Rain or shine, there’s fun to be had

I write this post, sitting at home, wrapped around a cup of tea, gently thawing and slowly drying out. After years of trying, this autumn we have managed to extend the outdoor learning ‘season’ beyond the October half term. Of course it is perfectly possible to learn and play on a nature reserve at any time of year, but the challenge has been convincing people that they want to come along to outdoor events or workshops in November. This week I have been down at the marvellous Milton Locks three times. Once for November Wildlife Tots , once for a meeting and again this morning to work with a group of child-minders. As I drove back this afternoon, I was keen to sit down and share some photos and some tales from the seashore.

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Murky Milton Locks

On Thursday, we had a very well attended Wildlife Tots session. The aim of these sessions is to provide outdoor play opportunities for under 5’s, their parents and/or carers. As we were setting up, the volunteers and I suddenly noticed that we had some nosey visitors by the tarpaulin.

 

A family of mute swans were quietly rummaging through our bags of equipment, probably looking for food. We didn’t have any food, but we did have a lot of very small children about to arrive, so I gently herded the handsome family back towards the sea. We often take our swans for granted in this part of the country. However, they are impressively large and beautiful birds up close. They can also be a little bit scary when they want to be. Swans are also a good analogy for the way I sometimes feel before an event or a school visit; calm and collected on the surface and paddling furiously underneath.

The swans left and the families arrived. Paddling in wellies, mud pie making, story reading and general exploring were all on the agenda. The weather was kind to us and we even glimpsed the sun for a few minutes.

Weather wise, today was a different story. It was forecast to rain at about 12noon which would have given us two dry hours of the three planned for our workshop. Unfortunately, it started raining at 8am. My chief volunteer (also known as my very forbearing husband) came along first thing to help me set up and I bumped into several of our friendly dog walkers as I was preparing. The child-minders were coming to Milton Locks for a workshop designed to build their confidence to take their children outdoors. The seven ladies who attended were very keen to try things out, share ideas and join in with a bit of silliness. Who needs sunshine when you have friendly, inspiring people to hang out with.

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One of the activities I often run with adults who work with children is to give each team, of two or three, a hula hoop. The teams’ challenge is to make a picture in the hoop and for everyone to guess what the picture is of. These are the three picture from this morning. I’ll leave you to guess what they are. Feel free to share your answers via the comments button.

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The outdoor part of the morning, unsurprisingly, finished earlier than expected and we retreated to the Thatched House pub for coffee and a conversation about play styles and useful ideas.

If you would like to find out more about Wildlife Tots, click on the Upcoming Events button above to see information about dates in the future.

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Amazing invertebrates, new friends and Wildlife Tots

This week I was delighted to receive some wonderful photos from Stuart Ball, a local entomologist (insect expert) and friend of Milton Locks. They are extraordinary shots and I have been eagerly awaiting a moment to sit down and share them with you.

broad-nosed weevil, Hypera sp. possibly

Broad-nosed Weevil by Stuart Ball

hoverfly Volucella zonaria, female

Hoverfly by Stuart Ball

Wasp spider, Argiope bruennichi, female

Wasp Spider by Stuart Ball

Stuart took these photos at our Friends of Milton Locks event last week. This particular spider is becoming a bit of a celebrity as Jim Craise also sent me another lovely photo of the very same animal.

Wasp spiders are fascinating creatures. This is the strikingly beautiful female. She uses her intricate web to catch grassland insects. The zigzag pattern on the web is designed to reflect UV light in order to attract prey. We’re very lucky to have such magnificent images to share with everyone. Thank you Stuart and Jim.

Jim Craise Wasp spider

Wasp Spider by Jim Craise

The events at Beddow Library and at the Reverse last week went very well and, as well as making new friends, we met some familiar faces. There were lots of families at the library, with children doing their summer reading challenge. I spent some time chatting to a little girl from Meon Infant School, who I had met on a school trip at the end of last term. She initially seemed at little confused and she asked me ‘Are you allowed to go to other places then?’. Often young children assume that I spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Milton Locks and she was clearly worried that I’d escaped. She then went on to tell me all about the activities we had done back in July.

Next Thursday, I’ll be running another Wildlife Tots session for pre-school children and their parents and carers. If you or someone you know would like to come along, check out the details on the Upcoming Events section of the blog and call or email to book you place.

Dear Friends, Come and find out more!

