We had 50 people come and enjoy the Dockens Water last Wednesday, half coming along in the morning, and then another session in the afternoon.
Lots of kids, and big kids (….I should call them adults but really they like playing in the river too!) assembled under the shelter, and then we set off. On the way we found some rushes, and a small leaf each. Gathering in a circle, everyone had a go at making a rush boat, and we had some spectacular ones!
After the adults had perfected their boats… and the children had crafted tiny masterpieces, we headed to the river.
First a quick line up on the bridge looking over the water for an intro to the Dockens Water and how to river dip, then we all got into the river to sail our boats. We had some upright, some with top heavy sails which did some ‘sideways sailing’, and one absolute winner, made by education volunteer David. With ambitions of a ship akin to the Dawn Treader from the Chronicles of Narnia, David plaited strands of rush together and made the most impressive rush boat I have ever seen! Sadly no pictures were taken… I will just have to ask him to make another!
We spent the rest of both sessions river dipping, getting splashy, and putting on masks so that we could see what the underwater world had to offer! Some children chose to lie down in the water, and lots of people got very wet! Others went to peer into the water at the edges of the river, carefully lifting the larger stones to see if any creatures were hiding underneath.
Despite the river being very low (could we all try and do some extra rain dances please!!), we caught quite a few invertebrates, with cased caddis fly being a firm favourite. We even managed a couple of fish – a bullhead, and a minnow!
Starting with storytelling around the campfire during the afternoon of Saturday 23rd October, complimented by the wonderful seasonal campfire delicacy that is sugar coated apple baked on a stick. What’s not to like?!
And finally, being the last Sunday of the month, from 10am to 2.30pm on Sunday 31st October there will of course be our regular meeting of the Young Naturalists led by Tracy (our wildlife and conservation event for 13-17 year old young people) – details and booking information to follow shortly on the Events pages of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust here: https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events
Bookings for all events must be made in advance online via the above webpage links, but if you have any queries you are very welcome to email us on BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk and we’ll get back to you 🙂
Having satisfied our adult visitors last week with the long-awaited opening of the hides, out on site our attention has turned to maintaining access to said hides despite the unstoppable force of nature that is the bramble and stinging nettle growth during the perfect growing conditions of sunshine and rain! The re-opening generally seems to have gone down well and everyone is happy to be in the hides again after all this time, even though there is not a HUGE amount to see from them at the moment. Everyone does also seem to be behaving themselves and respecting everyone else at present, which is also pleasing, and reassuring, to see!
A plea however!
Understandably, and in line with our request to keep the hides well ventilated while in use, the windows are being opened up but could EVERYONE also please make sure that they close the hide windows behind them when they leave (also in line with our request on the notices outside and within each hide). Last week was ridiculously hot and it was not unexpected therefore to find them all open at the end of the day, but the weather has broken, it is not so hot, and we are getting some very heavy downpours and it is very disappointing to find the majority of windows in the majority of hides all still wide open when closing up, even when it is chucking it down with rain outside (and inside!) the hides.
Elsewhere on the reserve, across the lichen heath to be exact, you can’t help but be amazed (I can’t anyway) by the field of gold that it has become over the last couple of weeks, primarily with the perforate St Johns-wort pictured above, but with a scattering of nectar rich ragwort towering above them and hawkbits below.
Back in the office I have been juggling reduced staffing, volunteer availability, COVID-19 mitigation, testing and “pings” to work out what our summer holiday children’s activity programme will look like.
It was a bit of a complex tangle to unravel but I am delighted to say that, as things stand at present at least, yesterday afternoon bookings for a busy summer of pond and river dipping, den building, fire-lighting and mini-beasting went live!
Details and booking (which is essential for all of our events this summer) can now all be found in the Events section of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust website here: https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events (easiest way to find the Blashford Lakes entries is to use the “Location” filter, second from the bottom of the filter menu 😉
A word of warning – in recent months some of our visitors have had difficulties booking on to our events via their mobile phones. They get so far, including all of the form filling which is required, but then stall at payment and can get no further. This glitch is unfortunately beyond my control and more than a little frustrating, so please do use a computer or laptop to book places on the events if you can – and if you can’t and you do experience problems do please let us know and we will collate and pass on any feedback to those responsible for the website platform in hope that enough people fed up with it might generate some action to correct it! Fingers crossed it all just works though!
Although I am sorry that it may be that we are unable to accommodate everyone who wished to join us for pond dipping this Easter I am pleased to update this blog post with the news that all 13 of the sessions offered have now been booked.
The number of events and places were limited by necessity so when they are gone, they are gone, but I can’t emphasise enough how great it is to be able to offer guided events again and engage directly with our visitors to facilitate their connection with nature again. No further events are planned for this holiday but keep your eyes and ears open for more pond dipping sessions and other activities to follow over the weekends of the coming next few weeks and months.
A somewhat inauspicious date to be posting a blog but I promise that there will be no making fools of anyone here!
I updated the website yesterday but unfortunately didn’t find the time to post on here. Essentially Mondays Step 1 of the Government’s roadmap for easing out of lockdown has had little impact on visiting the nature reserve other than in two small, but significant, details: firstly, the portable toilets are now open for use again!
They have been closed since the beginning of January as a necessary saving of £200 per month while visitors were (or should have been…) staying local and visiting for exercise only, and therefore not in quite the same need of them as someone staying all day or travelling to get here.
It has been lovely to see all of the usual regulars these last few days, whom we’ve not seen since last year, and judging by the smiles they were all pleased to be back!
The second Step 1 development is that now visitors are able to enjoy the nature reserve for pleasure as opposed to just exercise we are able to put out Tracy’s lovely and informative “wildlife spotter signs” and she wasted no time in doing so!
To run throughout the Easter Holiday, she has also re-prepared and put out the self-guided “Forest Folk” activity and trail that had to be taken in after only a few days of being out at the beginning of lockdown- information on the website here: https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events/2021-04-02-forest-folk
We’re hoping to start running some small guided events too – watch this space!
I’ll leave you with some recent photos from the reserve:
I was down to do a guided walk at Blashford in the morning, but it was so hot that two of the walkers cried off and all we managed was a short amble along the Dockens Water to Goosander hide. At least going through the trees by the river was a bit cooler and the Goosander hide was quite busy with a fair few sand martin coming into the nesting wall. There are also now hundreds of greylag and Canada geese on Ibsley Water, come to moult their flight feathers on the relative safety of the open water. Unlike ducks, geese become completely flightless for quite a while when they moult so they have to seek out somewhere safe, but also with accessible food.
On the way to the hide we saw a few bee orchid and several butterflies, including a couple of summer brood comma, my first small skipper of the year and a few marbled white. One of the participants on the walk told me that they are also known as “Half-mourning”, something I had not heard before.
marbled white on ox-eye daisy
Sometime ago I posted that we had some puss moth caterpillars, they were quite small then, but now they have grown a lot and today I was dividing them up into three groups to make it easier to keep up with feeding them. They are very fine caterpillars and get ever more so with age.