This month, our Young Naturalists were joined by Corinne from the Cameron Bespolka Trust and Craig from the New Forest National Park Authority to share with them all the many wonderful and varied things we have been up to as a group over the past year.
Looking back it was great to see just how many places we have visited and how many different activities we have been able to do, which have largely been made possible by the generous funding from the Cameron Bespolka Trust.
It enabled Corinne to catch up with some of the older members of the group who have been with us for some time whilst also meeting some of our newer members. For Craig, it was a great way to tie in all our sessions with the John Muir Award, something we have been working towards since our residential in Beaulieu last November.
The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme which focuses on wild spaces, encouraging people to connect with nature and enjoy and care for the landscape around them. John Muir was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for preserving the wilderness of the United States. Muir was instrumental in the foundation of the National Parks system in America and since the first was established at Yellowstone in 1872, 6,555 protected areas have been created across the globe including 15 National Parks within the UK.
The award encourages people to connect with, enjoy, and care for wild places through four challenges:
- Discovering a wild place
- Exploring its wildness
- Conserving it
- Sharing your experiences
The John Muir Award has been perfect for our group as so many of the activities we do fit in with one or more of the four categories. It doesn’t however need to be completed over such a wide geographical area or such a long time; a wild place could be school grounds or a green space or park in an urban area as well as a National Park or stretch of coast, whilst working towards the introductory discovery level of the award over a year meant a number of the group could achieve the minimum time commitment of four days even if they missed a session or two. It is an accessible award to work to!
Before heading out for a pond dip together, we shared a short PowerPoint presentation with Corinne and Craig, with the group adding their comments or highlights as we talked about all the things we had done over the past year. Our discovering has taken us far and wide: we have been able to venture across the New Forest to Beaulieu, visited Needs Ore Marshes, walked up to our local Rockford and Ibsley Commons, explored the chalk downland of Martin Down and headed into Dorset to Brownsea Island, Shell Bay and Kimmeridge. Finally, as well as our trips away we have spent a considerable amount of time here on the reserve, discovering the many wonderful habitats that Blashford Lakes has to offer.
Whilst exploring the many wild places mentioned above we have been lucky enough to do a number of activities, learning about moths, pond and river life, farm life, the night sky, the history of falconry, fossils, the wildlife in rock pools and the flora and fauna found on chalk downland. Just to name a few! The group have taken part in a number of conservation activities, with highlights including building lots of new bird boxes which replaced a number of old ones on the reserve, assisting with the bird box monitoring and beach cleans. We do enjoy a good beach clean! One of our group members, Megan, nominated the group for the Waitrose Community Matters Fund with the funds raised going towards repairing the current dipping pond here on the reserve.
Finally we needed to share our experiences with others, and inviting Craig and Corinne to the session was part of this. A number of the group take photos for me to share via our blog, and they are usually obliging in having their photos taken for this and also social media. Their best sharing though has to be the video a number of the group took part in, where they voiced their own opinions of the group and the activities we get up to. You can watch this video below.
Young Naturalists is a monthly meet-up for nature lovers aged 13-17, and is kindly supported by funding from the Cameron Bespolka Trust. Get outdoors, learn practical skills, and help protect our wonderful local wildlife - what will you discover?