You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Author: Bryony Tuijl. This piece was originally published in the Eastern Daily Press.
We’re climbing higher and higher. I can’t see out of the windows and I’m not sure I want to. Over the noise of the engine I can see the instructors motioning to each other and we all begin to shuffle forward slowly. Before I know it I’m sat in the open doorway of the plane, my body leant forward. We’re thirty thousand feet in the air and a sea of clouds lies below me and beyond that, the very distant ground. We jump.
Skydiving was fun but it had been scheduled in my diary for months and I felt prepared. I knew exactly what I was going to be doing that day. There are easier and more effective ways to get in touch with your wild side than leaping out of a plane. The kind of wildness that thrives on spontaneity, the kind of wildness where anything can happen, the wildness that can only be found in nature.
I live and work as a Visitor Experience Intern on an RSPB nature reserve, Strumpshaw Fen, and every day is filled with the possibility of seeing something new and amazing. Just yesterday as I walked by a pond I saw the unmistakable dark and fluffy outline of a water vole perched amongst the reeds. I sat and looked at him; he looked back at me and then continued munching away. People often wait for hours by the pond hoping to catch a glimpse of this fuzzy little fellow. I felt very lucky, like I’d been let in on a well kept secret.
In my time here I’ve seen marsh harriers acrobating above the reeds, baby stoats darting around mischievously and bejewelled kingfishers skimming the surface of the broad. Swallowtail and silver wash fritillary butterflies have brushed my cheek on their fluttering journeys around the reserve and a hare has whisked past my legs in the wild flower meadows. I’ve watched the sun dip beneath the horizon and wash the sky moody purple and vibrant pink on warm summer evenings. I’ve stood in the woodland and immersed myself in the symphony of birdsong while watching a solitary treecreeper skip up the bark towards the canopy.
These precious moments have taken my breath away and I’ve felt my inner wildness roar in delight.
As a species we were once surrounded by nature but over the years we have become more isolated from our natural roots and this can have adverse effects on our health – both physically and mentally. It is estimated that one in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. Fortunately, there is extensive evidence that spending time in nature can improve our mental health and general sense of wellbeing.
Becoming distant from the natural world means that precious moments like those I’ve experienced at Strumpshaw Fen are often out of our reach. It is time to rewild ourselves and reconnect with nature. Come and explore Strumpshaw Fen and rediscover your inner wildness and who knows, maybe the water vole will let you into his fascinating little world too?
Author: Ellen Robson
Stuck for things to do with your summer holidays? There is a huge range of family friendly activities for you to try as part of the RSPB’s Wild Challenge. Completing challenges will earn you awards, so see if you can go for gold! You can sign up for free here to have a look at the full list, but below are just a few examples of the things you can do to help give nature a home, and have fun while doing it!
1. Build a bird bath
Help encourage nature in your own garden by making your own bird bath to allow our feathered friends a source of clean water to drink from and bathe in. They will be able to use this throughout the summer and for the rest of the year so is a great thing to do to encourage wildlife in any season. This doesn’t just benefit the birds, it will also allow your family to get a closer look at the local species which can be a really captivating experience for kids and adults alike. If you don’t have the time or materials to make your own bird bath, you can always buy one – the birds won’t be able to tell the difference!
Going on holiday to the seaside, or lucky enough to live nearby? Rockpooling is a great way to explore some of the more unusual wildlife you aren’t likely to see in your own garden. You can do this with no equipment at all - but having a net, bucket, and an ID sheet which can be downloaded from our website may make it a more educational experience. You might see anything, from starfish to sea anenomes. Rockpooling is bound to make a trip to the beach more wild, and can be done even if the weather isn’t perfect!
3. Shake a tree
Tree-beating allows you to investigate the minibeasts that would normally be hiding in the branches. Gently shaking a tree or bush branch onto a sheet will reveal some of the insects living in there. This is a really easy way to find a range of species in your area and learn all about the insects living in your own garden or the local park. Our spot-it sheet will help you to identify the many-legged friends you find.
4. Let it grow
A really simple way to encourage wildlife in your garden is to let the grass grow. This will mean one less chore for parents and more fun for the kids! Even if you don’t want to let your whole garden grow wild, a small patch of unruly grass can be great for wildlife, especially encouraging more insect species. You might even see some wildflowers in there. Longer grass will often increase biodiversity, and is always exciting to play in!
5. Make a compost heap
Our waste is wildlife’s treasure! You can make a compost heap for plant waste in your garden which insects can eat and recycle, turning it into fertiliser which you can use. Some species may also use your compost heap as a home – so it’s a win-win-win situation for you and the minibeasts in your garden! It’s also a great way to reduce the amount of your rubbish going to landfill.
Another thing you can do to get your kids more involved with nature is to look up your local RSPB wildlife explorers group. These groups are led by passionate volunteers who want to inspire future generations to love nature. They give a fantastic opportunity for children to meet like-minded friends and learn all about the environment around them.
After 34 days we have finally come to the end of our crowdfunding appeal! We have raised a whopping £14,801, through crowdfunding which includes offline donations from collection boxes at Titchwell Marsh and people very kindly sending us cheques.
We make no apologies that during the 34 days we bombarded people’s social media feeds, asked time and time again for help, emailed thousands of people, submitted endless press releases to media organisations, spoke to hundreds of our visitors and generally shouted, A LOT, about the wonderful place that is RSPB Snettisham!
For those that also believe that RSPB Snettisham is a very special place, we want to say a HUGE thank you for your personal support to help us build a hide which will protect wildlife from disturbance, showcase amazing spectacles and, hopefully, inspire future generations with the sights and sounds of The Wash.
The money we have raised through crowdfunding stands us in great stead to seek further funding from elsewhere, enabling us to build the hide. We have now submitted an application to a charitable trust for some of the funding and we hope to hear the outcome of this during September. We will be preparing further applications to other trusts and grant funders should we need to.
We hope you have enjoyed being part of this incredible journey with us and, before we start ordering and sending the rewards requested by some of you, we might just go and have a little lie down!
With very best wishes,
The Snettisham Crowd.
P.S. Watch this space for further updates.