Category Archives: Ideas for Making the Most of the New Forest

Posts that explore ideas to help groups make the most of the New Forest. Includes tips and new approaches to subject areas

Wild Foods of the Forest – the good forager

           Good foraging reminds us we are part of nature

Autumn is my favourite season of the year; I enjoy the changing colours of the woodlands, dewy spider webs and especially the ‘wild food’ treasures hung brightly within hedgerows. ‘Blackberrying’ is often one of our first experiences of nature. Even toddlers quickly learn how to identify blackberry fruits!

Foraging for wild foods is a wonderful activity for getting outdoors in all weathers to learn about and connect with nature. It increases our observational and sensory skills and deepens our relationship to the natural world. Continue reading Wild Foods of the Forest – the good forager

Autumn already?

School term is looming, as are harvest assemblies, conker battles and fungi forays. The sudden arrival of school term makes you wonder why we expect a clear and definite line between summer and autumn, winter and spring. What curious questions could students ask about the mysterious science of phenology? Continue reading Autumn already?

Fledgling birds

An unwary blackbird chick will need to be fed by its parents for several days after leaving the nest

Whilst many baby birds are only now eagerly poking their heads out of nests, some parent birds are already encouraging reluctant youngsters to leave the safety of the nest. Most of our common woodland and garden birds such as robins, blackbirds, starlings and blue tits are feeding their hungry fledglings and May is a good time to observe fat fluffy chicks taking their first ‘hop and flap’ into the wider world. Here are some activities to learn about the marvels of nest building, eggs and baby birds. Continue reading Fledgling birds

Welcome signs of spring

A late winter visitor - a waxwing
                       A late winter visitor – a waxwing

At this time of year the weather is often unpredictable with frost and flurries of snow, heavy rain and flooding mixed with warm, sunny days that reminds us that spring is almost here. Wildlife also reflect this ‘in-between-the-seasons’ character with winter visitors from Scandinavia such as waxwings feeding on the last of the autumns berries at the same time as the drumming of woodpeckers establishing their breeding territories can be heard. Here are some activity ideas to help reawaken your senses and look for those cheerful first signs of spring. Continue reading Welcome signs of spring

A Woodland Invitation

Spot the treecreeper
                                         Spot the treecreeper

January is a quiet month after all the New Year festivities and in terms of wildlife it feels a bit bleak, with trees stripped bare of leaves and many animals in hibernation, the woods seem to be in a deep slumber.

Not surprisingly, January is a month associated with deep reflection as we look back at the year departed and look forward with new hopes. In Greek mythology Janus, for which January is named, is the god of beginnings, transitions and endings. Janus is depicted as having two faces, to look at the future and to the past. We also need time to stop and reflect, and nature can provide the perfect medium to do this. Read on for some ‘woodland therapy’ ideas. Continue reading A Woodland Invitation

Mermaid’s Purses

I love walking along the beach and especially along the strand line, to see what you can find. From natural treasures to plastic debris that’s been lost at sea, there’s always lots to pick up and discover. If you can safely visit a beach with young people at this time of year, there is always more to see after some strong winds, large waves or high tides.

Recently we have been picking up lots of Mermaid’s purses – these are egg cases from skates and rays that have developed and hatched in the Solent or out at sea. They are anything from 5 to 10cm in length and wash up on the beach, once the young skate or ray has hatched.

A video of a ray hatching can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx5RiXlLGco

There are about 12 species of skates, rays and sharks in the UK that we can identify by looking at their egg cases, and more specifically about 5-6 fairly common species on the South Coast.

To identify the Mermaids Purses, you will need to take your egg cases back to the classroom and put them in a bucket of fresh water for 24hrs, this will allow them to rehydrate, and return to their original size. You can then start to sort them by size and shape, and arrange them into groups.

The smallest egg cases, are about the size of a large bladderwrack (seaweed) popping case! They have thin curly tendrils coming from each corner.

There are a number of medium sized egg cases that are harder to identify, because they look quite similar. However, if you are keen, look closely at cases and use this ID key, provided by the Shark Trust, to identify them.

ID Key http://www.sharktrust.org/shared/great_eggcase_hunt/eggcase_id_key.pdf

Photo Key  eggcase_id_poster

Citizen Science – You can then help the Shark Trust by logging on to their Great Eggcase Hunt website and recording where you found your cases, and the number of each species found.

Project Website http://www.sharktrust.org/en/GEH_the_project

 

Discover the New Forest – ‘We’re going on a cone hunt’

Cones in hand: Douglas fir, Western hemlock, Coast redwood
Cones: Douglas fir, Western hemlock, Coast redwood

Cones make a beautiful addition to Christmas wreathes and decorations but often go unnoticed, hanging high in trees, out of reach until they fall to the ground.  Commonly called pine cones, there are in fact many kinds of cones that grow on different cone bearing trees called conifers. A short walk along the Tall Trees Trail in the New Forest is a wonderful way to experience and learn about some very spectacular conifer trees and their unique cone designs. Read on to begin your cone hunt challenge. Continue reading Discover the New Forest – ‘We’re going on a cone hunt’