Sunday, 19 October 2014

Gutter Bridged

Today is a good day for an update on the Gutter Bridge community woodland project in Swaffham Bulbeck. 

Since the last update - the lease has been signed so the land is now leased to the Parish Council and the village steering group has been moving things forward. 

Fortunately one of their members is a master craftsman and has built a bridge to cross the stream which was installed in September,. This provides safe an easy access for villagers to the woodland with out going on the road. 

Since the nesting bird season  finished the rangers have been back to having working parties int he woodland, and have cleared the entrance way, making it nice and light and open. Today they have planted 3000 native bluebell bulbs in the first glade which they cleared last year. 

It was a tactical affair with well planned markers and bags of 100 bulbs to go around each one, nice and evenly. The reality may have been different when people were faced with 3000 bulbs, and certainly my approach ended up beging slightly more like sling them in and hope for the best (don't tell the organiser)! We will see the results when hopefully a blanket of purple covers the glade next spring!

Lois Baker

Community Ranger
Wicken Fen

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Campsite Facelift

On Monday a team of volunteers from BT helped us to make some improvements to our wild camp site. After a very popular summer with lots of bookings and groups using the site to enjoy a wild night under the stars the site was in need of some TLC. 

The group from BT replaced the front of the Eco-Loo which was getting a bit holey no ideal when you're trying to use the loo. They also added some steps up the side of the ramp which has been a popular shortcut through the summer. 

The trees which have got well established were all weeded an their tree guards lowered, as well

The team enjoyed a fire at the site and there was time for marshmallow break between all the hard work!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Weird and wonderful wild art

Fabulous creations have been appearing across the lawn. Our lovely team of family adventure guides have been being creative with natural materials they have found around the gardens, and just look what impressive creations they’ve made!! Can you tell what they all are?

This autumn, why not come and create your own wild art? Feel free to use natural resources you can find or grab a bucket from reception. What will you make?

Sophie Atkinson
Anglesey Abbey
Family Volunteering Project Co-ordinator and Community Engagement Assistant

Monday, 13 October 2014

Photo-competition winners (you get the picture)

Congratulations to the winners of our photo-competition!

Our adult winner sent us this lovely picture (below). It really captures the sense of fun and exploration at Anglesey Abbey. We love it!

Our young photographer winner sent in this beautiful picture of a flower. We love the use of contrast. 

Both our winners received a voucher for our gift shop and their photos are up on our community wall, along with some of the other entries we particularly liked.

Keep a look out for our next photo-competition and do continue to send in pictures and stories for our community wall.

Email with any items for the community wall.

Sophie Atkinson
Family Volunteering Project Co-ordinator and Community Engagement Assistant

Friday, 3 October 2014

Schools out...side!

We have been working with Swaffham Prior Primary school to assist with outdoor learning for the last four years. In the 2013-14 school year our activities were supported by funding the school received from the Ernest Cook Trust

This funding has allowed us to continue to do lots of fun outdoors activities at the school, including allowing the school to purchase their own pond dipping equipment to use in their pond.

In the spring term we built on some work from previous year and, again working with years five and six, produced some guides to the creatures they had previously found in their outdoor area during a ‘Bioblitz’. The guides will allow future pupils to identify the wildlife they find in the nature area and have already been used by KS1. It was an interesting lesson discussing the information they would need to provide for people to be able to identify creatures scientifically and tell the difference between similar species. Thanks to the funding they school has been able to print and laminate the guides for future use.

Finally we support the school with the maintenance of their outdoor area, clearing weeds, looking after the pond and keeping it up to scratch. The children get involved wherever possible and have over the year helped to build their own willow hurdle screens to screen off the outdoor area from the next door car park. The funding has also allowed us to commission another charity The Rowan Foundation to create a sign board for the school. Rowan is an established Cambridge based arts and crafts centre and charity for learning-disabled people. They have built a lovely display board to go by the pond to tell the children about the wildlife in the outdoor area and to allow them to record what they see on a blackboard which we installed this week. 

Lois Baker
Community Ranger
Wicken Fen 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Natural forms

What is natural form?

This is one of the questions I’m trying to think about in my PhD. As ever though, I learn as much at Anglesey as I do in the library. Here is the Green Team’s answer…

1. The Green Team 

The Green Team are a group of learning disability adults who work on creative projects in and about the environment. They are part of LEAP Centre, which is based at Huntingdonshire Regional College, and their concern is that society as a whole has lost touch with the intricate tapestry of connections which bind us to the natural world. Given this, the process of production is as important to the Green Team as the artwork they produce. In making the art, the group is also always engaged in learning creatively about the environment. We learn, they argue, not only by passively observing but also by doing; through working with natural processes and materials, we become more aware and more respectful of their magnificent complexity. Volunteering with the Green Team has been deeply humbling. I have learned too much to list about the welter of details that lie beneath the surface of the grounds of Anglesey Abbey.

2. Leaf sculptures in space

Over the past three months the Green Team has made a series of leaf sculptures to contribute to the National Trust’s Autumn Colour Festival. The leaf structure is significant. Just as all the veins of the leaf come together in the stem that connects it to the tree, bringing to it the carbon energy it has absorbed from the atmosphere, so the materials that make up the sculptures have been carefully gathered by the team from the surrounding area. The frames are made from willow, which the green team harvested from Cow-hollow wood near Waterbeach (a process which was helpful to the forestry commission that manages the site). The leather used to bind the sculptures was collected by them from a nearby factory, and would otherwise be thrown away. The plants and berries used to make the natural dyes (mulberries, willow bark, beach nuts, mushrooms, plumbs, blackberries, elderberries, nettles, iris root, walnut skins and more) were gathered from the grounds of Anglesey Abbey. Natural forms then, like leaf structures, bring together and organise materials from all sorts of different places.

3. Leaf sculptures in time

How often do I think about all the places my ingredients have come from when I make a cake? What is even less likely though, is that I think about the time that has gone into making the things I use. I may get as far as noticing that the flour has been imported from Italy, but I don’t ever get on to thinking about the seasonal conditions that made it possible for it to grow. Working with willow, the details of the growing season become important. The properties of the willow, its flexibility for example, are intricately connected to the weather patterns over its growing season. Even though it’s easy to forget about the time patterns of weather and season, this is an essential factor in autumn colour. The colours we see around us in autumn are intimately related to the growing histories of the trees themselves. What is more, natural colour is innately transient. Unlike the pixel data with which we photograph it, the autumn colours will fade. So too will the leaf sculptures the Green Team have constructed. Traditional methods of fixing natural dyes involve the use of toxic metallic compounds which the team didn’t want to introduce to the grounds of Anglesey Abbey.

Finally, natural forms, like natural colours, are characterised by their transience. When the leaf sculptures are finished with, they will entirely bio-degrade. Their compounds will be recycled by nature into the next generation of autumn trees.

Maddie Geddes-Barton
Community Volunteer and National Trust Student Ambassador

Photography © Maddie Geddes-Barton; Sophie Atkinson