There are an awful lot of children nowadays who don’t engage with the outdoors and wildlife. I know, I come across them all the time at work; I’m telling them all about Hedgerows and how they can be dated by looking at the number of different species of plants, or all about ancient farming practices and they look at me with blank expressions. When I’m out and about with others they often defer to me for identification of natures finest plants, animals and birds. I can be a big head, so I have to admit I love it, but it is quite shocking really.
An understanding and love of the natural environment is a life long skill and is enormously life enhancing. Once you get sucked in, you’ll always want to learn more. That’s why I was so thrilled to be invited to the Yeo Valley Farm and why when OMSCo asked me if I would like the equipment to take my children on their own Hedgerow Safari I was very keen. We were provided with wellys, raincoats, pooters and identification sheets. The children were really excited and keen to get out there, but probably not as much as me.
Luckily for us, Verulamium Park in St Albans has some really old hedgerows which date to medieval times and are quite diverse. There is lots to see, so I took the children down there for a fun afternoon, which I can see being repeated again and again. I was surprised at how little Fifi even began to get the idea of matching up the shapes of leaves to those on the card.
The Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo) has 500 farmer members around the UK. Organic farms provide a pesticide free environment for all sorts of wildlife. I was so impressed by my trip around the Yeo Valley Farm that I really think that it should represent the future of farming in the UK. That aside, the Hedgerow Safari Initiative is a really fantastic one which I think that everyone with school age children should be aware of. Basically, they are offering school children the chance to go onto one of the (selected) farms and be taken around to look at the wildlife. Live animal traps will have been set up to enable the kids to see some of the smaller mammals and they get to use pooters to capture insects and identify plants with expert help. It’s all free of charge and the children even get to take the equipment they use away with them. It’s such a lovely initiative that even Chris Packham has given it his backing. All you need to do is sign up on the site, or direct your child’s school teacher or Brownie/ Cub/ Scout leader to do so.
If you get a chance, do make sure you have a look at the OMSCo website is actually really interesting and has a lot of resources such as recipes and colouring sheets and so on for little children. Perfect to get them interested in the great outdoors, even in this weather!