I had great fun completing the Wildlife Trust’s ’30 Days Wild’ Challenge throughout June. Here are four things I discovered during the month.
- I genuinely do feel happier and calmer when I have spent time outside. For me it is definitely worth taking the time to reconnect with nature on a daily basis.
- All three children are happier, more co-operative with each other and more creative when playing outside. Seeing how well they play, and learn, when outside makes me even more determined to become a Forest School teacher and encourage more children to experience the wonders of the natural world.
- I do spend a lot of time outside, but quite often this is because of the dog or when I am at work. Finding time to spare to play outside with my own children has been tough. This challenge has been invaluable in forcing me to reassess the quality of time I spend with my children and hopefully finding a way to redress this balance in the future.
- I am rubbish at remembering to take photographs of our activities (although improving!).
On Day 13 of 30 Days Wild we decided to try Geocaching.
Geocaching is billed as ‘the worlds largest treasure hunt’. At its simplest, you create an account, download a free app and then search for hidden caches using a GPS or Smartphone.
The caches are hidden all over the world, and vary greatly in how easy or difficult they are to find. Some require you to solve puzzles or clues to reveal their location and others may be part of a series of caches that will lead you on a great walk.
We decided to test Geocaching out by finding a couple of caches close to home. By following the instructions and the hints given by other people we managed to locate them reasonably easily.
We signed the logbooks contained within the pots and returned them to where we found them.
It was great fun and definitely livened up a regular walk. We can’t wait to start looking for them in more wild places!
Day 13 of 30 Days Wild was spent writing end of term reports, so I picked some pretty flowers to cheer up my desk as I worked.
As Lottie and Ryan were away for the weekend I decided to have a weekend of report writing.
Whilst I had to take breaks to walk Rosie, I spent nearly 10 hours in front of a computer screen. Having the beautiful flowers in front of me definitely made me feel happier and made my self imposed captivity more bearable.
Best of all, the reports are nearly finished!
On Day 11 of 30 Days Wild Martin and I joined in with Moth Night 2016
Organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation, Moth Night is an annual moth recording event throughout Britain and Ireland by enthusiasts who then submit their findings online. There are also local events aimed at raising awareness of moths among the general public.
Every year Moth Night has a theme, and the main theme for Moth Night 2016 is Hawk-moths.
Hawk-moths are the UK’s largest, fastest and most colourful moths. We had seen some of their caterpillars earlier in the year and so were keen to see what adult moths were living in our garden.
As night set in we set up a simple moth trap by hanging a white sheet over the washing line and shining a torch on it. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.
After about 45 minutes a couple of micro moths fluttered over. Sadly we didn’t have the expertise to identify them properly before they flapped away into the night again.
After about an hour and a half of sitting in the dark and the drizzle we declared moth night officially over!
Whilst we did not get to see much wildlife, it was still incredibly beautiful out in the garden at night. Sitting under the Oak trees we could hear the rain but remained fairly dry and warm, definitely a bonus in any ‘Act of Wildness’!
On Day 10 of 30 Days Wild, Lottie practiced her persuasive writing skills to try to stop deforestation of the Rainforest.
Lottie has been really inspired by her current school topic in which she is learning about the rainforest.
As someone with a passion for both education and biological sciences it has been really exciting to see her absorb all of this new knowledge and use it in her play.
Tonight she decided to write down all of the reasons that deforestation is bad. She worked on the piece for over an hour…even the dog fell asleep!
With her permission, here is Lottie’s list of ’10 Reasons to not cut the Rainforest down’
- By cutting the rainforests down risks your own quality of life for you and all the other animals on our planet.
- When you are cutting the rainforest down all the animals that live there have to move.
- When people cut down the Rainforest they never know what types of trees there could be, there could be trees that cure diseases that don’t have a cure like cancer.
- Deforestation is killing beauty, Killing animals and hurting sometimes even killing nature and plants.
- If we chopped all the plants and trees down we would die because we breath out what they breath in.
- Did you know that sometimes people chop down trees for paper which is all right if they replace it with another little or a seed but if you don’t that is being unkind to the environment.
- If we cut down all the plants and trees that give the forest people medicines they would die.
- If we cut down all the plants and trees that give the forest people food like bananas they would die.
- If we cut down all the plants and trees the herbivore animals will die , then the carnivore animals will die and then the forest people will die then all the rainforests in the world will be cut down and turned into land…
- Start counting ,by the time you reach 10, 25 acres of land would of just been cut down !!!
On Day 9 of 30 Days Wild I took time to appreciate the ‘Wildness’ on a lunchtime dog walk.
Owning a dog means that we are outside for walks at least three times a day.
However due to the pressure of busy lives it is very easy for these walks to end up as functional 20 minute trots around the block.
