By Patrick Coates
Trees are the key to our survival.
They came before us and we have used and abused them for thousands of years.
They have provided food, shelter, medicine and the air we breathe.
Yet we take them for granted.
We cut them down, we plant but forget to care for them.
We urgently need to find ways of living happily with trees as cultural, spiritual and emotional companions as well as for ecological reasons.
The advent of the greenhouse effect, forest clearances and growing awareness by acid rain, makes the need to protect and nurture trees an imperative.
We can all help in some way, our culture is rich with pollards and timber barns to paintings and poetry such as the Green Knight and Robin Hood to Constable and Elgar.
There is no excuse for inaction, we each have a responsibility to care for our own place, to ensure that its character and distinctiveness is enhanced, not eroded by change.
Posted 16th, September 2017
After a long tasting session, when all the votes were counted, the judges’ decision was delivered; this year’s winner of the A. Leslie Turner Memorial Cup for most delicious food created from produced scavenged from the Fant Wildlife Area is John Callaghan, with his Blackberry Ripple Ice-cream.
If you’d like to try it yourself you will find the instructions in our recipe book along with a good selection of other tasty treats to try at home.
Posted 1st, September 2017
The Charter of the Forest was sealed by Henry III in 1217. Unlike the Magna Carta, which dealt with the rights of barons, the Charter of the Forest addressed the rights of the common man. For the first time, it restricted the amount of land that the king could claim for private use.
With these significant anniversaries on our horizon would you be interested in joining a creative writing group to encourage people to write stories, poems and plays inspired by the Fant Wildlife Area and the broader natural environment?
Contact us with you would like to take part.
Posted 8th, July 2017
We have to report another successful annual celebration at the Fant Wildlife Area. On Saturday 24th June our friends and supporters joined us for a delicious barbecue and live music in the sunshine.
Ragtag Orchestra, now a regular fixture on the bill, were joined by Friends in Harmony, a local choir, to serenade an appreciative audience. This year, for the first time, part of the performance was streamed live on our Facebook page. Even those who weren’t able to join the fun on the day can now enjoy the performance at their leisure.
We would like to thank everyone who helped out on the day setting up gazebos, the barbecue equipment, games and decorations. You created a great atmosphere and provided an excellent opportunity to meet up with old friends and meet new friends too.
See you again next year!
Posted 3rd, April 2017
In 1804 Wordsworth was inspired to write "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" following a country walk with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District. The Fant Wildlife Area cannot yet boast the ten thousand daffodils Wordworth recalls, ‘tossing their heads in sprightly dance’; however we hope visitors will find inspiration in our recently planted bulbs.
At the end of September 2016, Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus) bulbs were planted in memory of Irene May Goulding, a local resident, by her family and close friends. As you can see from the pictures a good number have successfully established and over the coming years will multiply and naturalise beneath the cherry trees.
Posted 11th, February 2017
In January we were visited by our friends from Medway Valley Countryside Partnership. The Thursday Action Group (TAG) completed the annual spring clean of the main pond. In addition they cleared a large area of brambles to reveal a view of the Medway Valley and constructed a bench.
We would like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and look forward to seeing you next year.
It takes a lot of hard work by many volunteers to maintain the Fant Wildlife Area. If you can spare just a few hours each month it would be much appreciated.
Posted 2nd, July 2016
Thank you all for joining us on 25th June for our 20th Anniversary Party; it really was a day to remember! It was great to see so many friends and supporters of the Fant Wildlife Area joining in the fun and games; thankfully the weather didn’t dampen our spirits.
The celebration was opened by Deputy Mayor Malcolm Greer who thanked everyone who had been involved with the group over the years and wished us well in the future. We enjoyed a barbecue and dishes prepared with wild food foraged from the Fant Wildlife Area, stalls, games and great live music from local musicians Penny Heath, Neil Davies and Clive Frewer.
Finally we were able to cut the birthday cake—which everyone agreed was delicious—and make a wish for the next twenty years in Fant!
Posted 16th, April 2016
On the 22nd March this year we were all affected by the strong winds and heavy rain of Storm Katie, and the Fant Wildlife Area did not escape unscathed.
Volunteers at the monthly work party tried to clear some of the side branches, but as you can see from the photo a chainsaw was required to cut the main trunk.
Thankfully Maidstone Borough Council Parks and Leisure Department came to our aid and soon had the area clear.
We are now planning to use the fallen timber to create a habitat pile which will act as a haven for all kinds of wildlife.
Posted 1st, March 2016
Late last year we found to our delight that we had been successful in an application for free trees through the Ovo Energy 2015 tree planting programme.
On Saturday 23rd January six Rainbows, assisted by two Guides and four Leaders from Allington planted 28 saplings including Rowan, Bird Cherry, Field Maple, Crab Apple and Cherry Plum. The girls watered them in well and will be returning over the next few months to check on progress.
Hedgerows are very important for wildlife. They provide nectar-rich blossom in the spring and berries in autumn. Some of the most important and endangered species in the UK rely on them; from butterflies and small mammals to insects and wildflowers.
Posted 6th, February 2016
On 14th January we were visited by our friends from Medway Valley Countryside Partnership. The Thursday Action Group (TAG) completed the annual spring clean of the main pond. In addition they relocating some of the yellow flag iris, repaired a step, cleaned the paths around the pond of vegetation and erected two bird boxes.
We would like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and look forward to seeing you next year.
Posted 9th, January 2016
This year we celebrate our 20th Anniversary – yes that’s right, two decades since the Fant Wildlife Group was founded! Over the next twelve months we’ll be looking back at what has been achieved so far and celebrating our success; you are invited to join in the fun.
There are lot opportunities for you to get involved throughout the year. Check our diary of events for this year or like us on Facebook for regular updates on all our activities.
And most importantly you must join us on 25th June. We are having a party so don’t forget to save the date.
Posted 20th, November 2015
On Saturday 14th November we were joined on site by the Deputy Major of Maidstone, Cllr Derek Butler to plant a Rowan tree in memory of Alistair Black.
Alistair, who was a Borough Councillor and Trustee of the Fant Wildlife Group since October 2011, passed away on 13 July this year.
Alistair was a great supporter of our work and we will all miss his stories about encounters with the wildlife of Rhodesia, where he lived for many years, before retiring to Maidstone.
Posted 29th, June 2015
A festival and barbeque took place at the Fant Wildlife Area on Saturday 27 June under glorious sunshine. The annual celebration of nature and music, arranged by the Fant Wildlife Group, was well attended by the local community.
