Friday, 16 December 2011

A little taste of India in Southmead

Recently I've been working on a project at Badock's Wood in Southmead to engage primary school children with their local nature reserve.The project is funded by the Airbus Corporate Foundation as part of their India Biodiversity project. This is an amazing project which sends Airbus staff to a small community in India, rich in biodiversity, to provide the villagers with a sustainable fuel source and income.By building cattle sheds and biogas chambers the Airbus team create a system that converts cow dung into methane gas that is piped directly into the villagers homes and used for cooking.

For two weeks during each visit Airbus staff from around the world, build cow sheds, dig huge holes and create 3 biogas systems in extreme heat and primative conditions.This is absolutely life changing for the village community, no more 3-4 hours a day collecting wood, no more health damaging smoke filled homes and an income generated from fertlizer and milk sales.

Last week Emma Mayo from Airbus came along to Badock's Wood primary school with me to tell the year 6 class about her experiences in Southern India. Prior to her visit the pupils wrote letters and took photos of their school  for Emma to take with her to show pupils in an Indian school. Emma brought lots of photos back to show the class, explaining the work she had been doing, how she had lived and the wildlife she had seen. She then presented a garland of coloured paper created by the children in India as a gift for their new English friends. Each Indian child had written their name and something about themselves on a piece of paper to create the garland.The pupils of Badock's Wood primary had lots of questions for Emma and were fascinated by the Indian way of life, particularly the fact that they had no Playstations or shoes and that the volunteers had to dig a hole for their toilet!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Make your own hedgehog!

After all the fun we've had making clay hedgehogs with children at South Gloucestershire primary schools in the last few weeks, we thought we'd share with our fellow readers how you can make one yourself! As well as having fun being creative, it's a great opportunity to learn some facts about our little spikey friends who are becoming endangered.

What you will need
  • Clay (air drying is the best)
  • Cocktail sticks snapped in half
  • Googley eyes (can be found in craft shops) or small stones also look great

How to make your clay hedgehog
  1. Get yourself a ball of clay, about the size of a satsuma.
  2. Roll the clay into a smooth ball.
  3. Squidge out some of the clay to make a nose. If you like you can prick little holes in the end of the nose for nostrils!
  4. If you're feeling particularly creative, you can give your hog some teeth or maybe even give it some feet with claws.
  5. When you're happy with the shape of your hedgehog you can put the eyes in place and give it spikes with lots of little cocktail sticks.
  6. Leave your hedgehog to air-dry overnight

Hedgehog facts
  • Hedgehogs have between 6000-7000 spikes.
  • Their eyesight is quite poor and so they depend on their strong sense of smell and hearing to find food and stay clear of predators.
  • Hedgehogs roll into a ball and point their spikes in all different directions to protect themselves against predators such as badgers and foxes.
  • Hedgehogs love eating slugs, snails, beatles caterpillars and worms.
  • A third of urban hedgehogs have disappeared in the last 20 years.

For more info on why hedgehogs numbers are on the decline and what you can do to help them, visit our Wild Hedgehogs website here. We're running a survey to help us get a clear picture of where hedgehogs are doing well and not so well, so if you see a hedgehog (dead or alive) then map your sighting here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It's a Hog's Life

Ann and Claire had a great afternoon delivering an  'It's a  Hog's Life'  workshop to 90 children at Staple Hill Primary School yesterday! 
There was much excitement as we arrived and the children quickly realised that we had some hedgehog-themed fun in store! The biggest clue was Claire was dressed up as a hedgehog!

 The children learnt all about one of Britain's favourite mammals, what makes them such fascinating creatures and why hedgehogs are in trouble and need our help! Recent reports show that hedgehogs have decline by a quarter over the last 10 years.
You can find out more at
or see some video footage of these special creatures at
The pupils made some brilliant hedgehog creations out of clay and sticks, and had really thought about the long nose of the hedgehog and their many spikes! There were also some very interesting names too, including Spike, Spikes, Spiky, Brambleberry, Rose and Roger!
The children then provided excellent sound effects to 'The Adventures of Spike the Hedgehog' a story all about the perils of hedgehog life! The children were very inquisitive and had many hedgehog questions to ask us- but at the end of the day Claire and Ann decided to ask the questions and were very pleased at how much the pupils had learnt about our spiky friends! 
Thank you to staff and pupils at Staple Hill Primary School for such a fun afternoon!

Friday, 2 December 2011

The living landscape

With recent funding from the Mendip Hills AONB Sustainable Development Fund I am now developing an ambitious new project to encourage a wider appreciation of the local landscape, working primarily with Bishop Sutton Primary School in the Chew Valley. The Avon Wildlife Trust's Living Landscapes team are currently working to restore wildflower grasslands in the area and to support these efforts, I will be taking students out to study land on sites including Folly Farm and Burledge Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Through film-making and interviews with people in the local community students will investigate the importance of wildlife-friendly farming, sustainable landscapes and Avon's Wildflower Grassland project, enabling them to think about future implications of land use in the region and the protection of it for the future.Yesterday I went to explore the Chew Valley with Richie Smith, Living Landscapes officer at Avon Wildlife Trust, to see if it was possible for pupils from Bishop Sutton primary school to walk to our fantastic nature reserve at Folly Farm using public footpaths.

 Much to our delight it was a lovely walk, we crossed farmers fields, passed old orchards,bridges, ancient trees and beautiful views. We had to take a few diversions as some footpaths that were supposed to lead us across fields were non existent but it was easy enough to go round. Along the way we bumped into local resident, Vic Pritchard, who had lived in the area his whole life.He told us about the last notable lord, Henry Strachey, born 1863, who lived in Sutton Court. Strachey was an artist and  the son of Sir Edward Strachey. If you take a look in the Church of England parish church of St Nicholas and St Mary in Stowey you will see wall paintings by Henry Strachey from 1915, the story goes that he used the villagers of Stowey as models for his angels.

Vic also told us about the little stream that runs in front of the church and across his land. It is mentioned in the 1780 Collins History of Somerset book and was known as 'the petrifying waters' which were so pure that those who took from it never suffered from gall stones. A recent campaign by the local community to stop Stowey quarry from accepting waste such as asbestos was successful in temporarily halting proceedings. One of the concerns was that residue from potentially hazardous waste may enter the water courses, such as the 'petrifying waters', which have been pure and clean for hundreds of years.

Soon after chatting to Mr Pritchard in Stowey we came across an amazing gorge and mini waterfall, almost unseen until you got up really close. Not long after we arrived at our destination, Avon Wildlife Trust's 250 acre nature reserve Folly Farm.

We decided to head back to Bishop Sutton a different way, crossing the reserve and pausing at the top of Dowlings Wood to take in a spectacular view, before heading down across Stowey House Farm land and back to Bishop Sutton. This walk is going to be a great introduction for pupils to learn about their local landscape, see the impacts of farming and learn how they can help to create a prosperous, healthy environment to live in.
We will also be creating a teaching resource pack to accompany the Living Landscapes project and will provide training for teachers from surrounding schools, benefiting the whole community. Katie Geen, teacher at the Bishop Sutton primary school is right behind the project, explaining, 'We are very committed as a school to integrating biodiversity and children's appreciation of the local area into the life and curriculum of the school.'

Seeing young people excited about their own neighbourhood has given me the greatest pleasure, and I hope that they will continue to explore, discover and protect the diversity of wildlife on their doorstep.