A Nature ‘How To’: Have a WILD Summer holiday (ideas for families, or engaging your own inner child!)

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Hooray! School is out for summer! With long weeks ahead of unlimited adventure, there is so much opportunity for connecting with nature and having a WILD Summer holiday. The average summer break is 6 weeks, that’s 42 days, So I have put together a list of 42 inspiring ideas, for ways to re-wild your (inner)child!

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking it is unfair, as a adult we don’t get school holidays…but if you have any free time off this summer, why not pick an activity you loved to do when you were younger, or challenge yourself to fit some wild time into your everyday routine whenever possible!

This list is just a starting point – there are so many ways you can enjoy being out and about in nature, even on a rainy day. Feel free to swop in any of your own favourite activities, or add a few more – let me know by leaving a comment below!

  1. Picnic – what better way to celebrate the freedom of summer days than with a picnic! Pack up some salad or sandwiches and head outside for some alfresco dining! It it’s raining, simply tune into a nature documentary on TV, then spread a blanket out on the floor or build a fort in which to enjoy your snacks.
  2. Build a bird box – Most birds will have finished nesting for this season, but they might use bird boxes to roost in over the winter, and getting boxes up early means the birds can learn where they are ahead of nest spring! You can make your own with a few DIY skills – the British Trust for Ornithology have a guide here: https://www.bto.org/about-birds/nnbw/make-a-nest-box
  3. Visit a nature reserve – go on adventure, see rare or unusual wildlife and learn about conservation. The RSPB, WWT or you local Wildlife Trust will all have locations and access details listed on their website. There might be a Woodland Trust or Butterfly Conservation site near you, or a council managed Local Nature Reserve too. Many reserves run events during school holidays from pond dipping experiences to volunteer days.
  4. Count butterflies – The Big Butterfly count runs from 20th July to 12th August, but you can log your sightings any time until the end of August. Settle down for 15 minuets with a cup of tea, and see what butterflies visit your garden, or venture further afield and count butterflies in your local park or green-space. There’s even a free smartphone app to help you out! https://www.bigbutterflycount.org/   IMG_8067
  5. Follow a bee – what flowers do bees like best and how far do they travel? Learn more about these fascinating creatures by trying to follow one on its foraging trips! What shape and colour flowers does it visit? Can you keep up? You can download a great guide on how to help bees, from Wild About Gardens!
  6. Cloud spotting – climb a hill or go out in your garden, lie down and watch the clouds passing overhead. As air currents move thousands of feet up, the clouds change shape and form. What shapes can you spot – perhaps an animal, or maybe a mythical beast?
    For those who prefer a scientific approach, The Cloud Appreciation Society has an app to help with identifying different types of clouds https://cloudspotterapp.com/ Why not download it and impress your friends with your weather forecasting!
  7. Draw a nature picture – take inspiration from the natural world to create a work of art. A landscape, a tree, your favourite creature, or copy an illustration from a field guide as a way of learning wildlife id. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.

