Two posts in one day! I’m spoiling you all now 😛 Here’s last week antics. (I thought I’d better get caught up as I’m out again tomorrow)
Tuesday 25th March
Lucy wasn’t in on Tuesday but she’s arranged for me to do something a little different; I was spending the day with Lindsey from the education team helping out with a River Study. A school brought in both it’s Year 5 and Year 6 class. The Year 5’s went off with Steve whilst I stayed with the Year 6’s and Lindsey.
The day started with the children looking at a map of the river Trent, the river that runs through the Wolseley Centre grounds, pointing out it’s source, mouth and naming tributaries. After that, they split into their groups, grabbed some equipment and headed outside to see the river.
The first activity was finding out what lived in the river. To do this the kids were kick sampling. This had them stood facing downstream, with a net resting in the river bed in front of them. They then had to shuffle their feet / kick up the bottom so that the current swept things into their nets. Each group had a tray filled with water that they could empty the nets into and inspect their findings. I really enjoyed seeing all their enthusiasm for the activity; they were all desperate to have a turn with the nets and were poking around in the trays to see what they’d found. One of the trays contained a leech and there were a few squeals from the girls warning the boys not to touch it or it would drink their blood.
It was then time for pond dipping in the lake, to try out different methods and compare the differences in species. For this the children had to sweep the nets in a figure of eight pattern, and were advised to try near the middle of the reeds, without stirring up too much mud. They were quick to pick up on the fact that they would find more amongst the reeds because it offered the water dwelling inverts some shelter from anything that would want to eat them. Again they were all eager to have a go with the nets, thought after their turn a few of the kids got a little distracted by the ducks and geese near the picnic tables. The use of some guides helped the children work out what they’d found and they filled in a ‘passport’ for their favourite discovery.
Before and after lunch, we looked at the uses of the river and the land around it. Even a ten year old can tell you that if you build on a flood plain then you’re likely to experience flooding. They were quick to pick up farming, leisure activities and that rain lines often followed rivers. It took them a little longer to notice the canal, but we can let them off as it is behind a hedge and there were no barges around to give it away. The also all really impressed me with their knowledge of what riffles and eddies are. Apparently they are the first school group to have got it right.
The final activity for the day was measuring the pH, temperature and speed of the river. I was left trying to remember my chemistry A-level as I tried to explain pH to a few of the girls. Measuring it, and the temperature was much easier though, just being a case of popping the reader in the water and waiting until it gives you a reading. Measuring the speed was a little more complicated. In groups they had to time how long it took a stick to travel 10 meters. They repeated this five times and then took an average. Amongst all the excitement of who got to throw the stick in, who was the start and finish and who was using the stopwatch, I think some of the children forgot to write any of their results down but I think they got the gist of what we were doing.
It was then time to head back to the classroom so the kids could change into their clean shoes before heading off to the bus to get back to school before home time. It was a really enjoyable day; I loved getting to see the children being outside, learning and having fun. It drizzled pretty much all day and I don’t think I heard a child complain about it once. It just proves to me that children do love being outdoors, we just need to give them a chance to get out there!
Wednesday 26th March
The original plan had been to head to Castern to mow the grass but the distinct lack of the Land Rover when we arrived at the Wolseley Centre meant we couldn’t get all the equipment we needed up there. Instead we headed over to Loynton to tackle all the brash from clearing the ditches again. We started off split into two groups as the brash was now on opposite sides of the fields as we’d been working in the middle last week. By lunchtime we’d cleared one side so we joined forces to tackle the last bit. Some dark clouds threatened us for a little while but we escaped with just a brief shower whilst eating our sandwiches. By the end of the day we hadn’t quite managed to burn everything but there is very little left.
On Thursday we were up at Brankley Patures. Our job for the day was to tidy up all the brash left from the contractors when they’d been cutting back anything growing near power lines. It was all relatively young trees so didn’t take us too long to clear up the mess, even with the threat that we’d have to take all of the stumps down to grown level once we’d cleared everything else!
As we were getting the job done quickly, after lunch a few of us went to have a look around reserve. I hadn’t realised quite how big it is, and our wander took me into a part I didn’t know existed. Firstly we went into the woodland to look at some of the ancient trees. The were mostly oaks, big beautiful trees, twisted into all sorts of fantastic shapes but there were a couple of ancient holly trees too. On the other side of the woodland was a large area of wood pasture. Wood pasture is a mix of grassland and woodland, with trees providing shelter for grazing animals whilst the grass provides them with fodder. The landscape was dotted with Oak giants, beautifully huge trees that have been there for hundreds of years. It’s truly incredible to think that such giants grew from a tiny acorn! Some are so large that the weight of their limbs are slowly ripping their trunks in half! Alan took us over to a crab apple tree, that on the approach looks like it’s doing well despite its age. As you get closer it becomes clear that a massive chunk of the trunk is missing, and the tree is really just being supported by a ribbon shaped bit of plant matter. Despite all this the tree is perfectly healthy, and it still produces fruit! I’m not a plant person (though this is changing little by little) but I’ve always had a soft spot for trees and these ones were definitely worth a look at.
Jobs for the day done, and with some rather dark clouds looming on the horizon, we packed up and headed back towards the car park. To do that we walked across an area that is in the process of becoming a hay meadow. To help with this process ‘soil inversion’ has been carried out. This involves the layers of soil being swapped around so the top layer ends up deeper underground whilst soil from further down becomes the top layer. It is used to encourage wild flowers and it seems to be doing the job. The ground was littered with lots of flowers; I’m rubbish with plants (I really need to get some guide books!) but I’m sure Speedwell was at least one of them. A little delicate pale flower caught Alan and Lucy’s attention. They were a little unsure what it was but it seemed to be doing well on the site. After some help on Twitter I’m pretty sure it’s a Field Pansy but I will check. All in all it seemed quite a plant orientated day – maybe they aren’t so bad.
As long as the Landy is fixed, we’ll be a Castern this week. From what I’ve heard it’s a nice reserve but there’s a horrible hill we have to get all the equipment up and down. That could be interesting!