Fun with environmental learning in the Peak District

I have recently got back from the Mountain Training Association national conference which this year was in the Peak District. During the weekend there were a range of workshops to choose from and I was drawn towards the ‘Environmental Learning Made Easy’ session which was delivered by Jim Langley of Nature’s Work. This proved to be an excellent choice – which is why I want to share my experiences with you in my Countryside Blog.

The workshop was aimed at introducing Learning Cards to help children to learn through outdoor activities. The fact that all of us who completed the workshop had so much fun, indicates that they could easily be adapted for adults!

The day started with learning some surveying techniques and first of all doing a short survey of wildlife in a small grassy area to the rear of the buildings. At first glance it appeared there was absolutely nothing there except grass, however closer inspection revealed all kinds of insects, spiders, snails, and a couple of holes that could have been made by a shrew. It is amazing how absorbed you can become in the ground whilst crawling on your hands and knees through damp grass!

Our second survey was of the graveyard in the village of Castleton studying the gravestones, their age, condition, type of stone and looking for trends or categories. Again, absolutely fascinating and it actually raised more questions than it answered.

We then moved up the hillside into Cave Dale to look at some of the wonderful plants that thrive in the rocky and sometimes shady limestone soils. I was amazed at how many varieties of lichen and moss there were thriving in just in a small area, not to mention all of the ferns and other plants. Jim’s explanation of their evolution and reproduction methods was so interesting.

At lunch time Jim sprung a pleasant surprise on us by producing numerous jars and bottles out of the back of his van filled with all sorts of goodies home-made made from wild plants and fruit. My favourite was the Hawthorn Ketchup followed closely by the Rowan Jelly.

During the afternoon, we learned how to measure the height of a tree using a pencil, how to light a fire without matches and using a type of fungus called Kind Alfred’s Cakes that we had collected earlier as firelighters. Having lit the fire, we then made some charcoal sticks with Willow twiggs and Jim taught us how to insert them into a short piece of Elder to create a charcoal pencil. The popcorn that Jim cooked for us over the fire had to be the highlight of the afternoon!

Altogether a fabulous day spent learning about the countryside and nature.


Undertakers of the beetle world!

Sexton Beetle

Sexton Beetle

This beautifully coloured beetle was spotted by Neal on our walk today on the lower slopes of Kinder Scout.

It is a Sexton Beetle.  They are also known as Burying Beetles and get their name from their practice of digging a hole beneath small dead animals and birds then pulling the body down into the hole.  They then use the carcass as a source of food for their larvae.