Cllr Paul Harper was ably assisted by Ian Cooper and David Armitage at the grill and the regular barbeque fare was accompanied by food prepared using wild herbs harvested from the Fant Wildlife Area.
The crowd got in the party mood with live music starting with the Fabulous Fants and Neil Davis of Ragtag Orchestra invited children to join him to perform a variety of popular sing-along classics. The event was supported by Pukka Ponies – equine rescue, and children enjoyed riding around the nature reserve on Pumpkin and Lady.
A great day was had by all and the Trustees of the Fant Wildlife Group wish to extend their thanks to everyone who took part and supported this important community celebration.
Posted 11th, May 2015
Thanks to a generous donation of a load of logs from C Spencer Ltd we now have a new habitat pile!
It took our regular monthly work party a few hours to move the logs and create a new habitat pile
Many types of wildlife makes its home in dead wood and other animals use it as a source of food. In woodlands, fallen wood occurs naturally and many species have adapted to use this habitat. But in our increasingly tidy countryside, fallen and dead wood is not so common. A pile of logs simulates fallen trees and is considered beneficial to a range of wildlife. Habitat piles are best placed in a shady spot, so that they remain cool and damp. The decaying wood also supports a range of fungi.
Posted 14th, November 2014
In the busy run-up to the festive season it’s easy to forget the birds in your garden.
At this time of year, you can put food and water out on a regular basis. This is especially important during periods of severe weather. Birds require high fat foods during the cold winter weather to survive through the frosty nights.
You can help feed the birds in your garden with a special bird cake. The RSPB have a set-by-step guide on their website.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have anywhere you can hang your new bird feeder. Come down to the Fant Wildlife Area on Saturday 13th December at 12noon and help decorate our tree.
We will be using bird feeders, ribbons, lanterns, ivy, mistletoe or any other type of decoration to decorate our chosen tree in support of the National Tree Dressing Festival.
Come and join in the fun and enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and other treats.
Posted 16th, September 2014
Wildflower meadows have become increasingly rare in the countryside over the last 70 years. We enjoy them for their beauty but they are also an important habitat for a diverse range of birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife.
Whilst it is no substitute for taking better care of the precious areas of wildflower meadow which remain, it is possible to create new areas. On the 11th October this year the Fant Wildlife Group will be sowing the first seeds for a new meadow; and you are invited to join in.
It is thanks to the generous donations of parishioners attending last year’s frugal lunch at St Michael and All Angels Church, Tonbridge Road, that we are now able to purchase seeds to start our wildflower project.
By October this year the ground will be prepared and the sowing can begin. A mixture of 35 different native wildflower species will be included, and once established will flower from spring, through summer and well into the autumn to produce a continuous cascade of changing colour.
If you would like to be part of this exciting project, please meet us at the main entrance, accessed through the Children’s Play Area off Roseholme on Saturday 11th October. Work will begin at 10am and continue until 12noon.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Posted 30th, June 2014
This year’s barbecue saw a change to the regular musical line-up. The Fabulous Fants were joined for the first time by Clive Frewer leading Ocean Blue and Neil Davis from Ragtag Orchestra.
The upbeat reggae from Ocean Blue got everyone’s toes tapping and Neil rounded off the afternoon with some great songs accompanied by guitar and mandolin.
We were also joined on the day for the first time by Tim Christian Nature Services who provided a range of wildlife craft activities.
The winner of the Children’s Treasure Hunt was Hannah, with runners up Joel and Tessa. Hannah won a bird feeder and Joel and Tessa received a robin nest box to put up in their own garden. Congratulations to you all!
We also used the barbecue to launch a new scheme asking you for your views. The Trustees of the Fant Wildlife Group would like to know what you think about our plans for the future. Click here to have your say.
Posted 19th, April 2014
Don’t forget to join as at the Fant Wildlife Area on Saturday 10th May for our AGM at 12noon, or join us at 10am for our usual workday activities.
This year’s barbecue will be on Saturday 28th June from 1pm – put it in your diary, and join us for great food, live music and fun for all the family!
Click here for all the essential information about up-coming activities and events.
Posted January 26th, 2014
Thanks to the support of the good people at TCV, the Fant Wildlife Area is now home to cobnuts.
The cobnut, a cultivated variety of hazelnut, sometimes known as filberts, has a long history in Kent, grown in gardens and orchards since the 16th century.
Alongside its common culinary uses, children used to play an early version of 'conkers' with hazelnuts; the game was called cobnut or cobblenut, and the winning nut "the cob".
We wait in anticipation for our new trees to bear their distinctive catkins in spring, and hopefully a good crop in the autumn months. At this year’s Harvest Home event we may well be eating the first of many cobnut dishes and even playing a few rounds of cobblenut!
Posted November 16th, 2013
The Fant Wildlife Group is supporting National Tree Dressing Day, which celebrates our trees by making them centre of attention and giving them a starring role in local green spaces.
The tree dressing ceremony has roots in ancient custom, going back to the pagan Green Man which symbolises the cycle of growth, rebirth and the natural world. The modern National Tree Dressing Day was revived in 1990 by Common Ground. You can use a tree dressing to celebrate trees in general, honour one particular tree, or use trees to send messages (in Japan they write prayers on strips of fabric or paper and tie them to the tree).
The Fant Wildlife Group uses tree dressing as a great excuse to drink mulled wine and eat mince pies. Join us on 14 December at 12noon to dress this year’s tree.
Posted November 16th, 2013
Last month we celebrated a bumper crop of wild food from the Fant Wildlife Area with the regular volunteers enjoying a great selection of sweet treats including homemade scones served with spiced hedgerow jelly and elderberry and apple pie.
Everyone who attended enjoyed tucking into the delicious food, foraged from the nature reserve. After all the votes were counted the winner was Cassandra Callaghan’s Spiced Hedgerow Jelly.
Some of the recipes from this year’s completion and previous entrants can be found here.
Posted October 5th, 2013 (Written by Tessa Saunders, Fant Wildlife Group Secretary)
We would like to remind you that we shall be holding our annual Harvest Home event on Saturday 12 October at approximately 12noon after the workday. This is where we ask people to come up with something edible/drinkable made from the varied produce available on site. After each entry has been tasted we then have a vote and the winner is awarded the Leslie Turner Memorial Cup. I was lucky enough to receive it last year and look forward to tasting this year’s entries and passing the trophy on.
