2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Real Family Holidays

By Rowena

We had Real Family Holidays in on the 7th-10th April, one of my favourite times of year! The activities have been great fun, with some returning families from last year. Sunday morning was wild art around the grounds of Juniper Hall, and there were some excellent creations to be seen.

 

There were lots of inventive uses of natural materials collected from around the grounds. A mixture of stones, green leaves, a few flowers and sticks and twigs.

Gather round to enjoy everyone’s creations

There were all sorts of inspirations- the largest art of the day was a giant spider in it’s web on the Templeton lawn…

2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring on it’s way!

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, with a delightfully warm weekend- barely even coat weather! We’ve been writing up our Spring Index here like last year to calculate when spring is starting. Last year the average index (which is across all the FSC centres) was the 26th April, which was the same as 2015. I think this year it might be earlier though, as we’ve already recorded quite a few early indicators!

Spring Has Sprung – Darcie Rian

We look primarily at 4 indicator species, although we’ve also been recording others as well- and important events such as first lunch outside (11th March), and first time wearing shorts (13th March). The 4 big ones though;

  • Swallow
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Horse chestnut budding
  • Hawthorn flower

We’ve already recorded our first orange tip last week (27th March), a whole 18 days earlier than last year’s, which was on the 18th April.

Beyond the Human Eye: Orange-tip Butterflies - More Than Just a ...

Train ticket butterfly (Source: Beyond the Human Eye)

Last week brought the first house martin to Crossways Farm as well on the 31st March, an exciting spot by Jack on the coach back from the river. I got my first swallow yesterday on the 3rd April, although up in Hertfordshire, not in our area for the Spring Index, so the competition’s still going for the first spot for us in Surrey.

Barn Swallow in flight - Olympus UK E-System User Group

(Source: E-group.uk.net)

We’re still waiting for our horse chestnut and hawthorn, but no doubt they’ll be on their flowering way soon. The warm weather today rewarded a pair of slow worms under the reptile mats. No mammals, but the bees were flying from the apiary down in the meadow as well, despite the grey clouds.

Slow worm

A post shared by Rowena-Jayne Pattenson (@syn_sharptooth) on

2016, Biology, FSC, Uncategorized

30 Days Wild & other exciting things

By Rowena

June is fast approaching (somehow!) and is the month for biodiversity, it seems. This morning I’ve been doing a little bit of research to promote three different fantastic biodiversity projects in June, and made ourselves a board with loads of information and resources for the coming month.

30 Days Wild- All of June

Set up last year, 30 Days Wild is an awesome drive by the Wildlife Trusts to get more people outside and interacting with nature. Individuals can sign up here for a pack, which contains things like a calendar for the month, stickers, a badge, and some ideas of what to do! There are loads of free activities that the Wildlife Trusts are putting on too, which is pretty cool as it means people really have the opportunity to get out and explore.

They also have an app, which you can download for some quick ideas to get outside in nature. I’ve not downloaded it yet (too many other recording apps!) but from a quick glance, it looks pretty fun.

 

National Insect Week- 20-26th June

National Insect Week is a bi-annual event run by the Royal Entomological Society promoting insects. There are tons of events occurring during the week all over the country, which is pretty cool really, as insects are sometimes undervalued- especially the ones that aren’t “pretty”.

The section of NIW’s website I like the best is the Learning Resources area (I guess that says a lot…)- there are loads of activities and things to do; worksheets and things to read, lesson plans, podcasts and websites. Fantastic!

 

Great British Bee Count- 19th May- 30th June

Run by the Friends of the Earth, the Great British Bee Count mostly revolves around an app used to count bees. When I first downloaded it only 10 bees had been counted- now it’s over 18,000! When you spot a bee, you can record it on the app. There are handy pictures too, which makes it easy to work out what you’re looking at. It even has a few non-bees that look like bees (like wasps and bee-flies).

Record all of the bees

You can also do a timed count, watching a 50cm area for 1 minute and recording all the bees that visit the flowers you’re watching.

Putting together all these cool biodiversity projects into one board was a bit of a challenge, and I might have gotten overexcited… But there’s so much to look forward to in June!

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So much biodiversity!

2016, FSC, Uncategorized

Wild Art

By Rowena

Wednesday of Real Family Holidays found us making wild art in Templeton Woods and on the lawn. We started off with nature’s palettes, finding the different colours of spring…

Nature’s palettes

With all the colours of the rainbow found, we took inspiration from Andy Goldsworthy to create our own sculptures using what we could find on the grounds.

Fabulous sculptures on the lawn and in the woods

Beautiful!

2016, FSC, Juniper Hall

Real Family Holidays

By Rowena

This week we have Real Family Holidays, where families can come and stay at Juniper Hall for a few days. We put on events in the mornings and afternoons, with time to explore the countryside inbetween.

Monday morning mammal traps was the first activity we had- Rory helpfully set up 15 mammal traps in the Ha-Ha and Templeton Woods which we went out and found.

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Mammal traps

4 shut in each place rewarded us with lots of very bouncy mice and a scampering vole. It was easy to see how the two move differently to avoid different predators- mice jump high so they can’t be heard by owls, whereas voles scurry and hide to avoid being seen by kestrels. We also checked the reptile mats, which had lots more voles hiding underneath, a shrew, a toad and a small slow worm.