I’ve been looking forward to this week for a while as there will be two opportunities to meet and chat to people who want to find out more about Milton Locks and the Milton’s Hidden Seashore Project. On Thursday 24th August, I will be at Beddow Library with an information stand and a wildlife quiz. If you’re free, do please pop in for a chat and to test your beach combing knowledge.

Outreach stand at local Library

On Friday 25th August, I will be on site at Milton Locks between 10am and 2pm for our Friends of Milton Locks event. If you are interested in getting involved with the project in some way. there is no better time to pop in. There are many ways to get involved, whether you want to sign up as a volunteer or simply share your wildlife sightings and stories for the blog. Perhaps you know of a place where you could put up a poster or a local organisation who would like a talk or a visit. Basically, the more people we can get talking about Milton Locks Nature Reserve, the better.

A sneaky peak!

I’m delighted to share a sneak preview of some of the creations produced at one of the recent art mornings at Milton Locks, ahead of our little outdoor art exhibition on Friday. Last Friday, several families braved the showers to join in the first of our morning workshops. All kinds of creativity took place, from the traditional, watercolour end of the spectrum, to the more unusual and high spirited use of mud and found objects.

Milton Locks by Katy

Part of a larger painting of the reserve by volunteer, Katy.

 

 

Muddy hand prints

It turns out that mud can be just as useful as paint.

If this has wetted your appetite for outdoor art, in a range of styles, why not pop along to the reserve on Friday 4th August between 11am and 2pm to see the fruits of our labours.

Summer holiday art antics

Morning all. I’m coming to the end of a raucously busy summer term, so normal blogging service will soon be resumed, as I have a little more time in front of a computer screen. This is just a quick post to let everyone know about our summer art events which have just popped up on the website.

Last summer, our Heritage Art Day was one of our most successful ventures, so this year we have dedicated more days to encouraging people to capture and celebrate Milton Locks through art. The following pictures, from last year’s art antics, give a flavour of the inspirational and extraordinary creations that were produced from a simple morning on the beach.

 

See the ‘Upcoming events’ button on the blog to find out how you can get involved or email me on Jess.Parsons@hiwwt.org.uk to find out more.

More photos from last week’s adventures and another invitation

Katy Seaman, one of our education volunteers and local mum has sent me a couple of photos of last week’s Go Wild event to share on the Friends of Milton Locks blog. Her family are expertly demonstrating some of the activities that were on offer. Lots of the work I deliver at Milton Locks is aimed at building parents’ confidence to take their children outdoors to play. It looks as though Dad, Gregg, is enjoying himself just as much as the children. Hopefully this will inspire more people to get out there and spend time with nature as the weather becomes kinder.

Gregg and Eliza by Katy SeamanSeaman family at Go Wild Katy Seaman

Today is an entirely different kettle-o-fish. I’m at Portsmouth Museum preparing for our Memories of Milton Locks oral history session. Between 2 and 4:30pm this afternoon, we are inviting people to pop in and share tales and photographs of the past at Milton Locks. The event is linked to the extraordinary Edward King exhibition in the Museum and promises to be an interesting and nostalgic event. If you remember Milton Locks in days gone by, why not pop in and see us. It will be quite a novelty for me to be working inside a building. I’ll have to remember to use my ‘indoor voice’ as parents and teachers often call it.

 

 

Homes for cuddly toys and a worm with ‘legs’ make for another grand day out

I have just got back to my occasional perch at Portsmouth City Museum this afternoon and, as promised, here is quick summary of this morning’s adventures. The weather was kind to us for our Go Wild family event this morning and over 70 people signed in to get involved in family activities. Also many other passers-by stopped for a chat. We had a wide variety of activities on offer including bug hunting, beach art, scavenger hunting and making mini dens for fluffy cuddly toys. Here are some of the best mini dens and nests.

We did also come across lots of wildlife in the midst of our busyness. Goldfinches, Blackbirds, a Robin, a Wren and a lovely Chiff Chaff were all singing and chirruping away for most of the morning. A pair of swans flew over at about 11am and Black-Headed and Mediterranean Gulls were ever present in the sky above us.

Among our beach finds were the usual Shore crabs, Sandhoppers, Periwinkles and tiny Hydrobia snails. We also found a little Ragworm, pictured below, which is seldom seen during events, although relatively common in these parts. This caused some excitement and I first suspected that we had found a Ragworm when I overheard someone shout ‘The worm has legs!’. In fact, the leg-like structures on the worm are called parapodia and as well as helping the Ragworm to get around, they are used for respiration. ragworm JDM

Happy Easter everybody!