Posted August 12th, 2013
The Maidstone Maintainers; a group of 16-17 year olds from the National Citizen Service (NCS) are supporting the Fant Wildlife Group to maintain and diversify the wildlife in the Fant Wildlife Area, to encourage educational use and local involvement.
The group will be working on site in August and holding a celebration picnic on Friday 16th August. The celebration starts at 11:30am – bring your own picnic and join the fun.
NCS is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity open to all 16 & 17 year olds in England, that aims to build skills for work and life, while taking on new challenges and meeting new friends.
The scheme runs in the spring, summer and autumn and includes a short time away from home and a team project to help the local community.
The Maidstone group completed a sponsored walk at Mote Park and will be holding a cake sale to raise funds for the Fant Wildlife Group.
Posted October 23rd, 2012
It’s that time of year again! The days are short, the weather is cold and wet; we all need a winter boast. So join us on Saturday 8th December to help with the Tree Dressing.
Following last year’s inaugural celebration in support of the National Tree Dressing Festival we will be dressing our tree and enjoying mulled wine and mince pies. We will meet from noon following our monthly workday, so bring ribbons, shapes, lanterns, ivy, mistletoe or any other type of decoration and join in the fun!
Posted September 29th, 2012
Cast your mind back to early February 2009: The weather was very cold with frequent snow showers affecting many areas. Some areas of Kent were buried under 30cm of snow!
At the time the Fant Wildlife Group were planning a delicious harvest for more clement weather and the time has now come to celebrate our success.
Four typical Kentish varieties of apple; Warner’s King, Jupiter, Greensleeves and Bountiful, planted in 2009 should now have acclimatised to their new surroundings and have stated to produce a first crop of fruit.
You may wish to read the story below “Mixed Fruit for Fant Wildlife” posted 16th February 2009 by Leslie Turner, former Honorary President of the Fant Wildlife Group for more details about these historic varieties.
Our Harvest Home, wild food event, is held this year on 13th October and as Leslie suggested perhaps in future years we can include wassailing, and juice pressing too!
Posted July 15th, 2012
As you can see from the photos, this year’s barbecue was a lively occasion with music, games and delicious food. The welcome return of Penny Heath and friends and the Fantastic Fants was complimented by an ensemble from West Borough School. The music kept toes tapping throughout the afternoon.
Alongside the raffle and tombola we enjoyed a rather fiendish marble game, biscuit decorating activity and other craft activities including making crowns and mask inspired by insects.
We would like to thank everyone who lent a hand on the day, especially our musicians who worked so hard to entertain us. A special mention must go to Paul and Ian who cooked and served the food and anyone who help with the gazebos.
Come and join us next year and support your local nature reserve.
Posted June 2nd, 2012
This year our summer barbecue will be held on Saturday 30th June, starting at 1pm. We will enjoy a wide variety of live music this year and children of all ages will be able to join in with craft activities including making crowns and masks inspired by insects. See you there.
Poster March 10th, 2012
We are delighted to announce that Fant Wildlife Group has been granted Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (KRAG) Conservation Partnership status. This scheme has been designed to identify organisations that KRAG has a valued and close relationship with.
We will be working with our KRAG partners to ensure that the management of the Fant Wildlife Area is maintained for the benefit of reptile and amphibian species.
If you want to know more about KRAG click here to access their website.
Later this year we hope to announce a new nature spotting event focusing on reptiles and amphibians. Click here for wildlife spotting and recording activities.
Posted December 27th, 2011
Trees are an important part of our lives. They increase our quality of life by bringing wildlife into our neighbourhood. They provide shade on hot summer days and shelter from the rain. Old trees serve as historic landmarks. Trees can provide privacy, emphasise beautiful views, and screen unsightly areas. They provide habitats for wildlife and oxygen for us to breath.
The National Tree Dressing Festival was created to celebrate the trees in our lives which are so often taken for granted. Members of the Fant Wildlife Group took part this year. On Sunday 18th December we met on site for mulled wine and minced pies. A prominent Ash tree was chosen and dressed with ribbons, shapes, mistletoe, ivy wreaths and many other types of decoration.
We are hoping to repeat this event annually but next year some members have suggested activities like dancing and storytelling to celebrate. So watch this space for ancient tree myths and stories, poems and other seasonal festivities.
Posted November 13th, 2011
The annual celebration of wild food from the Fant Wildlife Area was as ever the culinary highlight of the year. This year’s offerings included Apple and Mint Chutney, Blackberry Brownies and Blackberry Snow Queen.
Everyone who attended enjoyed tucking into the delicious food, foraged from the nature reserve. After all the votes were counted the winner was Blackberry Brownies by John Callaghan.
This year marked the inaugural presentation of the A. Leslie Turner Memorial Cup named in the honour of the President of the Fant Wildlife Group who sadly passed away in 2010. The cup was made by a local craftsman using cherry wood from Upper Fant Road.
Click here for the official Fant Wildlife Wild Food Cook Book including a selection of recipes from previous Harvest Home events.
Posted October 29th, 2011
The Fant Wildlife Group is delighted to announce the appointment of three new trustees to the Committee.
Alistair Black brings to the team a lifetimes of experience. Alistair has worked for the Police Force in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and as a Personal Director for a Paper Manufacturing Business. Alistair is elected Borough Councillor for Fant Ward.
Paul Harper first became involved with Fant Wildlife Group this year when he was master chef at our annual BBQ. Paul is a member of the Board of Conservators to Mitcham Common a 460 acre nature reserve in south London London and Director of Finance, IT and Resources at the National Autistic Society.
Stuart Jeffery is a long standing member of the group and he helps out at regular workdays on site. Stuart is Chair of Kent Green Party and works for the NHS as a manager.
Posted May 29th, 2011(Written by John Callaghan, Fant Wildlife Group Records Officer)
Do you know the difference between a Meadow Buttercup and a Creeping Buttercup?
The Nature Spotter event held on 22nd May 2011 focused on the wildflowers found at the Fant Wildlife Area. We began by looking at the very common buttercup family; examining the structure of different parts of the plant to identify which species grew around the pond area.
We went on to familiarise ourselves with some of the common wildflower families using the many examples currently in flower. The small group worked very well identifying more than 8 species in the short time we spent together.
The next dates for your diary are 17th July and 7th August when we will be focusing on Butterflies, Bumblebees, Grasshoppers and Crickets.
Click here for wildlife spotting and recording activities.
