Over the last few years it has been our pleasure to host a series of seasonal walks for the children of our local primary school academy, St. Augustine’s. The initial aim was to introduce the children to the wonders of nature in their home environment. By and large due where it’s situated the children of St. Augustine’s are children of the countryside but there is a big difference between living in a place and both appreciating and understanding it, so the purpose of the walks was to have them wander around Eland Lodge asking whatever questions they wanted and having certain things explained to them.
The biggest thing, by far is getting them to understand that if they want to see anything that is capable of movement, they must tone down the noise! They make so much of it!! We are blessed here on site with a host of fauna, large mammals with three species of deer, raptors, amphibians (I love amphibians), reptiles, a host of small mammals and invertebrates for days but when the children come over the hill, chatting, laughing, shouting, whooping, you can feel everything that can possibly move heading off in the opposite direction. Don’t get me wrong all of the aforementioned noises are completely natural for a group of primary school children to make and its not my job to silence them, heaven forbid, I just see my role as almost the “John the Baptist” figure desperately trying to remind them that “if they could just be a little bit quieter” magical things could happen but I accept that they have far more important things to sort out and at least they are kind towards me and don’t tell me to shut up so that’s ok then. Of the things that can’t move the trees are very kind and share a lot of secrets and of course the Fungi are magnificent! (I love Fungi). So we do some very interesting stuff and they children seem genuinely interested.
Science project: inspecting the invertebrates in a decomposing log
The scope of the walks has broadened out over the time we’ve been running them and it now includes an input to the school’s “50 Things To Before Your 9” challenge, challenging the children to achieve some of the things on their wish list before they leave primary school. This has been an absolute blast! I don’t know if you have ever experienced thirty children climbing trees in a picnic area all at the same time but its marvellous! I mentioned the whooping and hollering before but with a range of ages up to 9 being let loose on a bunch of trees its just magnificent. I don’t know if the Health and Safety Executive would agree but it was an amazing thing to witness, not least for the staff running round with eyes like organ stops trying to head off this or that disaster in the early stages. Its not just climbing trees, “Rolling Down a Hill” was pretty special too! Watching 30 children roll down a hill at the same time is a pretty surreal experience but the most impressive thing above all is the quality of the questions I get asked, they really put you on the spot and you can’t “wing” any answers, they know a lot of stuff!
So there you have it, the walks are wonderful, the children and the staff are fantastic and the questions are really testing, it really is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours.