the River Bank will explore the tensions between adventure and security, risk and safety to create new stories.


Children will:

  • Explore different responses to risk and danger in a safe fictional context
  • Create their own narratives and contribute to new collective narratives
  • Participate imaginatively to shape a unique drama


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Kenneth Grahame (1859 -1932)

Kenneth Grahame (1859 -1932) and The Wind in the Willows

The stories of Toad, Mole and Ratty that make up The Wind in the Willows were written by Kenneth Grahame in a series of letters to his son, Alistair. Grahame had already been making up adventures for these characters as bedtime stories for Alistair as early as 1904 but they weren’t published as The Wind in the Willows until 1908.

The stories were not well received initially but grew in popularity after President Theodore Roosevelt asked that it be published in America.

They were inspired by Grahame’s own childhood when he lived as a boy with his grandmother on the banks of the river Thames. They celebrate the simple pleasures of walking, boating, eating and fire sides. They reflect Grahame’s dislike of the modern mechanical age and present an idyllic vision of England that was probably already dated when he first told the stories if it ever really existed. They sit in an uncomfortable paradox between the lure of adventure that the open road and wide world presents and safety and comfort of home.


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The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Published by Puffin classics, ISBN: 978-0-141-32113-4
A good edition with some useful additional information and follow up activities at the back

Wild Wood by Jan Needle. Published by Adlib scholastic, ISBN: 0-590-55356-9
An alternative view of the story told from point of view of the weasels stoats and ferrets.

Paths to the River Bank. Published by Blandford, ISBN: 0-7137 2072-7
A collection of writings by Kenneth Graham that expand, illuminate and inform some of the themes in “The Wind in the Willows”


Teacher support programme, penguin readers. Some useful suggestions for follow up and prep work

Newspaper article on Kenneth Grahame providing good biographical information

Detailed academic essays on Grahame, The Wind in the Willows and the representation of gender. Interesting background reading

A work sheet with a range of Wind in the Willows related activities by chapter some of which may be appropriate for your children

A work sheet about the River Cole that supports a guided walk around Sarehole mill with some photographs of key features of a river better still, book a tour with the education team at the mill or take your class for a walk.

A click through journey along the River Trent with Fergal the frog. There is a map and aerial photograph at each stage useful terms and vocabulary.

Map Reading Activities. The following are printouts that test a student’s knowledge of map reading.


The River’s Journey from the source to the estuary. Includes the different ways humans use the river. Created as part of a Year 7 geography homework. Covers the journey of a river from source to mouth, ideal for use in schools and for children.

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Based on the well loved story The Wind in the Willows written by Kenneth Graham
Produced in partnership with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Directed by Malcolm Jennings
Performed by Simon Turner

Set and costume designed and made by Rosie Lunney

With special thanks to Liz Vass and Ruth Morgan from Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Online resources created by Malcolm Jennings & Kirsty McTighe

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By the River Bank is inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s classic celebration of a lost rural idyll “The Wind in the Willows.”

We have drawn from some of the key themes in Grahame’s story to create our programme. We were particularly interested in the tension between home and security and the threat and adventure of the wide world. We wondered what we could do to help us manage our fears and anxieties.

We wanted to encourage children to contribute imaginatively to our story and create their own stories. Stimulated perhaps by nearly falling off the stepping stones, finding broken eggs with an arrow and wondering what might have happened. We would love to hear any of the children’s stories and pictures. You can send them to:

The characters we have created are not meant to be the animals in Grahame’s book but have some similarities.


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