Meet the Willow Den Head Office Team

Mairi Ferris, Strategic Lead

Mairi Ferris

Mairi has long been a passionate advocate for children, play and the natural environment.

She brings a wealth of experience in early years, childcare, children’s rights, workforce development and quality improvement. Prior to joining Inspiring Scotland’s Thrive Outdoors team in 2017, Mairi was the interim Chief Executive at outdoor learning social enterprise Stramash and spent eleven years with Fife Council as Early Years Partnership Manager.

Mairi works specifically on outdoor early learning and childcare for the Thrive Outdoors team leading on their partnership with Glasgow City Council.

Mairi is a qualified ELC practitioner, has an MA in Social Policy a professional award in Leadership & Management and trained as an Improvement Advisor with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement in 2015. She is currently studying part-time for an MSC Education.

Louise Collingwood

Louise Collingwood

Willow Den’s Head of Finance, Louise, is a Chartered Accountant with over twenty years experience across accounting practice and financial services. During this time she has worked with a wide range of businesses from small start-ups to international banks.

She developed a keen interest in child development and equity through work with her children’s school, where she is chair of the Parent Council, and other volunteering.

When not at work she enjoys spending time at home with her family and getting out and about with their dog. 

 Kathie Nicolson 

Willow Den’s Head of Administration, Kathie, brings a breadth of business support skills to the team. She has worked across a range of sectors in Scotland, including start-ups, social investment and grant-making. 

Kathie’s passion for early years development was sparked after having her own children and cemented working for a leading early years funder. She understands how investment in providing high-quality, safe, nurturing but also challenging environments for children during their first years can have the greatest positive impact in shaping their development and futures.  

Outside of work Kathie enjoys making the most of the incredible Scottish countryside, building dens and hunting for fairy houses with her children as well as baking and reading.


Meet the Willow Den Senior Early Years Team

Karen Dickson

Nursery ManagerWillow Den at The Falkirk Wheel

My name is Karen and I am Nursery Manager at Willow Den at The Falkirk Wheel. I have worked in various roles in early years for the past 16 years holding senior and management ELC roles.

I am a believer of outdoor education and play, I feel that children are much more engaged and motivated to learn when you take away the constraints of playrooms and walls.

I am very excited to be a part of Willow Den and help children reach their potential outdoors.

In my spare time I run about after my very energetic dog (who loves going to the beach and digging the biggest holes!). Camping and spending cosy evenings by the fire are also top of my list.

Sandi Ferry Martin

Nursery ManagerWillow Den at Spartans

With over 20 years experience in childcare and youth work, Sandi has dedicated her career to fostering environments where children can thrive. Passionate about the natural world, Sandi firmly believes that children learn best when immersed in the elements, creating a deep connection to their surroundings.

Sandi’s vision extends beyond the present, aiming to instil in children a passion for their environment that will shape a healthier world for generations to come.

Sandi’s commitment to understanding child development led her to pursue a BA in Psychology and she’s embarking on a BA in Childhood Practice this year, further enhancing her expertise.

Beyond her role at Willow Den, Sandi is a Mum to four children and keeps busy teaching them to cook and eating al fresco in their garden every weekend.