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.

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.

 

 

Stop in and say hello on Thursday

I will be down at Milton Locks again on Thursday morning this week (13th April) with lots of hands-on family activities. We are going to make a concerted effort to record lots of the species we come across, so watch this space on Thursday afternoon for a big sightings list and tales of an adventurous morning. Better still, pop in, say hello and grab a bug pot. Fingers crossed for the weather!

Minibeast hunting at Milton Locks

Minibeast hunting at Milton Locks

Milton’s Hidden Seashore Open Morning

The sun was out for our open morning at Milton Locks Nature Reserve on Saturday. We saw over 60 people including a walking team from 72nd Portsmouth Scouts who stopped in on their way past. We also had the pleasure of meeting the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth, who got fully involved in the activities and chatted to the project team and visiting families.

All in all, it was a successful morning and we spotted a slow worm, a red admiral butterfly and a peacock butterfly amongst other delights. We were also visited by a flock of redshank, who disappeared every time someone tried to point binoculars at them. Here are some snaps I took on the morning.

Sunny scenes from the beginning of morning at the reserve.

Open Day Lord Mayor JDM

The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress were definitely the most elegantly dressed of our visitors on Saturday. I felt even more scruffy than usual by comparison.