Posted May 12th, 2011
The Fant Wildlife barbecue will be held on Saturday 2nd July. The activities begin at 1pm. This year sees the return of the wildlife quiz which proved popular last year, alongside the regular raffle, tombola, live music, and plant stall. There will also be activities for children including a treasure hunt.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Posted January 15th, 2011
2011 brings a new series of events to the Fant Wildlife calendar. Nature Spotting days have been arranged throughout the year; each event focusing on a different area of wildlife; from small mammals to wild flowers.
You are invited to join the Fant Wildlife Group on site to learning about the species to be found at your local nature reserve.
These Nature Spotting days have been made possible through the generous donations made by our borough councillors Fran Smith and Steve Beerling. Their support has allowed us to buy nature identification books and equipment. The Fant Wildlife Group would like to thank Fran and Steve for their continuing support.
Click here for wildife spotting and recording activities.
Posted October 10th, 2010
This year’s celebration of wild food gathered from the Fant Wildlife Area saw some innovative contributions.
We all enjoyed Kate’s Damson Cake which looked irresistible. Margaret provided two jams including Blackberry and Elderberry which all agreed would make an excellent accompaniment to cold meats.
Lyn and John both used nettles which are very prevalent on site. Lyn gave us a delicious Nettle Risotto and John a Nettle Pesto. Some of the tasters found that the two creations combined were a good match.
Usually after all the culinary delights are tasted a vote is taken and the favourite is awarded the grand prize. The ceremony is usually conducted by the Honorary President of the Fant Wildlife Group, Leslie Turner. However as members will know Leslie sadly passed away earlier in the summer. This year’s Harvest Home was a celebration for Leslie and all his hard work and support since the Group was founded. A toast was made using Lyn’s 2009 vintage Damson Gin.
Don’t forget to prepare your entry for next years Harvest Home. 2011 promises to be better than ever with the awarding of first Leslie Turner Memorial Cup and the opportunity to get your recipe in the first official Fant Wildlife Cookbook – Food for Free.
Posted October 1st, 2010
The Fant Wildlife Group has been nominated for the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) Green Hero Award 2010!
This award aims to recognise and reward the hard work and achievements of people looking after their local environment. The Fant Wildlife Group has been nominated in the Community category. Nominees are required to demonstrate how their work improves the environment for wildlife and their local community and how this work inspires people to learn move about their environment.
We are all keeping our fingers crossed that we are lucky enough to receive this prestigious award from BTCV.
Posted August 28th, 2010 (Written by Tessa Saunders, Fant Wildlife Group Newsletter Editor)
The Fant Wildlife Group’s annual barbecue was held this year on Saturday 24th July a despite early morning qualms we were blessed with pleasant weather for the event.
Visitors were entertained by a variety of musical groups and also by the usual stalls. Thanks to members efforts we had a larger variety of plants for sale and we also saw the return of last year’s very popular plums and jams.
A new addition to the programme was a quiz with versions for adults and children which was a hit and we plan to include this again next year; so start brushing up on your local wildlife knowledge.
The treasure hunt was based on searching the site for the mosaics in the trees created by the Home Education Group and identifying the picture depicted. People had lots of fun exploring the site in the search and would not give in until they had found them all. Prizes were awarded to the winners of each event by Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer, who also made a speech welcoming everyone and introducing some of the committee who enable the site to continue an be available to the community.
As always we must give a huge thank you to our loyal sponsors and Kate & Andy the cooks without who this event would not take place. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the sub-committee for the months of planning put into organising this annual afternoon of fun.
The main aim of the barbecue is to raise awareness of the site but also to bring in much needed funds, it is estimated that this year we raised in excess of £250.
Posted June 26th, 2010
Follow the Art in the Trees trail at the Fant Wildlife Area and you may spot some unusual specimens. Peacocks, fish, butterfly and lizards can all be found high in the trees thanks to the efforts of a home education group.
The group, aged 6-13, collected shards of Victorian pottery from around the site to create a variety of mosaics inspired by nature. You see here just a selection of their work.
Click here to download the Art in the Trees trail.
Posted June 19th, 2010
The St. Michaels Infant School Nature Club has been busy again this month in true Blue Peter style. Using old CDs and recycled metal foil they made this selection of bird scarers to help protect the children’s allotment patch.
The Fant Wildlife Area is a magnet for birdlife at this time of year; over 50 species have been recorded. Once used as allotment gardens, the Fant Wildlife Area boasts a variety of fruiting plants; a haven for all those unwelcome visitors to the adjacent children’s allotment.
Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer, lead this activity with the children and reports that most of the creations were taken home by the children as they were too cute to scare any birds! Well done kids, they look great!
Posted May 29th, 2010
The annual Fant Wildlife barbecue will this year be held on Saturday 24th July. The fun starts at 1pm. Activities this year include raffle, tombola, face painting, live music, penalty shoot-out game, plant stall and much more.
Everyone is invited to join in. We look forward to seeing you there.
Posted May 19th May, 2010
The Fant Wildlife Group would like to announce that our much loved President and mentor Leslie Turner passed away this Saturday 15th May at the age of 91.
Leslie was a founder member of the Fant Wildlife Group and a tireless supporter of our work. Leslie spent 21 years working in the County Estates Office at Kent County Council and his expertise in land management and especially drainage will be sorely missed.
Leslie was a wildlife lover, human rights campaigner, life-long socialist but above all our friend. Our thoughts are with his children; John, Jane, Alex and Ben; his five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Posted January 30th, 2010 (Written by John Callaghan, Fant Wildlife Group Records Officer)
Anyone who visits the Fant Wildlife Area will notice the litter. Some rubbish is dropped carelessly by visitors to the site and some blown into the area from neighbouring land. This litter is a nuisance but sometimes it can also be dangerous to wildlife.
Following a tip-off from Margaret Gouge, the Fant Wildlife Area Warden, I visited the site this weekend to investigate reports of a trapped animal. I found a Wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus, that had become caught in an empty lemonade bottle and died.
Small mammals often find their way inside bottles and cans left on the ground and are unable to get out again. In this case the bottled filled with rain water and the animal drowned.
If you visit the Fant Wildlife Area please take your litter home with you and if you see an empty bottle or can on the ground don’t walk on by, pick it up and recycle it.
Posted January 15th, 2010
The Fant Wildlife Group awaits expectantly the latest scientific papers produced through research at our wildlife area.
