The National Trust have just launched a brilliant campaign to encourage everyone to go on an Autumn walk. Autumn is a wonderful time to go on a walk; leaves on the trees are beginning to change colour, all sorts of mini beasts are getting ready for the winter and are easy to spot under leaves and rocks and you’ll be able to find some tasty blackberries.
This weekend we were lucky enough to be invited over to Wicken Fen Nature Reserve to experience a Great British Walk and some of the activities they offer. Wicken Fen is between Ely and Cambridge and was the first nature reserve to be owned by The National Trust. Its a very important place for all sorts of wildlife and research into the environment and some of the pioneering environmental archaeology work was undertaken there. I remember going on a university field trip there many years ago all the way from Sheffield. It’s that significant and worthwhile a visit.
My children were bursting with excitement at the idea of going exploring on a fen so we set off bright and early, kitted out with gear for all weather eventualities. The brilliant thing about Wicken Fen is that it is really accessible for those of us with buggies and so we could actually enjoy a stroll around with the ranger without having to worry about carrying little Ned.
We were lucky enough to be taken around the reserve by the community ranger who introduced the children to the delights of sweeping for mini beasts in the long grass. We really enjoyed hunting for them and capturing them in magnifying pots. Although I’m not sure that the Orb Web Spider we discovered really needed to be viewed under a magnifying glass!
As it is a fen you can take a boat trip, not only does this enable you to see more of the fen than you could on foot in any one day, you also get a different perspective on it. We learnt all about the reeds and their commercial uses, why there are holes in the bird hide and the history of the fen. It was a memorable trip and our eldest boy pinpointed the boat trip as his overall highlight.
At the moment we are trying to complete the National Trusts 50 things to do before you are 11 3/4 challenge. Its been great fun and I’ve surprised myself in that a lot of the activities I normally do with the children are featured in there ( I suspect we may be a slightly unusual family). However, the chance to discover what is in a pond had escaped us until our trip to Wicken Fen. Armed with a little bit of instruction, some nets and some trays we discovered the most amazing water beetles, saw a newt tadpole (caught by @liveotherwise family) and found some damsonfly larvae. And we ticked off one of the activities on the list.
One of the best ways to get your children walking about without complaint is to introduce them to the delights of geo-caching. The children are so busy following the compass and trying to spot the boxes of treasure that they don’t realise they have walked a long way and importantly there is no moaning! We had a go at geo-caching and it was a brilliant fun activity finding lots of things to make our very own dragonflies. It also allowed us to tick off number 49 on the 50 things challenge!
Now, if you happen to choose to visit a National Trust properly for your Great British Walk and they have a tea-room you cant really go wrong by refuelling on a slice of cake. Perfect!
I’ve said it before, but I will say it again; you can’t have more fun with the kids than taking them to a nature reserve. You will discover something new on each trip, create some valuable memories and have a brilliant family bonding experience. We had one of the best days of this summer at Wicken Fen and before we had even left the children were asking when we could come back.