A Day Out In Stoke Park For A Real Wildlife Adventure

Well, another very exciting week again! Over the summer holidays I have been working for Learning Partnership West at Southmead and Lockleaze adventure playgrounds, and what a great success too. I wanted to bring hands-on wildlife exploring to the kids, so, over the last 4 weeks, I led the staff and groups of families on wildlife safaris. We went fossil hunting at Baddocks woods and found lots of fossilized corals and “diamonds” (actually quartz), aged 400 million years old. Armed with a high powered microscope, we collected samples and set up a “nature detectives” lab in the playground; the kids had a great time washing off the muddy rocks so we could see the corals. It was fantastic to hear the children’s and adults’ reactions when they saw these fossils under the microscope, because you can see individual coral polyps, which is where the spores are released. “ Wow,“ they said ,”I can’t believe what I’m seeing, it looks awesome!” “Indeed,” I replied.
I have not seen so many youngsters so keen to wash muddy stones so they can have a look at their treasures.
Lockleaze Adventure Playground backs on to Stoke Park and it’s an amazing asset to them too. I  remember, as a kid, going over there with adults and collecting wood for various activities.
With memories like that in mind, one day last week I suggested we all go blackberry picking. We all wandered around the fields of the park hunting out the biggest and fattest blackberries we could find; it was great to watch as the children filled their bowls up in no time, even after eating so many we could not eat anymore.
When we returned to the adventure playground some of the kids made a fantastic blackberry dipping sauce and we all tucked in to digestive biscuits’ dipped in the delicious sauce. Another group set up a science lab on a table with the microscope and we all went off collecting spiders and bugs and anything that caught the eye. All of a sudden a group of kids were legging it across the playground shrieking “spiders!” “Wow,” I replied, “Let’s have a look at what you have found.”

An adult female zebra spider

This is an adult female zebra spider Salticus scenicus jumping spider.

”Oh, wicked!,” said one, “Have a look at this spider; it looks like a zebra!” In fact it really is called a zebra spider; a tiny species that is a member of the jumping spider family  that does not spin a web but instead is very fast and will hunt down other insects and then pounce on them.
Under the microscope the kids were fascinated by how it looked. Up next was a worm. They are not as ordinary looking as you might think. For instance, did you know worms have spikes sticking out of their sides which they use to help them move through the soil?