Each year a group of A-Level students from St. Simon Stock School, Maidstone undertake a variety of investigation into the ecology of the Fant Wildlife Area. Previous work has focused on the factors that allow nettles to dominate certain areas forcing out other plant species; and the effect of trampling feet on the species growing in the paths.
The work of these students is very important because it helps the Fant Wildlife Group to manage the environment in the best way to encourage wildlife.
If you would like to read a selection of previous papers they are available here. When this year’s research is published the results will be made available.
Posted October 30th, 2009 (Written by Maddie Starks)
This year’s Home Harvest was another success with a small selection of entries, admittedly most of which were alcoholic! Due to a slight miscommunication the judging was delayed until 11am, however once the tasting had started everyone enjoyed sampling the various creations on offer. All the entries were made using ingredients found from within the wildlife area including damsons, nettles and rosehips. The winner of this year’s home harvest was a clear victory by John Callaghan with a nettle ale. Second prize went to Ian Hay with his rosehip syrup. The damson jam made by Margaret Gouge came in third. Thanks to Kay who once again agreed to be our adjudicator for this event. Overall everyone had a great time but there was also a lot of hard work done as the Home Harvest this year fell on the working party day!
Posted August 8th, 2009
The Fant Wildlife Area has been blessed with a bumper crop of blackberries this year. Everywhere you look ripe fruit is hanging from brambles on the edge of the paths and in the undergrowth.
This years Harvest Home event will surely see many culinary delights using this plentiful supply of berries. Harvest Home is the Fant Wildlife annual food festival celebrating the edible plants and fruits found at Fant Wildlife Site.
This years entries need to be ready on Saturday 10th October, so make a note in your diaries and try to get you blackberries in before Michealmas (29th September), because, if superstition is to be believed the devil will lay claim to them by urinating on the leaves.
If however you do fall foul of the devil, not to worry there is an abundance of gastronomic goodies on site including damsons, elderflower, mint and nettles.
Posted July 26th, 2009
This year’s barbecue was again a great success with over 150 local people enjoying food, drink, games and live music.
The annual Fant Wildlife barbecue was held on Saturday18th July. In glorious sunshine we were entertained by folk music from Penny Heath and Alan Austin and a selection from The Fabulous Fants lead by Becky Lamb.
This year the children enjoyed a wildlife treasure hunt, penalty shot-out game and a bug display including microscopes to bring the world of mini-beasts up-close.
The barbecue chefs Andy and Kate did a great job again this year and everyone enjoyed the delicious food. An extra special thank you must go to Tessa, Jackie and Margaret for all the food preparation.
The Fant Wildlife barbecue would not be possible without the support of our sponsors; Betty’s Newsagent, Trident Trailers and The Admiral Gordon. Thank you for your kind donations.
The Fant Wildlife Group would like to thank you all for coming and we hope to see you all again next year.
Posted July 7th, 2009
The Beavers were back on site this week; but this time there was no messing about in the water. The Beavers went on a bug hunt!
Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer led the St Michaels Beaver pack around the Fant Wildlife Area investigating different habits and the mini-beasts that live there.
All the children enjoyed lifting rocks, iron sheets and carpet tiles to discover what was living underneath. The Beavers were lucky enough to spot a slow-worm.
The slow-worm is a protected species, alongside all other native British reptiles. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, sell or advertise to sell them.
During the bug hunt the children leaned that different species live on the ground, in the trees, in the long grass and in damp dark places.
St Michaels Beavers will be visiting us again in September.
Posted May 19th, 2009
The Fant Wildlife Area has been visited by Beavers! But these guests didn’t build any dams.
The St Michaels Beaver pack visited us on 20th April and the Scout troop joined us on the 18th May. Both groups enjoyed pond dipping lead by Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer.
The pond dipping sessions was enhanced for the children as they were able to use field microscopes to examine their finds. This new equipment has been provided through donations from our local councillors Nick Schnell and Stephen Paine.
The children were luck enough to identify tadpoles, pond skaters, water boatman, fresh water shrimp and many more. One scout also found a Palmate Newt.
All the children worked very hard and enjoyed themselves. The Fant Wildlife Group hope they come back soon.
Posted February 16th, 2009 (Written by Leslie Turner, Fant Wildlife Group Honorary President)
There are around 3000 varieties of Apples in Great Britain and the Fant Wildlife Area will soon have 4 of them to add to the occasional tree already there planted no doubt by long gone allotment gardeners.
The annual show of food garnered from the Fant Wildlife Area will be enriched and in particular the apple and blackberry jams and jellies will be improved by a variety of tastes.
The committee is planting among the native vegetation four varieties; Warner’s King, Jupiter, Greensleeves and Bountiful.
Warner's King (previously called King Apple) is believed to have originated in Kent and has been known since the late 1700s. It was sent by Warner to Rivers Nursery who renamed it. The fruit is rather soft, a little coarse-textured, juicy flesh with a very acid flavour. It cooks well and is in full flower in early July.
Jupiter was raised in 1966 at East Malling Horticultural Research Station and introduced in 1981. The fruit is sweet and juicy with a good texture and Cox-like flavour. It is a dessert fruit – flowering in May.
Greensleeves was raised in 1966 by Dr Alston, East Malling Horticultural Research Station. It is a prolific and precocious variety. The fruits have crisp, juicy flesh with a mild refreshing flavour. It is an excellent garden apple, pale greenish yellow, easy to grow and no doubt good to mix with the blackberries for jams and jellies.
Bountiful was first raised again at East Malling Research Station in 1921 as a culinary apple and will be eminently suitable for jams and jellies.
Perhaps in the future we may celebrate National Apple Day which seems to occur on the last weekend of October – our Harvest Home will this year be held on the 10th October. Perhaps in a year or two we could coincide and include wassailing, and juice pressing too – but that is for the future as the trees we plant are but two years old and will require a dozen years to produce enough for the appetites of our members even for jam making. Meanwhile we with the bees and butterflies will enjoy the blossom in the spring.
The Fant Wildlife Group would like to thank the National Fruit Collection, Brogdale Horticultural Trust, for there help and advice on choosing our new fruit trees.
Posted February 16th, 2009 (Written by Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Group Education Officer)
At St Michaels Infant School each week the Fant Wildlife Group organises a nature club for the pupils which is supported by teachers and parents.
The Nature Club makes things to encourage wildlife into the school grounds and neighbourhood such as bird feeders. The children look after two flower beds in the school playground, and plant vegetables in the Fant Wildlife Allotment. As you can see from the pictures the children enjoy using the Fant Wildlife Area as a resource for their after school projects.
