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