I often use walks as a time to catch up on phone calls I have to make or end up lost in my thoughts, lesson plans and to-do lists whirring around my mind.
Today I decided to take the time to really notice the beautiful and wild surroundings in which we are lucky enough to walk.
I packed my lunch and set off with Rosie the Labrador to explore Knowle Park.
Knowle Park is the site of Cranleigh parkrun, and our walk today followed the track through the fields of long grass and wildflowers.
However, unlike the weekly parkrunners, we ambled slowly stopping to observe the wind blowing through the trees and the many varieties of grasses.
Before long we found a tree stump that served as the perfect picnic spot.
Over lunch I watched the clouds roll out to be replaced by brilliant sunshine and listened to the non stop chatter of birds singing overhead.
Eating in front of Rosie also led to some of the best pictures I have ever seen of her!
Taking time out of a busy day to really notice these beautiful surroundings was definitely an act of mindfulness as well as today’s ‘Act of Wildness’.
I felt much more peaceful by the end of our lunchtime walk. By making the space in a busy day to simply observe nature I was also better able to deal with the rest of the day.
Of course Rosie also enjoyed herself…especially when the chicken sandwiches were out!
On Day 8 of 30 Days Wild I visited a farm with my class followed by a family dinner outside.
Today was the day of my class summer trip. This year we went to the delightful Ladyland Farm.
LadyLand Farm is a fantastic place for educational visits. The farm calls itself ‘The Living Classroom’ and definitely lives up to this name.
School groups are led around the farm by experienced teachers who explain many aspects of food, farming and animals in a fun and child friendly manner. The children are able to feed and handle a great variety of animals from cows to rabbits to chicks.
The farm also has a huge amount of wildlife, from the rescued barn owls to the plethora of bees and other insects buzzing around the cottage gardens and wildflower meadows.
Whilst the trip was great fun, and everyone learnt a lot, it was also exhausting. I decided to abandon our planned Act of Wildness for this evening (planting wildflowers seeds) and take some time to simply enjoy being outside.
The weather was glorious and Ryan played in the woods and play park whilst we waited for Lottie to finish her dance lesson. I think Ryan is starting to get fed up of having his picture taken!
We then decided to stay at Cranleigh Golf and Country Club for dinner. As we ate in the early evening sunshine, we listened to a chorus of bird song and watched buzzards soaring over the greens.
On Day 7 of 30 Days Wild we made Elderflower Cordial.
Whilst at the River Wey yesterday we noticed the delicate white blooms of elderflowers growing along the banks. We picked a couple of heads of flowers from the wild bushes and then headed to my Mum’s garden to collect some more!
My favourite recipe for Elderflower Cordial is the River Cottage one. This does require you to leave the flowers overnight so we actually started Day 7 on Day 6
Once home we washed the elderflowers and then put them in a bowl to steep for 24 hours with some orange and lemon zest.
The next day was a busy one with school, staff meetings and dance classes. However once dinner was over we started our Wild Challenge for the day and set about finishing the cordial.
The first step was to strain the steeped flowers through a cloth, a job which both children enjoyed helping with.
We then added the citrus juice and the rather scary amount of sugar needed and gently brought the mixture to the boil.
Once cool we poured the cordial into ice cube trays ready to store in the freezer. This way you can simply pop a couple of cubes into a glass of sparkling water for a cool, refreshing drink whenever you fancy it.
On day 6 of our 30 Days Wild we went for a family picnic by the River Wey in Godalming.
Godalming is an historic market town not too far from us, frequently described as one of the nicest places to live in the UK.
The weather was glorious and we found a quiet spot on the banks of the River Wey to eat our outdoor lunch.
Once the food had been devoured by three hungry children we managed to tick off several of the ideas from our Wild List.
We made Daisy crowns.
We played barefoot amongst the grass and daisies.
We spotted lots of wildlife with swallows swooping across the water meadows and ducks and moorhens bobbing on the river.
We found a Bug Hotel hidden amongst the flowers that looked like a work of art – and gave us some great ideas for creating our own.
But most of all we just had a lovely and relaxed day, together as a family. Martin was very pleased to have time to take some beautiful pictures.
The children all played beautifully in the sunshine, the fresh air and beautiful surroundings smoothing out any discrepancies in age and interests.
To round off the afternoon we found an open air concert playing at the Godalming bandstand. This was part of a series of Sunday afternoon concerts and we will definitely be going back again this summer.
On day 5 of 30 Days Wild we made strings of popcorn to feed the wild garden birds.
Lottie and Ryan enjoyed threading the pieces of popcorn, using a sewing needle to pierce them. We used plain popcorn as too much salt and sugar is not good for birds.
Then we hung them around the garden, tying many of the strands to the smaller branches of the Silver Birch trees. The strands look beautiful and we hope will also encourage more birds into our garden.