Posted January 25th, 2009
The annual Fant Wildlife mammal survey was this year scheduled for January 23rd to 27th. However due to the inclement weather it was unfortunately cut short.
Despite this set back this year’s survey again confirmed that the site is home to a thriving population of Wood Mice. Bank Voles were also found on the one day of fine weather.
The small mammal survey was conducted with permission of the Kent Mammal Group, who provided equipment and expertise. John Callaghan, Fant Wildlife Records Officer, was assisted again this year by Cassandra Ridley, Ecological Consultant.
The humane traps were baited with cereals, apple and insect larvae to tempt the small mammals into the open on cold winter nights. Each mammal was recorded and released safely into the wild.
Posted January 25th, 2009 (Written by John Callaghan, Fant Wildlife Records Officer)
This weekend while walking round the Fant Wildlife Area I was lucky enough to spot this excellent specimen of Auricularia auricula-judae; also known as Jelly Ear Fungus or Jew’s Ear.
As you can see this jelly fungus has a very distinctive ear shape. It ranges in colour from purple to dark brown or black. It has a very rubbery texture. It is most often found on dead elder trees but also on elms.
This fungus is used often in Asian cooking. It is collected while still soft, washed thoroughly and cut it into thin slices. The slices can then be stewed in stock or milk for 45 minutes. Apparently it is crispy and tastes like seaweed.
Chinese herbalists also use Jelly Ear Fungus as a poultice to treat inflammations of the eye.
The Jelly Ear Fungus should not be confused with its near relative Snow Fungus, Tremella fuciformis, which is white in colour.
Posted November 29th, 2008 (Written by Kate Penold, Head Judge & Adjudicator)
What do all these foods have in common...Bread, scones, jam, cake, sorbet, ice cream and beer? They can all be made form the plants and fruits picked on the Fant Wildlife Site.
This was the line up for our annual food festival and as usual we were not to be disappointed. The range and quality every year just continues to amaze all who attend. So after feasting our eyes over this fabulous selection the tasting began and 20 people swiftly polished off all of these delightful foods. That was the easy bit now everyone had to cast their vote for their favourite two products. Would they be influenced by Diane’s blackberry cake on its raffia bed with sugared berries or seduced by the creaminess of the ice cream? Perhaps the attractive plate of relishes provided by Becky Lamb would make a late run up the side rails!
There was no obvious winner with all entrants scoring well and by the end only a few votes separated all the foods. This year we unusually had only one jam entry perhaps Leslie’s blackberry and apple jam was just too good and frightened the others off! A very good flavoursome jam and possibly the best jam we’ve ever had? But how lucky we were to have some mint scones (so fresh they were still warm) and some freshly made bread to taste it on. The bread was made by the Protheroe family and was a wholemeal loaf with parmesan cheese, nettles and nuts. The texture was light, the flavour excellent and you could taste the goodness; it was going to be a hard one to beat.
Bread and jam was followed by not 1 but 2 slices of blackberry cake. Lyn’s blackberry and apple loaf proved very popular with a great blackberry taste, a hint of cinnamon and a crusty top. But with Diane’s cake tasting as good as it looked the cake votes were split making it even more difficult for either to win overall. Ian’s herb beer proved an interesting drink before the tasting of the desserts began. Once again the younger entrants shined with a blackberry and marshmallow ice cream. This creamy but light dessert just melted in your mouth, making just 1 more spoonful irresistible! John’s mint sorbet made use of a very abundant herb from the site. This innovative sorbet was the surprise of the day, the mint flavour was strong and refreshing, the perfect finish to the tasting.
After very close scrutiny of the scorecards the results were announced and it was our youngest entrants Tessa Protheroe and family who were victorious with their very tasty bread. Coming a very close second with her blackberry & marshmallow ice cream was Hannah Daniell.
Thank you to everyone who brought along their foods, we appreciate the time, effort and mostly the taste of your hard work. Another successful and fun morning and everyone was already talking about ideas for the next great Fant Food Festival. Keep your eyes and minds open for ideas throughout the year as you enjoy the Fant Wildlife Site. Whether you would like to make or just come along to taste we look forward to seeing you next year.
Click here for the official Fant Wildlife Wild Food Cook Book including a selection of recipes from the 2007 and 2008 Harvest Home events.
Posted October 19th, 2008
Autumn is with us so it must be time for the Fant Wildlife produce competition. The forth annual Harvest Home event was held on Saturday 11th October.
This year’s extravaganza boasted the widest selection of edible treats to date; from cakes, scones and bread to ice creams and desserts.
Harvest Home not only showcases jams, jellies and cakes but often more experimental delicacies; and this year was no exception. Ian Hay tempted us with a traditional herb beer and John Callaghan offered a mint sorbet.
Judge, Kate Penfold, gave special congratulations to Leslie for his blackberry jam which was even better than last year.
After all the votes had been collected and verified the winner was Tessa Protheroe’s Nettle Bread. The worthy runners up were Hannah Daniell and her mum with the delightful Blackberry Mallow Ice Cream.
Posted July 31st, 2008 (written by Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer)
On behalf of the Fant Wildlife Group I would like to thank the Dartford Co-operative Society for recently awarding a generous grant of £477.86.
The money has been spent on children’s tools and educational material which will allow us to continue our work with local schools and youth groups.
Posted July 20th, 2008
The annual Fant Wildlife barbecue held on 19th July was the most successful to date. More than 100 people joined us for food, drink, games and live music.
As the sun came out we were all entertained by folk music from Penny Heath and Alan Austin and a recital from The Fabulous Fants lead by Becky Lamb. The children enjoyed a wildlife treasure hunt, lucky dip and face-painting.
Andy, who was this year’s grill master, cooked up a storm at the barbecue. The magnificent feast was enjoyed by all. An extra special thank you must go to Karen and Morel for all the food preparation.
Our annual barbecue would not be possible without the support of the event sponsors; Coburn’s the Butchers, Betty’s Newsagent, Trident Trailers and The Admiral Gordon. Thank you again for the donations.
This year it was really good to see some new faces as well as some old friends. The Fant Wildlife Group would like to thank you all for coming and we hope to see you all again next year.
Posted May 10th, 2008 (Written by Tessa Protheroe)
On Wednesday 30th April, a group of home educated children from the local community visited the Fant Wildlife Area. There were 11 children, mainly primary aged, with attending adults. Ian, Tessa and Tim were in charge.
