Thursday, 28 August 2014

A very hungry caterpillar

Anglesey Abbey's inspiration station has acquired its very own hungry caterpillar. But unlike the far more famous one, this caterpillar prefers shiny pennies to fruit or cake! So why not post a penny in its mouth and hear it say thank you?! It makes a cute ‘ting’ sound each time you feed it a coin. All the coins consumed will go towards stocking the inspiration station, helping provide magnifiers, bug pots, guides and drawing things to take round on your visit.

Sophie Atkinson
Community Engagement Assistant
Anglesey Abbey

Photography © Sophie Atkinson

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Along came a spider...

While wandering around the butterfly trail at Wicken Fen, you may notice a few additions. Gazing from one of the trees is a large spider, while down in the grass lurks a giant pike! These beautiful willow creations were made by a group of children taking part in a three day project at Wicken Fen. The group were at Wicken to get to know each other before they make the transition to secondary school.

On their first day, we did a tour of Wicken Fen, getting inspiration for the willow sculptures. We saw lots of butterflies and dragonflies. We also went on a bug hunt, finding caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and lots of spiders!

After lunch, everyone got their creative hats on and the result was a host of ambitious designs! Inspired by the watery habitat, one group decided to make a pike as long as Lois!

The second day saw their designs come to life. Our lovely team of volunteers helped the group make two butterflies, a spider and the notorious pike. Using woven circles, teardrops and ovals, the designs became a reality. Everyone showed a real dedication to detail - one of the groups had even brought along some beautiful pebbles to use for the spider’s eyes!

We arranged the creations near the spot where we had been working, using a handy tree for the butterflies and spider.

The third day involved all things water! First, the group got to explore Wicken Fen the best way possible – by boat! Jack gave a tour of the Fens and the group learnt all about its history and habitat.
Then, having travelled on top of the water, the group delved into what lurks within it. Sadly no pikes were found while pond-dipping, but all manner of other creatures were discovered!
We caught lots of dragonfly nymphs, which live in the water while they grow and develop into dragonflies. We were amazed to discover that they can exist in this stage for up to four years! We also watched a water scorpion battle and had fun catching the elusive pond skaters, which seemed determined to escape us!
But it was the newts that were the prize catch! The most exciting watery resident to be caught was the Great Crested Newt, the largest newt found in Britain. It has a beautiful orange underside. We learnt that newts are common at Wicken Fen, but are a rare species, which is why their protection is so important. We all had a quick look before releasing her gently back into the water.
So at the end of the three days, we had not only got to know each other, but learnt lots about Wicken Fen too!

Sophie Atkinson
Community Engagement Assistant
Anglesey Abbey

Photography © Sophie Atkinson; Hannah Lissaman

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Wildflower meadow fun!

Each month, the community team meet for a sharing day, to catch up on news and learn from each other. This month’s sharing day taught us all about the wildflower meadow. Under the outstanding tuition of David, Anglesey Abbey’s Assistant Head Gardener, we perused the wildflower meadow, finding and identifying all sorts of flowers.

David and some of the community team

Contrary to what you may think, the wildflower meadow is not actually planted. Instead, the flowers have appeared after a change in the management of the area. Previously, the lawns were kept short, frequently mown and the cuttings left on the grass. This returned the nutrients to the soil, encouraging the growth of grass. By stopping this practice, all the seeds that were lying dormant in the soil were able to grow, replacing the grassy lawns with a beautiful array of wildflowers. 

With David’s help, we identified agrimony, bird’s foot trefoil, plantain, lady’s bedstraw and many more!

Bird's foot trefoil

But not content with just the flora, we also spotted a variety of creatures along the way. The butterflies were out in force and Kate managed to capture some stunning pictures (after a lot of patience!).

Small skipper

We also saw a host of interesting creepy crawlies, including a very friendly caterpillar and lots of crickets and grasshoppers.

Lotte and the very friendly caterpillar!

After lunch, the community team caught up with the community news. We discussed the family activity guiding taking place during the summer holidays. This year, there will be led activities on some days (including wild art, den building, storytelling and mini-beasting) run by our lovely volunteers, alongside all of the self-led activities which can be done at any time down at Hoe Fen. Overall it was a lovely day and a brilliant first sharing day for me!

