Friday, 1 August 2014

Parish Life - August

For the first of 2 July sessions in the churchyard, we were delighted to have the return of two young volunteers, brothers aged 3 and 6. It is so important to encourage an interest in wildlife and gardening, and the earlier the start, the better. In a recent Guardian article, Lucas Hatch, aged 12, recalled how his grandfather started him gardening at the age of 4 years old. His first crop was radishes, and he now favours runner beans, lettuces and new potatoes. Growing something to eat is always of interest to young gardeners.

Of course, there is no option to grow food crops in the churchyard (obviously!!) but there are other ways to engage the youngsters. Going on a mini-beast hunt is always good fun. Gently rubbing a finger on the underside of a worm reveals the tiny bristles, called chaetae, which the worm uses to pull itself along and through the soil. Looking for the breathing pore on the saddle of a large slug makes the creatures almost lovable. A white sheet can be placed under a shrub or a low branch of a tree; shake the branch and all manner of creepy-crawlies are knocked onto the ground. A good lesson is the careful and respectful handling of any living thing that is discovered, and also the return to as close to the place they were found is advised. Identification of the animal is not always vital, but a good reference book is useful. Collins “Complete British Wildlife Photoguide” is a good example.

The boys were very keen to help with the practical tasks but found the adult-sized tools, such as the rakes, difficult to handle. They enjoyed using the “monster-hands” to pick up the mown grass, and before the next session, I shall be looking to buy some tools and gloves that are more child-friendly and of an appropriate size.

Even a wildlife enthusiast with 50 plus years of interest can still learn something new. I found a mass of caterpillars on a patch of nettles in the garden and was pleased to learn that they were larvae of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. They feed en masse and move around the plant as a group. Another discovery on the same plant was a Common Footman moth, a type that, in spite of its name, was not one that I had seen before.

Who knows what you might discover next? If you would like to be part of our practical session in maintaining the churchyard as a haven for wildlife, please join us on Saturday 16th August, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon. We are happy to show newcomers how we carry out our management programme. Tools and gloves, and refreshments will be available. Please come and enjoy a session looking after your local environment!

Contributed by: Liz Cullen, Co-ordinator. 

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