First, Ian led us on a tour, pointing out various items of interest. Then we were split into 2 groups. Ian led one group on a bug hunt - sweeping grass and undergrowth with nets, shaking trees and looking under pieces of corrugated iron lying on the ground. Meanwhile, Tessa led the other group in pond dipping, using nets, test tubes with funnels and periscopes.
Lots of creatures were found and the kids really enjoyed themselves fishing and identifying their catches using the laminated picture sheets. The 2 groups then swapped over so everybody could try both activities.
Finally there was a treasure hunt. Ian had previously hidden laminated pictures of wildlife that frequent the site. The kids zoomed off to find them and we grown ups got some peace and quiet. Nearly all were found and prizes (sweets) were distributed.
A seasonal drizzle didn't dampen enthusiasm though we all had to shelter under trees at one point when it really poured.
Many thanks to Ian, Tessa and Tim for a well organised trip. Everyone got really wet (nobody fell in the pond), learnt loads and had a fantastic time. We grown ups were particularly appreciative of the respect offered to our children (some of whom have special needs)and of the leaders' knowledge and experience. Please can we come back soon?
Posted April 22nd, 2008
We are pleased to announce that David Asher, Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has dismissed the appeal for development of the riverside area (west bank) off Unicumes Lane.
The appeal hearing and site visit took place on 3rd April. Many local people and other interested parties attending the hearing, which was held at the Museum for Kent Life.
The appeal was dismissed on three key points: It was concluded that the proposal would materially harm the character and appearance of the area, contrary to policies in the Local Plan which seek to protect the countryside. No survey was performed to assess the impact of the development on reptiles, water vole and bats although it has been noted that habitat is present which could support these. And finally the proposal would harm navigation on the River Medway.
Thank you to all the people who attended the hearing and supported us in our campaign to oppose the development of the river bank.
Posted April 12th, 2008
Today’s site workday was a great success. New steps were built and the bark chipping path in the woodland walk was extended.
In preparation for a new storage shed, a wooden base was constructed alongside the tool store. This work disturbed a smooth newt, which was rescued and moved to the nearby under-growth.
The smooth newt, Triturus vulgaris, is common in the British Isles. The adult smooth newt is 8-11cm long with velvety skin. The throat and stomach is white with dark spots or speckles. Mature newts hibernate in tree stumps, under logs and in piles of leaves. In February and March newts migrate to breeding ponds where they lay eggs. Unlike Frog spawn, newt eggs are each laid separately wrapped in a leaf.
Posted April 9th, 2008
This weekend, unexpected wintry weather wrapped the Fant Wildlife Area in a blanket of snow.
Despite the freezing conditions the Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, is still in full bloom.
Posted March 8th, 2008
On the 7th March children from St Michaels Infant School visited the Fant Wildlife Area to plant trees. This was a special day as the Maidstone Co-operative Society donated an oak tree to commemorate the societies 90th birthday. The children took part in planting the oak as well as 40 privet trees.
Privet is partially evergreen and is often found in hedges and at the edges of woodlands. It provides good cover for birds and fragrant flowers for pollinating insects.
This new planting will encourage the Privet Hawkmoth, Sphinx ligustri, which is one of Britain’s largest moths. This moth has distinctive pink and black markings and a wing span up to 12cm (4.7inches).
The caterpillar is bright green with lilac and white stripes along the side, and a curved black 'horn' at the rear. Watch for the moth flying in June and July.
Posted January 17th, 2008
On the first site work day of the New Year the Fant Wildlife Area welcomed a record number of volunteers. Trevor Brockway, Chairman, commented that the large turnout reminded him of Pond Week 1997, when volunteers dug the main pond by hand!
Families and children joined in the fun by collecting logs and branches for new wood piles. Most small mammals use log piles for shelter from the weather and protection from predators. Bank voles, which were found on site during the recent small mammal survey, are not very agile climbers. They have to rely on sheltering under structures on the ground rather than climbing trees as wood mice and yellow necked mice often do. Bank voles are animals of the woodland and hedgerow rather than the open field so would prefer to shelter under a wood pile.
Well done to everyone who helped out on Saturday. Your hard work should provide the perfect environment for many more small mammals.
Posted January 8th, 2008
Between 3nd and 6th of January, John Callaghan, member of the Fant Wildlife Management Team, carried out a small mammal survey at the Fant Wildlife Area. The survey showed that the site is home to a thriving population of Wood mice (pictured). Bank Voles were also found over the three day period.
The small mammal survey was conducted with permission of the Kent Mammal Group, who provided equipment and expertise. John was also assisted on site by Cassandra Ridley, visiting student from the University of East Anglia.
Humane traps were baited with cereals, apple and insect larvae to tempt the small mammals into the open on cold winter nights. On the last day of the survey some local children and other members of the Fant Wildlife Group observed the techniques used for the survey and looked on as each mammal was released safely into the wild.
Posted November 30th, 2007 (written by Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer).
On the 15th and 22nd November pupils from St Michael’s Infant School returned to the Fant Wildlife Area allotment. The children planted cabbages they had previously sown and dug up potatoes they planted earlier in the year. The excitement generated by harvesting the potatoes was equivalent to finding hidden treasure! The children’s hands and clothes got very dirty; awful for mums but a new experience for some pupils. The Fant Wildlife allotment is an extension of the gardening club run by St Michael’s Infants every Thursday after school. The opportunity to grow and enjoy their own food provides an excellent addition to the pupils green education.
Posted October 25th, 2007 (written by Kate Penfold, Judge and Compare for Harvest Home).
The third annual Fant Wildlife produce competition, held on Saturday 13th October, saw an increase in numbers and variety of entrants once again, with different and excellent entries all from produce sourced from the site. This year’s bumper crop of blackberries provided a variety of entries ranging from the traditional blackberry jam and jellies to blackberry muffins and blackberry and apple pudding.
Research into traditional and ancient recipes was the source for two highly commended entries; one the 'damson cheese' made by Fran Callaghan proved a tough one to beat and the surprisingly tasty 'nettle pudding' made by Ian Hay was also very popular. But neither of those could beat the entry from our youngest competitors, Lydia and Hannah's deliciously light and tasty blackberry and apple muffins finished off with their own blackberry and apple jam. Many congratulations to them both.
Other tasty entries included damson chutney, horseradish mint vinegar and damson and apple jelly. Well done to all those who entered.
