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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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!

 

More sightings from Carole and Martin

Volunteers Carole and Martin braved the gales yesterday to visit Milton Locks nature reserve and they have sent me some more lovely photos. The wildlife didn’t seem to mind Storm Doris and they spotted and snapped a handsome mute swan, a turnstone and a redshank .mute-swan-by-martin-roberts

The turnstone (below) is beautifully camouflaged. Looks for the orange legs and you will spot it.

turnstone-by-martin-robertsThe redshank uses its long bill to find food in the rich Langstone Harbour mud.

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I’m off to Milton Locks later today for an outdoor learning session and I’m hoping to find the mysterious ‘Milton Monster’. I’ll report any discoveries.