I had our towels and cozzies at the ready, but sea-swimming had to be shelved due to the unexpected return of winter to East Devon. Instead, we visited the beach at Charmouth, with the new aim of finding some fossils. B picked up a fragment of ammonite almost immediately, but unfortunately that was our sole find for the day. I have memories of tripping over fossils on this beach on a childhood holiday, so I’m not sure why we found it so difficult to find any. Perhaps it is just because I am further from the ground than I was then. The sea was pleasant enough for a paddle and the kids enjoyed jumping over the waves. We found a couple of tiny silver fish washed up on the shore and Izzy threw them back into the sea. Then, we happily lost track of time poking about in the rock pools, where there were loads of crabs smaller than a fingernail (and a couple of biggies), tons of shrimps and even a little flatfish. Before long, the kids were filthy and soaked. We changed them into clean, dry clothes and headed home for dinner.
Total wild time: 1 hour 40 mins
We dabbled in a bit of wild art today and visited the Woollen Woods project at Axmouth Community Woodland Orchard, where a host of knitted and felted creatures were waiting to be found amongst the trees. Izzy filled in the worksheet and decided that the animal she was most like was an owl, because she was clever (modest, too!)
Although the pond looked muddy and uninspiring, on closer inspection, we found it teeming with life – Water Boatmen, tadpoles, newts, Common Blue Damselflies, Large Red Damselflies and at least 5 Broad-bodied Chasers fighting for air-space. We were armed with sketch books and crayons, so Izzy drew a picture of the pond and its inhabitants. Then, we meandered back up the hill and the kids checked out a wonderful example of a willow dome and tunnel.
Afterwards (because it had been at least 10 minutes since we had last eaten) we had a picnic at Coronation Corner, overlooking the Axe Estuary, where plenty of ducks, gulls and swans, provided opportunities for more sketching.
Total Wild Time: 2 hours 30 mins (ish)
We ate our lunch at the picnic site off Hillhead in Colyton, then counted the number of plant species we could find in the meadow area of the community woodland. We reached 37 in about 10 minutes, including the lovely Yellow Rattle. Then, Izzy decided to draw some of the things we had seen and did a fab picture of a shield bug, a butterfly and a spider. I now somehow have to convince her to give my hand lens back….
Total Wild Time: 1 hour
I took the whole family to explore the very jungly Prescott Pinetum in Uplyme, today. We wandered around, examining the roots of fallen trees and balancing along bouncy branches, admiring the tall conifers and the impressive girth of an enormous Redwood tree. Izzy made a collection of interesting finds – multi-coloured leaves, pine cones and sticks. E made friends with some dog walkers and enjoyed poking around a Badger latrine.
I was quite impressed when Izzy correctly identified a number of plants and the call of a Buzzard. It’s gratifying to know that she does listen to some of the stuff I tell her. She then decided to become a tour guide and gave us quite a lecture on natural history. When I pointed out that the fern she was looking at was more accurately called Hard Fern, she told me in no uncertain terms that she was doing the talking and not me. It is possibly the perfect future career for her (except that, if you ask her, she says that she wants to be a ‘Fairy Hunter’/teacher).
Total wild time: 1 hour 10 mins
It was a breezy, beautiful afternoon at Seaton Wetlands. The tide was out and there was a strong smell of salt and mud. E on his Scuttlebug raced Izzy’s bike to the pond, where we paused to watch the damselflies and a Moorhen. Then, at Island Hide, we spotted four fluffy Shelduck ducklings (I tried to take a photo, but at that moment the children decided to leg it in opposite directions…)
Izzy collected a few flowers. E collected bits of gravel. Izzy called to me (now weighed down by a bag, camera, scuttlebug, cycle helmet and E) to show me a Fat-legged Flower Beetle on a Buttercup. She decided to cycle the rest of the way really slowly, so as not to scare any other beetles away. E lay down to enjoy the feel of the warm tarmac. Within sight of the car, Izzy decided that she couldn’t cycle any further and so I carried her and her bike, too.
Total wild time: 1 hour 10 mins
Day 1 of the challenge! We joined a Legacy to Landscape Project event and walked along the River Coly, learning about the plants and animals that lived there. We made banners and ‘palettes’ by sticking different coloured plants onto cork badges. We found Oak, Sycamore and Horse Chestnut leaves and learned about the life cycle of a Dragonfly. Swallows and House Martins flew overhead, whilst Grey Wagtails bobbed about in the river. We played pooh sticks at Chantry Bridge, where a Little Egret was fishing and a Mallard with 3 ducklings was paddling. Then, as we walked home, we were invited into a friend’s garden to see, perched at the top of an enormous old Holm Oak, a pair of Tawny Owls! Not a bad start!
Total Wild Time – 2 h 20 mins