We look forward to an even greater range of wild and exciting foods next autumn.
Click here to open the official Fant Wildlife Recipe Book
Posted August 19th, 2007.
The decision by Maidstone Borough Council to prevent a marina development on the north bank of the River Medway next to the Fant Wildlife Area, may be overturned.
On the 6th August, the developer, J. Hatswell, started the official appeal procedure. The inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment will consider opinion from the local community at an informal hearing.
The proposed development for 30 boats on fixed moorings and parking for 40 cars will isolate the Fant Wildlife Area and destroy the valuable habitats on the river bank. We must preserve the rural character of the area and prevent the urbanisation of a section of the River which is rich in wildlife, both birds and mammals.
If you would like to comment on this proposed development in your neighbourhood please write to:
Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House,
2 The square,
Please quote ref: APP/U2235/A/07/2050921/NWF
More information about the original planning application can be found on the Maidstone Borough Council website. Click here and search using planning reference 06/0788.
Posted August 11th, 2007.
Sixth Form students form St. Simon Stock School, Maidstone, have been examining and recording the many plants and animals found at the Fant Wildlife Area as part of their A-level Biology coursework.
The students and their teacher Stephen Thompson, visited the site on 20th July to collect data about insects in different areas of the site. This work follows the successful projects produced last year by Joe Corcoran, Lewis Hall, Stephen Bishop and Teresa Salamonczyk. The work of these students has helped the Fant Wildlife Management Committee to design the best strategy for promoting wildlife.
The Fant Wildlife Group is proud to work with St Simon Stock School to encourage young people to study wildlife and protect the environment. It is hoped that in the future more schools will be able to use the Fant Wildlife Area in their studies.
Copies of the work produced by these students are available on request.
Posted July 15th, 2007.
The Fant Wildlife Group has lent its support to St. Michaels Infant School Gardening Club.
On the 21st June 18 children from St. Michaels supervised by their teacher, Mrs Moody, planted potatoes in an allotment adjacent to the Fant Wildlife Area. The land, which was donated by Ian Hay, Fant Wildlife Education Officer, will be cultivated by the children over the next few months.
The purpose of the Gardening Club is to give the children hands-on experience of growing food they can eat. Ian Hay said “most of the children had never seen potatoes ready to plant with shoots coming from them”.
The children have been monitoring and recording the progress of the plants, which are now 30cm high. The potatoes will be harvested in September when the children return from their summer holidays. With the help of Ian Hay and Margaret Gouge, Fant Wildlife Area Warden, the Gardening Club hope to plant cabbages soon.
Posted July 1st, 2007 (written by Lesley Turner, Fant Wildlife Group Honorary President).
One of the pleasing outcomes of the annual Fant Wildlife Barbecue event was to receive information from visitors of the presence of Nightingales which they had heard in Fant this year – so much were the two visitors impressed that they made very useful financial contributions to the funds of the Group.
These relatively rare birds can only really be heard in the quietness of a place away from traffic noise: it seems that the Fant Wildlife site, the river and Byedew’s Woods on the opposite river bank, suit them. It is hoped that our management of the area entrusted to us by Maidstone Borough Council will enable future generations of local people to continue to experience what our poets from John Milton, Trennyson, Shelley, (and even Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam) have eulogised. These special birds have inspired not just the sadness of John Keats' “Ode to a Nightingale”, but Milton's poem 'O Nightingale that on a bloomy spray/warbl'st at eve, when all the woods are still/Thou with fresh hope the Lover's heart dost fill....' which “portends success in love”! So there is magic as well as music in their song.
Posted June 30th, 2007.
The Fant Wildlife Group sends their thanks to all those who came to the annual Barbecue on 23rd June.
The weather whilst threatening to rain the whole day stayed fine and so everyone enjoyed the food provided by Coburn’s Butchers and Betty’s. Thanks for the excellent barbecue food go to Cllr Morel De Souza and family – without whose support each year this event would not be possible.
It was a good day and there was a distinctive family feel to it as there were many young children. Thanks are also given to the musician, Penny Heath and friends whose cheerful tunes made a background to the family gatherings. Well done to everyone who struggled to put up the gazebos, under the tutelage of John, Alex and Paul.
We are sorry to announce that this year’s event organiser, Gordon Smy, will be leaving us this month. We all wish him, and his new fiancée, every happiness for the future.
See you all next year.
Posted June 29th, 2007.
The Fant Wildlife Group has noted with relief the recent decision of the Maidstone Borough Council to refuse permission to an entrepreneur to develop the north bank of the River Medway adjacent to the Wildlife Site. The proposed development would have accommodated 30 boats on fixed moorings together with a car park. The reasons given for this refusal relied upon the policies laid down in the Maidstone Local Plan which in this instance were to preserve the rural character of the area and to prevent what would have been the urbanisation of a section of the River which is rich in wildlife, both birds and mammals. Our site and the River bank would have been irrevocably disturbed.
Posted April 20th, 2007 (written by Patrick Coates, Pond Warden).
There's no better way to focus a child’s innate enthusiasm for, and curiosity in, the natural world than to provide a pond net and tray, an iris-flanked bank and an open area of freshwater. A new magical world opens up upon which a whole curriculum can be based, and that is what we achieved today.
St. Michaels Infant School were invited to the Fant Wildlife Area for pond dipping. The forty children and ten adults arrived, having marched from the school in Douglas Road, at about 13.20 hrs, to the new entrance of the site, to be greeted by Margaret, Ian and myself, on behalf of the Fant Wildlife Group, Margaret and myself are qualified Pond Wardens, and Ian is a Teacher. Even so the sight of forty small children holding hands dressed all in yellow is awe-inspiring! We decided to split into two groups, one half went on a 'treasure hunt' for species and the rest did pond dipping with Margaret and me.
The children were encouraged to write down what they found in the water, and record it on a special sheet of animal drawings, to take back to their school. A lot of animals were caught into magnifying pots, recorded then returned to the area of the pond where they were found. After an initial reluctance to have a go at the pond, within a few minutes the children could not wait to get at the nets and were gathering tadpoles and snails at a pace.
After the second wave of children had their turn, both Margaret and myself had had enough, but I'm sure the children would have carried on for hours, but with relief Ian called the event to a halt. It was a very good day and even the teachers enjoyed themselves. So successful was the day that the School have asked us to put on another event for older children later in the year. I can't wait.
© Fant Wildlife Group Reg Charity Number: 1088852