Friday, 26 January 2018

Becoming Nature Detectives with The Woodland Trust

We are regular visitors to our local woods at Wepre Park, which is packed full of wildlife, adventure and history. Based in Connah's Quay in Flintshire, we find it a great place to go for a few hours at the weekend as there is always plenty to see and do, as well as it being a completely free activity for us to enjoy as a family. The ancient woodland is extensive and a long winding path leads you through the trees, past the red rocks and up to the ruins of Ewloe Castle. We often finish our walks through the woods with a trip to the visitor centre for an ice cream and my children enjoy some time on the park. We always have a great time on our trips to Wepre, however last weekend it was made even more enjoyable with the help of the Woodland Trust.

The Woodland Trust are the UK's largest woodland conservation charity, that currently boasts over 500,000 members. The charities aim is to protect woods, restore ancient woodland and create new native woodland that all helps to benefit wildlife and people.

We became aware of their Nature Detectives membership scheme for children, which helps them to discover more about woods and trees, as well as the wildlife that depend on them. For the very reasonable price of £1.50 a month (and an extra £1 for each additional sibling), members receive a lovely Nature Detectives welcome folder that includes the following:

  • An action-packed activity booklet
  • Stickers
  • Nature Detectives Passport
  • A bookmark
Nature Detectives then receive a new pack every season, posted directly to members four times per year, with each set containing more new fun activities to enjoy. The Woodland Trust also keeps members up to date with details of family-friendly events, as well as regular updates full of fun facts and fresh ideas.

Emma, Ben and Riley each received their welcome pack through the post and the first thing they all picked up was the activity booklet. The opening page had a space for a tree photo diary, which I thought was a lovely idea. Basically you choose your favourite tree, stand next to it and smile. Then simply print the photo out and place it in the space provided. Each time you receive a new activity booklet, you just repeat the process and then you can look back on how both you and the tree have changed over time. The welcome page also provides you with details of the website where you can go online to download some activity sheets. We managed to get some great ideas off the site including bark rubbing, pine cone painting and even how to make a simple birdfeeder.

The booklet also contained a colouring page and lots of fun facts. When you complete the activities you can award yourself a sticker, which you then place in your Nature Detectives passport. Emma absolutely loves art so this was the first activity she chose to complete and awarded herself the Arts & Crafts sticker. Some fun games were also provided in the book including the Wild Woodland Race, a Tree Wordsearch, Caterpillar Maze and a fun Who Am I? quiz. The last couple of pages gave us lots of ideas for building an outdoor den using long sticks and branches, as well as leaves, grass and moss for the roof. Unfortunately it was a bit too wet the day we visited the woods, but den building is definitely something we will try on a drier day.

We took our booklets and Nature Detectives passports out with us on our most recent visit, as well as some handy Woodland Trust Swatch Books which are available from the Woodland Trust online shop here for £4.99 each - Woodland Trust Shop

The swatch books we took with us were Minibeasts, Leaf Identification and my boys favourite which was Poos & Clues! As soon as we got to the woods, we set about being nature detectives and looking for clues that we could identify. It didn't take long for us to spot our first clue thanks to a dog owner who was obviously caring enough to take their dog for a walk, but not kind enough to pick up their business after them! With the most obvious clue out of the way, we wanted to focus more on the wildlife and so we walked down towards the waterfall and stream as we knew this would probably be a good place to spot some footprints in the nearby mud.

As we made our way to the waters edge, we spotted some scratch marks on a tree that looked very similar to the badger scratches in the swatch book. A few people had spotted us looking for clues and two very nice ladies stopped to ask us more about what we were doing and to ask where we got the books from. They also pointed us in the direction of where they had seen badgers before and gave us suggestions of where we may find some setts that we could spot from a safe distance.

We continued our search along the muddy woodland path and found some very small footprints that we think could have possibly belonged to a rat or large mouse. We also found what we think was possibly a fox footprint (the boys are convinced it matched the picture in the book) but with so many dogs around it could have quite have easily been a paw print. If you look slightly to the left of the centre in the image below, this is the print that they found. What do you think?

As I mentioned previously the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives website also features lots of fun ideas to try. These are all really cost effective ways of keeping the kids entertained and they are also categorized into age groups so it makes it easy to find something age appropriate for your child. You can also filter your activity results by season, key stage, activity type and topic, meaning that there is always something different to try no matter what time of year.

If you would like to find out more about Woodland Trust Nature Detectives then you can visit their site here to obtain further information - The Nature Detectives Membership targets three age groups which are 0-2, 3-5 and 6+ so even the youngest members of the family can join in the fun.

Alternatively you can find out more about joining here:

If you are unsure where your nearest woods are, then there is also a handy map tool here, where you can just enter your postcode and it will tell you where woodland around your area is located.

Overall we had a fantastic time becoming Woodland Trust Nature Detectives and my children found the activities we tried, really fun and interesting. My youngest son has asked to visit another local park in the next couple of weeks so that we can have a look around some new woodland surroundings, which I think is a great idea. We are now also going to make a habit of downloading a new activity sheet each time we visit some woods, so that we always have something different to enjoy. I think that the membership fee of only £1.50 a month is great value and also helps to contribute to the charity and their efforts to help protect the UK's woodland and wildlife.

Disclaimer: My children were provided with the initial welcome pack, along with some additional swatch books for the purpose of this review. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

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