At the start of November I was off to Aberystwyth to complete my second module for my Ecology HND- this time in ‘Animal Diversity’. It was a 3-day whistle-stop tour of evolution and taxonomy- a lot to take in! We looked at many weird and wonderful creatures, including a rather fetching sea-mouse (Aphrodita)- a type of marine worm! For our homework, my friend Bea and I made a poster about the life-cycle of bumblebees. I’m becoming more and more obsessed with bumblebees- their ecology is just fascinating. A fact I particularly like is that when the queen has found a nest site, she makes ball of pollen and wax, and lays her eggs inside. She also makes a tiny wax cup, and fills it with nectar, which she can drink whilst incubating her eggs, to keep her energy up! Pretty incredible! I’m reading Dave Goulson’s ‘A Sting in the Tail’, and can really recommend it.
Pickled Sea-mouse The Life-Cycle of a Bumblebee
The following week I was off to Devon for our second week-long residential training. It was another jam-packed week of activities, including a high-ropes course, practical work at one of Devon’s reserves, a lovely walk on Dartmoor, training in communications, press and media, and a story-telling workshop, which I absolutely loved as it linked very much to my background as an artist.
Jumping off the high ropes Beautiful Dartmoor
In December I also got cracking on putting together some ‘WildWalks’. The first three I’m creating are some short walks around green areas in Taunton, which employees from Viridor (a recycling and renewable energy company), and others can do during their lunch breaks. It turned out to be rather a nice task- walking some prospective routes, writing directions, and spotting kingfishers and herons along the way!
One of the planned routes
A view from part of the route along the River Tone
I have also begun planning some schools sessions I’ll be delivering in the New Year. The first couple of these will be working with a group of key stage two children, investigating the different reedbed species that live at Westhay Moor. The children will then have the opportunity to make some drawings, which will be engraved onto wooden panels, to go at the entrance to the new two-story hide- a lovely legacy! I’ve got some further schools sessions planned for later in the year, focusing on aquatic invertebrates, water quality, and then moths and pollination!
Some of the existing artwork at Westhay Moor The new hide!
In other news, I was pleased to be invited a long to a meeting with a range of SWT colleagues, to discuss some kind of new platform for ‘engendering a love for the Somerset levels’, on a national scale. It was an interesting discussion and it’s still very early days, but I think it could develop into a really exciting project.
My Forest School qualification is also progressing. I have been shadowing an experienced forest school leader at the Earth Science Centre this month, and will be leading my 6 sessions for my assessment starting the first week in January. I’ll be running them with a key stage 2 class, at a school about five minutes away from where I live. I went into the school during the first week of December to meet the group of 8 children I will be working with, and run a little Christmas activity with them. I spent a lovely morning collecting materials from Asham Woods, and we made bird feeder wreaths- festive AND good for wildlife!
Berries, coppiced Hazel andf Ivy for Forest School
On the last day of November I went with my colleague Lila up to Vallis Veg, a small organic farm in Frome. We met with the owners to discuss wildlife friendly farming and the potential for running some workshops with them, and then we got involved in a little bit of parsnip-digging!
The last bit of practical work before Christmas was a final day of seed sowing in Leigh-on-Mendip. We scarified the ground, and sowed a species-rich mix. It’s quite late in the year to do this, but hopefully the Yellow Rattle will be able to get a foothold. It needs the cold winter weather in order to germinate in the Spring, and is key to enabling other species to get going, amongst the stiff competition from all the grasses. Now there just remains lesson plans and risk assessments to draw up, my forest school portfolio to work on, a couple of meetings and a family workshop on the coast, and it’ll be Christmas!
Vallis Veg seed sowing.