Karen nurtures next generation of nature-lovers

Summer comes to Crossness

Members of the Smiley Ark Summer Club visited Crossness Nature Reserve yesterday. Arriving by public transport from their local base in Belvedere, the kids, with an age range of 5 to 9, were excited to visit such a fun place right on their doorstep.

I was greeted with screams of ‘We’re gonna do pond-dipping!!’ before any formalities could take place, but that had to be delayed with an impromptu visit to the bird hide to avoid the first of a couple of showers. But, issued with a pair of binoculars each, they were able to watch coot, little grebe and heron in the wader scrape, but they were more excited by the horses in the paddock that had all backed into the wind and rain, so that we were faced with a nice row of 10 horse’s bottoms!

So eager to do some pond-dipping, with many of them never having done it before, they couldn’t wait for the rain to stop, and it was more than they could do to keep their nets out of the water while I told them what to do. It was great: they caught fish, tonnes of damselfly larvae, a rather impressive dragonfly nymph and the usual array of aquatic beetles and snails.

A youngster does some pond-dipping from one of the boardwalks at Crossness (Photo :  Karen Sutton)

A youngster does some pond-dipping from one of the boardwalks at Crossness  (Photo: Karen Sutton)

Some mini-beasting turned up 6 smooth newts under the log slices, as well as woodlice, ants, spiders, pill woodlice, and some rather large centipedes. These were caught and placed in magnifying pots and resulted in lots of ‘cool’, ‘awesome’ and ‘aaarggh!!’, the latter being the teachers of course.

We went on a walk armed with butterfly nets, but the weather just wasn’t quite on our side. It wasn’t until we were packing up that the sun really shone and the butterflies came out.

Summer Club participants go in search of butterflies despite some  overcast weather. (Photo: Karen Sutton)

Summer Club participants go in search of butterflies despite some overcast weather. (Photo: Karen Sutton)

What they did find though was blackberries: lots and lots of blackberries, and boy did they put some away! They rather creatively used their drinking cups as collecting pots, and some even mashed up their berries and added drinking water to make their own blackberry cordial. Who needs Robinsons when there’s Crossness in August?!

The children enjoy the fruits of Blackberry picking. (Photo: Karen Sutton)

The children enjoy the fruits of Blackberry picking. (Photo: Karen Sutton)

It was a really fun day, made all the more pleasurable by their excitement, energy and enthusiasm. It’s sometimes difficult to keep the younger kids engaged in this age of instant gratification, but they loved every second and didn’t want to go home.

I only hope that I won’t be in trouble with the parents for their little ones returning home with purple mouths and fingers, not to mention all those subsequent sugar rushes!

Reserve Manager Karen Sutton at Crossness with some of the attendees.

Reserve Manager Karen Sutton at Crossness with some of the Smiley Ark members. 

Karen Sutton, Crossness Nature Reserve Site Manager. 

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2 Responses to Karen nurtures next generation of nature-lovers

  1. ingrid says:

    Lovely to read this, well done Karen & Chris 🙂 We visited for the first time recently (and met the horses who kept trying to eat my orange jacket — giant carrot?!) and I was delighted it’s easily accessible from 180 bus route as I don’t drive. Anyway, brilliant to see these kids so inspired by the place and its inhabitants!

  2. Alan N says:

    Wonderful, I never cease to be amazed !

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