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Wake up in Wakehurst

04 September 2016 17:20

bats, bows & bunting

What a way to end the summer of 2016...

Last Thursday saw the first of hopefully many, Forest School sessions at Wakehurst Place, a National Trust garden just outside of Ardingly, West Sussex, that is also the home to the Millenium Seed Bank

This weekend then culminated in a night in the woods at Wakehurst, ending the summer season in style with the first of the Kids' Wild Sleepovers.

Set in Pearcelands Wood, 16 children joined in the fun on Thursday to take part in a full day of forest fun, starting with introductions and then straight into exciting activities. These consisted mostly of bow making, using recently whittled Sweet Chestnut lathes that the children found in the woodland. Using a palm drill to make a hole at either end, the children then threaded sisal through to complete their bows, getting the tension right and finishing it off with a bit of frapping. Then after that, our Robin Hoods and Maid Marions set to, firing their bows with bamboo and hazel arrows through a make-shift target. Viking knitting, fire-lighting, Nordic slinging, den building, branding irons and Hapa Zome - Japanese flower painting, were also undertaken, until it was time to head back to the main entrance to be collected by their parents.

Despite the rain, on Saturday, 12 intrepid overnight explorers, aged between 8 and 12 years, joined us once again in Pearcelands Wood to experience a wilderness sleepout! The majority of our group hadn't even been camping, so for them this was a real sense of achievement and a great thing to undertake and enjoy. The day took the same form as Thursday's, so more bows were created and all the other activities tried, before arranging themselves into groups to sleep for the night in their shelters.

In the evening, Jenny Clark (MBE), founder of the Sussex Bat Hospital in West Sussex, enlightened us with her extensive 30 year knowledge of bats and brought some of her prized posessions along with her. Cocooned within a cosy wicker basket, each bat was carefully taken out of its own little resting place and with Jenny wearing a special pair of cotton gloves to handle them, each bat snuggled in whilst being exhibited before the glare of a welcoming head-torch, to our eager group of onlookers. Pipistrelle, Noctule and Brown bats were displayed and the children, and adults, were in awe of the little critters that get such bad press and the care and attention that Jenny gives them.

Later, a hearty meal of Cowboy beans, sausages and potatoes was consumed, followed by Gutter pudding, and then it was customary to sit around the fire and stare into it prior to having hot chocolate and s'mores. After some jokes were performed, stories told and songs sung, our sleepy heads actually asked if they could go to bed!

Returning to my hammock for the last time this season, I was once again lulled to sleep, but this time by the gentle breeze and the drip, drip, drip of raindrops falling on my pillow! Note to self - must fashion myself a drip line before my next expedition!

Early morning start and after eating the traditional eggy bread, baked beans and bacon, accompanied by a large cuppa,  the children continued with their activities before heading back through the beautiful gardens of Wakehurst to be met by their families.

If you would like more information about bats or where to take rescued ones then please get in touch with the following link...