Wild Woods Days are a fabulous excuse to discover ancient forests in areas of the country that you don’t normally visit.
Saturday saw us drive up to the historical Monks and Whomerley Woods in Stevenage where the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust had done a fantastic job organising their annual Wild Woods Day event. These amazing woods are placed third in the UK after the Forest of Dean and the New Forest for the rich accessible woodland they provide to local residents. There were a variety of activities to capture the imagination of the visiting children accompanied by some great hunger-stoppers of delicious buttery raisin flapjacks and other home-baked goodies.
Perhaps as members we are biased, but it’s always great to see just how active this local trust is in meeting their challenge of improving towns and local countryside for wildlife to create a ‘Living Landscape’. They frequently hold educational days for children in the 40 nature reserves that cover almost 2,000 acres across the 2 counties which means children don’t just receive a seasonal magazine and poster but get out & about and enjoy hearing stories about wildlife from passionate experts.
With plenty of free adventures like pond-dipping, mini-beast safaris and guided woodland walks, tokens could also be purchased and added to biodegradable paper wristbands so you could match your own budget rather than meet an imposed £5 or £10 minimum. A printed stamp was awarded at each adventure that every child participated in, which could be tied onto their ‘story stick’ (akin to a mini totem pole to show affinity with the woods and the many adventures to be found there).
Face painting was £2 and one of the best artists I’ve seen doing this not easy job. Little A was riveted when making a twig pencil, drilling a hole in the twig for the lead, spreading glue along the lead to keep it in place, this an affordable £1. There was a stand with a selection of native birds of prey that even a 3 year old was offered to hold which cost £3. The barn owl seemed to quite enjoy being gently stroked, and A also got to take home one of her feathers that had came off to sellotape into his memory book. The best activity of the day had to be the pond-dipping. Two helpers were there to guide us in identifying anything outside the tadpoles that we’d caught in our net that included a waterlouse, diving beetles and a mosquito, a colourful print out visual guide was there to have a good look at what else lived in the ponds. Children who came along dressed up were awarded a goody bag by the local council that included a bug magnifier box to encourage little ones to keep looking back home.