In the afternoon, we had fun with bushcraft, learning to use strike sticks and building small fires to boil nettle tea.

Today we have been up to Lodge Hill to build shelters. The sun is beautiful and warm, and some amazing shelters were built by the families staying, using the wood and leaf litter around Box Hill.

Some really inventive shelters!

This evening is campfire, and plans are underway for marshmallows, singing and stories… All of the fun!

2016, FSC, geography

Lowland Leader Training

By Rowena

It’s been a really busy week, so I’ve only just managed to get round to writing about this now! Last weekend, from the 26th to the 28th February, Ruth and myself travelled to Orielton Field Centre for three days of training in our Lowland Leader Award. It’s about a 5 hour journey to Orielton by car- to use their tagline, it’s not as far as you think! It wasn’t too bad in all honesty. The worst bit was that we had decided to travel over that morning, so we found ourselves with a 5am wake-up call.

IMG_20160226_0733427am at the Severn Bridge

Obviously, the instant we got to Wales it started to rain, but by the time we had got to Orielton (which is in Pembrokeshire), it had amazingly stopped! What was this, a weekend in Wales and no rain?! Somehow, the impossible came true, and we had barely a speckle of rain at all.

After being introduced to the course, the first thing we did was plan our walk for the afternoon with trainer Chris. Tom and Steve had come over from Dale Fort Field Centre (about a 45 minute drive from Orielton) to also attend the course, and knew the area much better than we did, so suggested we went for a 6km walk around Stackpole. There was a picture on the wall of some of the coastline, but it was even more amazing than it looked in a photo.

Barafundle Bay and Stackpole cliffs

Orielton are really lucky to have perfect coastal formations right on their doorstep. It’s very different to the Dorset coastline I got used to living by the sea for a few years. Also fantastic, the birdlife we saw- a kingfisher, goosander and (most excitingly), a pair of chough perched on the clifftops.

Returning to Orielton, we planned our walks for the next couple of days, up in the Preseli Hills. We chose a slightly longer walk for Sunday of 9km, and a walk up the highest hill in Pembrokeshire on Saturday, to the top of Foel Cwmcerwyn. Most of my photos from Saturday are on my camera (perhaps I’ll upload them another time), but I have a few from Sunday, when we went for a walk to Carn Ingli, an old hill fort with spectacular views.

Planning our route

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, as it was amazing to see. The weather was perfect- very cold, especially being up high, but so clear you could see over to the mountains in north Wales.

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Looking towards Newport from Carn Ingli

Steve, font of all knowledge of the area, told us the story of Carn Ingli while we sat in a sheltered spot behind some rocks for a cup of tea before moving on. Who would want to live up so high?!

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Carn Ingli

The weekend was really awesome, and I for one learnt a lot about how to plan routes, how to pace a walk and how to use a compass to measure distances. I’ll be putting my new knowledge to use when leading groups out back at Juniper in the future- there was lots of consolidating time on Monday to make sure I knew everything inside out on my 7 hour train journey back to Surrey. Thankfully, I had a spare hour before heading to Pembroke station to run and find a geocache local to Orielton though…

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Treasure!!

2016, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring is coming…

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, and more boxes are getting filled in on the Spring Index sheet in the tutor’s office! I took a walk up Juniper Top last week one evening, and there was so much birdsong in the air. Almost the first bird I spotted was a blackcap, its squeaky sharp call drawing my eye. First one of the year, perched on a branch of a hawthorn. I paused to admire him and the view before heading further up the hill.

Coal Tit

Blackcap, image source: british-garden-birds.com

The grass is peppered with yellow meadow ant nests as you walk up, huge grassy knolls that would be teeming with life if you were to peel away the vegetation from the top. Not a wise idea, unless you really like ants! In Ants, by Derek Wragge Morely, Lasius flavus’ nests are called “climbers’ compasses” by the author, as;

“…climbers who are lost in a mist or fog can nearly always establish their compass points by observing the way in which the nests of the Yellow [Meadow] Ant are built.”

The steep side of a nest nearly always faces east- and this is the case on Juniper Top!  Along the path, there was a surprising lack of nests, when there were so many further away.

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View to the west

Heading into the woods, the quiet of the open meadow was broken by a thrush, singing from a high-up branch. Another spring tick!

He was overshadowed by a chorus of blackbirds belting out alarm calls as I went further, each surprising the next with their loud chuk-chuk-chuk. A squirrel was surprised too, complaining from the undergrowth as I came to Box Hill viewpoint. It was too late to stop off at the National Trust cafe, so I kept walking down the Burford Spur now, heading back towards Juniper Hall. Dorking was glowing with streetlamps as the light dimmed, the church just about visible along the High Street, a train speeding along the railway tracks towards London. The valley was full of mist hanging low to the ground, Denbies Vineyard and Norbury Park dim outlines. By the time I was back to Juniper Hall, it was dark enough for the goats to have already been put away for bed. A bat zipped across the front lawn as it decided it was nighttime and safe to come out!

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