End of Wild Sites events

Following two years of sucessful events, the Wild Sites activity programme is now at an end.

Our final activity took place at Ashford Warren on October 31st, where we worked with KCC Children’s Centres in Ashford on a childrens outdoor art event.

We would like to thank everyone who delivered, supported and took part in the programme, with a special thannk you to activity providers Jane Sandoe (art), Terry Whittaker (photography), Carol Donaldson (writing), Liz Humpage (schools) and TCV (guided walks). Thanks also to the organisations who allowed us to use their sites and facilities.

The project as a whole is in its final stages. Our last major task is to produce a printed guide to all the Wild Sites. We are busily writing text and compiling images and hope to publish the guide in January.

Suburban demoiselles

Buxford Meadow, on the outskirts of Ashford, epitomises what the Wild Sites project is all about. This small, wildlife-rich site in the suburb of Singleton, really is nature on the doorstep – an urban wildlife gem a short walk from a population of thousands.

It’s this Local Nature Reserve’s combination of habitats that makes it so abundant in plants, insects, birds and reptiles – a lovely old wet meadow stands next to wet woodland and a large pond. Two watercourses – Buxford Dyke and the River Stour wind through the whole thing, bringing river corridor to the mix. It was along the Stour that we started our photography workshop at the end of July, where a very healthy population of banded demoiselles thrives. This species is surely one of the most beautiful insects in Britain.

A move to the pond later in the afternoon, brought sightings of brown hawker and emperor dragonfly and more dameslflies such as common blue. A sharp-eyed participant got a photo of a white admiral butterfly – a first for this site and an unexpected bonus to the day.

Shaped by man

In the countryside near Lenham Heath are two Wild Sites that demonstrate perhaps better than any other how man’s activities can both blight and benefit the landscape. They were the venues for our photography workshop on July 21st.

Chilston Pines and Ponds is a fragment of a larger parkland – very much an ornamential, man-made landscape – cut through and cut off first by the M20 and then by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. What remains is now managed by the Heaths Countryside Corridor, a conservation group who have bought up land locally. With its iconic pines, many other veteran trees and ornamental ice pond brimming with wildlife, it was a great start to the afternoon for our photographers.

A short minibus trip brought the group to Bull Heath, a long-disused sand quarry, where nature has created a rich and fascinating ecosystem on the blank canvas left by quarrying. The unusual carpet of lichens and mosses, the sandy cliffs and the pond with its many dragonflies all kept participants busy.

 

 

 

Second time lucky at East Blean

The late spring and slow start to summer has affected so many wild species this year, and butterflies are no exception. Cool, cloudy weather and the late emergence of the heath fritillary butterfly led to us postponing a photography workshop focusing on this species.

The event went ahead on Sunday, June 30th and, although numbers were down on what we expected, this rare and beautiful butterfly did show itself. In fact the hotspot was just yards from the car park! Once everyone had got some good shots, a walk through this internationally important woodland yielded a few more sitings of heath fritillaries and encounters with dragonflies and lots of wood ants!

We hope you enjoy the images of one of Britain’s rarest butterflies.

If you go down to the woods…

Despite less than perfect weather, our ARTROOTS event in June was a really enjoyable and different (in a good way!) experience. Working together with staff from Poulton Woodworks, we created an experimental, day-long art workshop, using natural materials to make pigments and drawing instruments, then working outdoors on quite a large scale with non-conventional techniques.

Jax Tanner of Poulton Woodworks had assembled an abundance of materials from which to make natural art materials during the morning session. This was added to during a wander through the gardens at Poulton where participants harvested their own woad (a plant that produces a blue pigment) and collected other materials. We ended up with a great range of raw materials, including bramble roots, beetroot, wood ash and walnut ink, as well as goose feathers to make quills and charcoal from the woods.

After a delicious BBQ lunch and a presentation about experimental ways of working by artist Kristiina Sandoe, it was back to the woods with the materials we had made and down to some creativity. People didn’t hold back, working on large pieces in the ground, attaching paper to tree trunks to take rubbings, drawing with sticks, splattering and dribbling pigments, even riding bikes and walking across paper. The work was then hung from low hanging branches to create an arboreal exhibition. Some were left to be altered and degraded by the elements…if you go down to Poulton Woods today, you may see some of them there still.

 

Poulton Wood Local Nature Reserve is a 28 acre ancient woodland, owned and managed by the Canterbury Oast Trust, a charity that works with people with learning disabilities. To find out more about their work at Poulton Wood click here

 

 

 

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From the Highlands to Hambrook

 They may be a little bit out of place in the Stour Valley but the highland cattle at Hambrook Marshes have probably never had so much attention as they got at our photography workshop on June 16th. A group of 19 peolple, many of whom were members of the Friends of Hambrook Marshes group, joined our tutor Terry Whittaker for a morning photographing the habitats and wildlife of this wetland alongside the River Stour, a stone’s throw from Canterbury. As well as the bovine residents, some participants got some great shots of basking lizards while others  captured the richness of the wild flower meadows at their best.

Creative fruits of Turner’s Orchard

June 15th saw the first of two Wild Sites workshops for community art groups in Littlebourne near Canterbury.

First it was the turn of the adults, who met at the appropriately named Turner’s Orchard for a morning of landscape painting in watercolour. The great JMW would have been proud of them, painting ‘en plein air’ despite some early rain showers. We are sure you will agree the results were excellent.

This coming Saturday, it’s the turn of the children – members of a village art group for youngsters and pupils from the local primary school.

Drawing on natural inspiration

Drawing from life is always a challenge, particularly if your subject is an animal that can’t be asked to keep still! How to get around this problem was one of the main themes of our day long drawing workshop at the Wildwood British Wildlife Park earlier in June. Tutor Kristiina Sandoe also covered topics like note taking and mammal anatomy, while Suzanne Kynaston, Education Officer at Wildwood, helped participants to learn more about the animals they were sketching.

There’s no doubt who the star performer of the day was! Oakley the tawny owl featured in an animal encounter session that gave everyone taking part a chance to make a more detailed study, and the results were some really lovely drawings.

A family friendly version of this event will run in August.
More details…

Delightful Denge

It may not have the most appealing name, but Denge Woods between Chilham and Crundale is one of the most beautiful woodland sites in Kent. That’s why we chose it as the venue for our first photography workshop on May 19th. Participants have been sending us their photos from the day and the results are simply stunning – thanks to all those who have contributed. Click on the link below to see the full gallery.

Denge Wood gallery