Sophie Atkinson
Community Engagement Assistant
Anglesey Abbey

If you're interested in getting involved with the community team, contact

Photography © Kate Boursnell

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Community Ambassadors #volunteersweek

It's national #volunteersweek and we want to thank our diverse and amazing volunteers, including our community ambassadors who live locally and spend their time improving and enhancing our involvement, communication and relationship with local people. This week the team at Anglesey Abbey had their monthly meeting, we are currently recruiting a team for Wicken Fen - if you want to find out more contact

The Anglesey Abbey ambassadors are quite a new team and came about as part of our project to refurbish and open the domestic wing at Anglesey Abbey. This part of the house was the workplace for many local families and we have been collecting their stories over the last year so that we can share them.

This months meeting focussed on plans to share the news of free access for residents of Lode, Bottisham and Quy to attend the vintage 60's fete we are holding on June 28th to celebrate the official opening of this new part of the house. To gain free entry they just need to bring proof if their address with them.

If you don't live in one of these villages you can still join us see for all the details.

Janet Jephcott
Community Engagement Officer
Anglesey Abbey

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Celebrating Reach 24Acres

Today, thanks to a massive effort from the volunteer organisers from the village, Reach Village celebrated the opening of Reach 24Acres with a good old knees up!

As a bit of background, the 24 acres of land were purchased in 2011 by the National Trust, with support from Esmee Fairburn, as part of the Wicken Fen Vision Project. The NT then leased some of the land to the Reach Parish council and the village community have been working on projects there. Over the last two years it has been transformed from an agricultural field to a community cricket pitch, orchard and woodland (see previous blogs). 

The weather was great for the opening event where there were lots of activities taking place. The first game on the new cricket pitch, Reach village -v- The National Trust Team. Neither team was quite sure what expect from the other having not meet before, both teams were trying to sound me out before the game, being the link between the two, but I also had no idea of either sides cricketing ability. The NT team were first in to bat, with the one representative from Wicken out first. They put in a surprisingly solid performance and beat all expectations, all out for an impressive 217 after 37 overs. The Reach Team in bat looked a little shaky at first quickly loosing 4 wickets but then steadied themselves making over 150 before there 40 overs were finished, although it wasn't quite enough, the National Trust were declared winners!

For those not into cricket there were plenty of other options, a baking competition, tug of war, bug hunt, willow weaving, coconut shy and plenty more. There was an  unplanned water fight too, which the National Trust, represented by myself and ranger Maddie, definitely lost to the children of Reach! It felt like being in an episode of Downton Abbey, one of the ones from the end of the series where it is a lovely summers day, with a nice fete and cricket match!

Lois Baker
Community Ranger
Wicken Fen

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The tiger who tells stories....

This half term our new Family Adventure Guides are testing out some pop up activities for families, once you arrive at Anglesey just ask our reception team what's on and where that day. We have den building, minibeast hunting and storytelling on our list at the moment. This is part of a bigger project to involve more families as volunteers with us - more news to follow!

Helen, Jo & Lotte are some of the team who have been perfecting their storytelling technique, below is their story and pictures.

Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone, but we thought you ought to know, a Tiger was seen at Anglesey Abbey last week. Yes it's true!

Before being spotted by at the inspiration station, the Tiger was discovered in the cafe feasting on sandwiches & cake whilst people looked on in amazement!

Fortunately the Furry Feline didn't eat any visitors. In fact it turned out that she had been enjoying the Storytelling session with Helen which took place in the Pinetum earlier in the day. Tiger was so inspired that she treated everyone to her own excellent storytelling performance of Judith Kerr's 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea'. 

So next time you're at Anglesey, keep an eye out.. You never know who you'll meet!

Until then....

'Tiger's Mum' ;0)

AKA Jo Marriott, Family Adventure Guide, Anglesey Abbey

Sunday, 25 May 2014

50 Things Cambridge

We have been at Scotsdales, today doing lots of the fifty things activities, including broaching, wild art and snail racing.

The list is of Fifty Fun activities to do outdoors before you're eleven and there quaters (or even older, I still enjoy doing them!).  You can pick up a scrapbook to find out about them or visit

We have also launched our Cambridge 50 Things map to show you some great places in Cambridge to do the fifty things, although some of them can just be done in the garden or local park. There is a whole blog page about this, click on the tab above.

Take on the challenge this summer and let us know how you get on #Cambridge50Things.

My favourite is a close call between bird watching and going on a long bike ride!