Guest blog: School Gate Sue reflects on the Family Fun Day

School Gate Sue runs a website called Stratford School Gate, pointing out all the great places to go near Stratford, with a family twist. Last week she and her family came to Brandon Marsh for our Family Fun Day, and she kindly wrote a review for us.

On Sunday 19th April the School Gate Family visited Brandon Marsh Nature Centre for their Family Fun Day.  The weather forecast had promised dry but overcast weather so we were all very pleasantly surprised to see the sunshine come out for us.

We arrived not long after the Centre had opened and signed up for Pond Dipping and Minibeast hunting sessions straight away.  While we were waiting for Pond Dipping we investigated the bees in the glass ‘hive’ in the classroom.  My daughter spotted the honeycombs and wondered what they would taste like whilst my son was fascinated by the bees that were travelling into and out of the hive through the plastic tunnel.

Time for Pond Dipping and my children got busy swishing their nets around in the water.

Pond dipping - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Pond dipping – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

My daughter was particularly successful and managed to catch two dragonfly nymphs in her first attempt!

Dragonfly nymphs - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Dragonfly nymphs – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

We then headed to the Help For Hedgehogs campaign stand where we found out more about the declining hedgehog population and made two beautiful clay hedgehogs complete with sticks for spikes.

Clay hedgehogs - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Clay hedgehogs – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

Simon, who was running the stand, asked the children to take a photo of their hedgehogs in a suitable spot in the garden and send it in to him along with a little story as part of a competition for those who had come to the Family Fun Day.

After a lengthy discussion about where we might put the hedgehogs at home we were off on a Minibeast Hunt.  My son and I found lots of ants in a wood pile then moved on to digging with a stick which yielded a wiggly worm.

Minibeast hunting - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Minibeast hunting – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

My mum then joined in digging, with much enthusiasm, and discovered two slimy slugs to add to our collection.

We spotted a sign for den-building nearby so my children sped off to investigate and swiftly erected a shelter under the trees.

Building a den - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Building a den – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

From there we spied the Bushcraft area and so headed off in that direction.  We found a campfire (which was very welcome as, despite the sunshine, it was fairly chilly) and two very enthusiastic guides who explained that we would be making tree cookies.  The children were excited by the sight of the bow-saw that they would be using to cut a slice from a tree branch!

Using the bow saw to make tree cookies - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Using the bow saw to make tree cookies – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

Slices successfully obtained and all fingers present and correct, we then drilled small holes in the wood and decorated them before threading them onto string to wear as medals.

Finished tree cookies - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Finished tree cookies – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

Finally, we made our way back up to the classroom to make some lovely bee sun-catchers.

Bee suncatcher - copyright School Gate Sue 2015.
Bee suncatcher – copyright School Gate Sue 2015.

Back at home we’ve been searching for the best place for the clay hedgehogs in the garden. Another great day out at Brandon Marsh, we’ll definitely be back soon! We’ll also be signing up for the 30 Days Wild challenge in June, can’t wait…

School Gate Sue

Check out what’s on at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in the next few months on our What’s On pages, including another Family Fun Day at the Parkridge Centre in Solihull!

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