I was lucky enough to go to a village school. There were only 6 children in my year and we had two classrooms; one for the Infants and one for the Juniors. We lived in the village down the road and on warm summer days we would walk the two miles to school through the fields. I’m not painting a picture of a Victorian idyll here; I left primary school in 1999. Connection to nature was a part of my daily life; I’ve grown up loving the outdoors and wildlife and I feel I’m happier and healthier for it.
Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
Sadly, children today are increasingly disconnected to nature. However here in the Broads children have fantastic opportunities to get closer to nature through the Field Teaching Scheme at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. Lee Cozens, a Field Teacher at Strumpshaw Fen, tells us about a typical day and why she loves her job.
“Children make the journey to our reserve just outside Brundall full of anticipation, kitted out for all weathers and slightly nervous about being ‘out in the wilds’. They stumble off the coach and wander, eyes wide, onto the reserve to our base-camp where their day of adventure and exploration begins.
Throughout the day, they get to delve around our woodland hunting for secretive minibeasts, they wield nets at the pond to uncover the strange world that lurks beneath the surface, and they roam around our meadow catching insects and marveling at the tiny marshland flowers that grow there.
Field teaching at Strumpshaw Fen
Last field teaching season, we added a sleeping grass snake, a darting kingfisher, a swallow tail butterfly and two young otters to our many other wildlife spots. One little lad was chuffed to bits that he had seen a dinosaur! He had been fascinated to find the primeval –looking skeleton of a pheasant out on the meadow. It served as a reminder to us that there is wonder and magic in nature for children that goes beyond the strictly scientific and rational.
Here at the RSPB, we are keen that more children get to experience the wonder of this special outdoor classroom, so maybe you could show this article to a teacher you know. If you are a teacher reading this piece, please get in touch and see if your class can visit us this year.
We cover key parts of the curriculum through our programme and schools appreciate our professional approach, but to be honest the real learning that goes on here transcends any formal description. One little boy summed it up for me as he skipped, bright eyed, back to the coach at the end of the day. ‘That was much better than going on the Wii’ he exclaimed. We definitely agree!”
(For further information ring Lee Cozens on 01603 715191)
As part of our Great Escape Voucher offer you can claim two-for-one entry for adults and free entry for up to four children at Strumphaw Fen this winter.
Download and print this voucher to redeem the offer.
Here's a blog from Heather about how we work with farmers to make the most of their land for wildlife..
or you can watch this video to get a glimpse into Wildlife Friendly Farming
That’s it – I'm going to to learn Danish. On a sliding scale, how easy do you think that will be? I gave it some thought last night and noted the pros and cons.
Amongst the pros:
1) some Danish words sound remarkably like our own; mor means mum.
2) the Danish language seems to have musicality; we say, ‘see you later’, Danes say ‘hi, hi’.
3) I did quite well at languages at school.
Amongst the cons:
1) I forgot all my French the instant I didn’t ‘need’ it.
2) I’m better at being creative than being methodical. I’m sure you have to be reasonably methodical to learn a new language.
3) I know plenty of people that could teach me French, Spanish or German but no one that could teach me Danish.
So why have I chosen Danish? Ah, well that’s all because of my love of a good Nordic Noir box set. First, I watched all three series of The Killing. The only thing that stopped me actually pretending to be Sarah Lund herself, was the price of one of her famous jumpers. Next came political drama Borgen and my goodness, it’s actually even better than The Killing!
So, why have I fallen in love particularly with Copenhagen-based dramas? Why not the American series Homeland or Downton Abbey instead? It’s for Denmark’s dark and brooding cityscapes, the simplicity and elegance of their design, the rumination of the moody Danish characters and of course, the lilting consonance of the language. I can escape to another place when I watch Borgen. A place full of intrigue and mystery and the bleak landscape of a Shakespearean tragedy.
And I need some sense of escape this month. Because February is the drawn out end to winter when the cold days seem endlessly cold and the trees stand stark on a hibernating horizon. I need to escape stuffy days indoors and central heating and bed socks stuffed in to slippers. I need to feel the air on my skin, watch how the natural world is still turning and moving and cogitating, even though everything can look so still through the kitchen window.
The RSPB is offering its own escapes this winter. You can download a voucher for two-for-one access to nature reserves, free car parking and optics hire from this blog or at www.facebook.com/rspbintheeast . You’ll find crashing seas, immense sunsets, secretive woodlands, labyrinthine reed beds and wildlife. Wildlife calling and swooping, dabbling, diving, staring-back-at-you and beautiful. The most spine-tingling and thought-provoking kind of escape possible. Wrap up warm and go.
A far better idea. Apparently, Danish is one of the hardest languages to learn and a box set costs twenty quid these days.
Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement about our second corporate member I am pleased to announce that The Bell House Hotel have also joined us!
The Bell House Hotel is located in Saxmundham, about 8 miles from Minsmere. It’s an old coaching inn that once hosted royalty! In 1737 King George II stayed at the hotel. The historic surroundings are complemented by modern food and service. Each boutique room is individually designed to provide a modern, impeccable service to all visitors. Guests can dine on European influenced cuisine or enjoy speciality coffee and afternoon tea. Food is sourced from local Suffolk farms and they host events such as wine tasting evenings. Importantly for pet owners, dogs are welcomed.
Excitingly enough, the Hotel recently won a Michelin Two Fork award for 2013 for their fine dining restaurant and in 2012 received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, so you can be assured of excellent hospitality.
The Bell House Hotel are offering a 10% discount to all RSPB members on accommodation and food – to be eligible for this please book in advance and present your membership card. During March to April you can book a one night stay, including cold buffet breakfast and a bottle of Los Tres Chilean White Wine and complimentary tickets to RSPB Minsmere for £99. An additional night is available for £59. For further information on these offers and for other promotions please see here or contact the Hotel directly.
Support from local businesses like The Bell House Hotel is vital in allowing us to continue our conservation work.
Did you know...
Minsmere was the first place in the UK that avocets returned to in 1947. Flooding of the sand dunes during World War Two provided the perfect habitat. In 1963 we built the Scrape - the world’s first artificial lagoon – and Avocets have been with us ever since!
Photograph taken by David Tipling
Otters are still pretty rare creatures but we are lucky enough to have two families using the reserve. Recently one of our visitors caught this brilliant photo of one walking on the ice outside Island Mere Hide.
Minsmere is a great place to see bitterns. This elusive and rare heron relies on reedbeds so we carefully manage the areas they love and are proud to host 10 booming males – out of a UK population of 100 (we did say they were rare!).
Last in my list is the silver studded blue butterfly. This gorgeous creature favours Heathland, something which Minsmere has a lot of, so we are rewarded with a large colony which can be seen during the Summer months.
All this and more is a big draw for tourists. Every year 80,000 visitors to Minsmere spend around £8 million pounds on businesses in the local area. Joining the RSPB as a corporate member means you help us to continue our work and invest in your local area for generations to come.
To find out more please contact Neil Santy at email@example.com
Many thanks to The Bell House Hotel for their support – together we can provide a better environment for future generations.
The Scrape at dusk
Photograph taken by David Tipling
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