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    This song thrush was painted my Mum. See her work here: Shirley’s Studio Stuff, Facebook
  8. Build a bug hotel – bug hotels come in all sorts of sizes and styles. The aim is to create lots of crevices for invertebrates to hide away in. You could include sticks, pinecones, straw, broken flowerpots, and logs with drilled holes. Have a look at these examples!
  9. Plant flowers – visit your local garden centre or plant nursery and pick up some colourful flowers to add to your garden or balcony. Watch which flowers the bees and butterflies are visiting and choose their favourites! You can also start planning for planting bulbs such as crocus and daffodils to provide early spring flowers for the first emerging insects, but it is best to wait until the Autumn half-term holiday before you plant these.
  10. Beach combing – there is more to a trip to the seaside than sun and sand! Next time you visit the coast, try looking for creatures in rockpools or shells and seaweeds on the tide line. (Remember of course to always put any wildlife back where you found it!) Whilst you’re on the beach, fill a bag or bucket with any rubbish you find, helping to keep the beach and ocean clean for the creatures that live there!
  11. Sleep out under the stars – are you brave enough to spend a night outside? Pop up a tent or set up a camp bed on your lawn. The nighttime is full of weird and wonderful wildlife we don’t see during the day. You could shine a bright light on a white sheet to attract moths, listen for the snuffling of a hedgehog, and look up at the stars!
  12. Write a nature poem – grab that pen or keyboard and start playing around with words. Maybe you could write a poem about your favourite creature or time of year. Or how about starting with the line “I wish I was a…” And remember, it doesn’t have to rhyme, but its quite fun to try and find words that do!
  13. IMG_2801Litter-picking – take a bag on your next walk and collect any litter you find. When you get home, sort it into rubbish and recycling and dispose of it in the bin. Remember to wear gloves and watch out for dangerous litter such as needles, broken glass or chemicals.
  14. Keep a nature diary – you are having such a fantastic wild summer holiday, you don’t want to forget it! Keeping a nature diary is a great way to record all the exciting things you see and do. You can include a sentence or few each day, and add photos or drawings, even stick in nature finds such as leaves, flowers and feathers.
  15. Send a postcard to your MP – is there an environmental issue you feel strongly about? Send a postcard to your MP to let them know your thoughts, and ask them to encourage the government to take action.
  16. Make a bee drinking station – bees and insects need fresh water for drinking, just like birds and mammals. They can easily drown in deep or flowing water, but a shallow dish filled with pebbles and water creates a safe place for them to land and drink.
  17. IMG_0822Build a pond – a pond is one of the best ways of attracting wildlife to your garden as it benefits so many different creatures. If you don’t have space for a big pond, or you can’t dig in your garden, an old washing up bowl or large container can make a great ‘mini-pond’. Remember to include rocks or a shallow edge to allow anything that gets into your pond to get back out, some oxygenating plants, and somewhere for insects to perch. Rainwater is best for filling your pond as it contains less chemicals. If you want a bigger water feature, check out my previous blog post on building ponds 
  18. Play pooh sticks – there must be at least 100 things to do with a stick, playing pooh sticks is just one! All the players stand on the same side of a bridge and hold a twig over the water. Let go at the same time and rush to the other side to see whose twig wins the race as they float under the bridge.
  19. Get a new perspective – lay down low in the grass, or climb up into a tree to get the view of an ant or a bird! What can you see, hear and smell in the different viewpoints?
  20. Search for a rainbow – how many colours can you find in flowers, leaves, bugs and birds? Why not race your friend or family to see who can tick off all the colours of the rainbow the fastest – green might be easy, but what about purple or orange?
  21. Explore the urban jungle – even if you are not out in the countryside, a day in the city can still provide lots of wild time. The sides of railways, motorways and canals offer ideal green corridors allowing wildlife to travel through the city. Parks and gardens offer refuge for all kinds of creatures too. Look up and you might be lucky enough to spot a peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on earth, flying high over the buildings!
  22. Make a hedgehog highway – did you know, hedgehogs travel up to 1 mile a night in search of food and water? A small hole in your garden boundary, 13cm square is the perfect size! Find out more at https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/link-your-garden/  
  23. Say goodbye to single use plastics – take a look at your household habits and find alternatives to the plastics you use every day. Avoid cosmetics containing microbeads, choose products with less packaging and reuse or recycle whenever possible!
  24. Press leaves and flowers – make keepsakes to remember your wild holiday by pressing leaves and flowers. Place them between sheets of kitchen towel or tissue paper and put them on a flat surface with something heavy on top; a pile of big books works well! Leave them for a couple of weeks. When they are pressed, you can use them to decorate pictures, or even make bookmarks or greeting cards as gifts.
  25. Dance in a downpour – rain is not always a bad thing! Celebrate the rain, as it is vital for keeping our gardens, farmlands and wild places lush and healthy! Go on, have a splash!
  26. Unplug for the day – can you go a whole day without technology? Turn off your phone or tablet, unplug the tv and computer and go outside. Spend time together with friends and family and really connect with the world around you without a screen in the way!
  27. Metre square wild patch – take a look as an areal view of your town, how many gardens do you think there are? If everyone dedicated just 1 square metre of their garden to nature, imagine how much space that would add up to! Mark out your metre of ground with sticks, stones or string, and watch what grows, buzzes and hops in to visit!
  28. Walk barefoot – open up a whole new world of experiences! We often think about what we can see and hear, but how often do we pay attention to what we can feel? Take a walk without shoes and socks; cool off in a fresh stream, feel the tickle of short grass or the warmth of stone in the sun.
  29. Listen for birdsong – its amazing how much we hear when we close our eyes. Try listening in different places and at different times of day to discover a whole soundscape you possibly never noticed before.
  30. Map local wildlife – draw a map of your local area and mark on it all the exciting wildlife finds and sightings you have. This is a fun way of recording the wildlife you encounter, and you could stick it inside the cover of your nature diary (idea 14) or pin it up with your natural history museum (idea 35).
  31. Start a compost heap – compost heaps are a fantastic way of dealing with garden waste, and they also create a home for lots of wildlife. Reptiles such as grass snakes and slow worms sometimes hide in the warm heap and it also attracted lots of bugs, which are food for birds and hedgehogs. If you don’t have your own garden in which to start composting, why not research it, and suggest starting a school garden in the new term.
  32. Wild treasure hunt – this is a good activity to do with friends or family. Write a list of natural objects to find or photograph; you can even include textures, colours. A few examples could be something spikey, something soft or something with more than one colour. Look for nuts and berries, feathers and leaves.IMG_2104-1
  33. Hug a tree and discover its age – throw your arms around a tree and try to guess how old it is! A rough estimate can be worked out by measuring all the way around a trees trunk at adult shoulder height, and then dividing the measurement by 2.5
    The New Forest National Park have a useful guide: http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/students/teachersarea/teaching-resources/act_nf_talltrees/tall_trees_-_calculating_tree_age.pdf
    Can you find the oldest tree in your neighbourhood?
  34. Become a wildlife presenter – do you watch shows such as Springwatch, or Blue Planet? All you need to make a simple nature documentary is a phone with a camera, and an idea! You could take viewers for a tour round you local area, or show off the things you’ve done for wildlife in your garden.
  35. Make your own natural history museum – from snail shells to feathers, interestingly shaped rocks to skulls, it is amazing what you can find on adventures in nature. A windowsill or bookshelf, or even a shoe box, makes a great miniature ‘natural history museum’ where you can display your treasured finds. Label them carefully so you remember what they are and where you found them when showing your display to visitors. If you have a pinboard, you could even include photos, maps, postcards and pressed flowers.
  36. Bug hunting – You can look for bugs in your own garden or a local park, or join in a special event at your nearest nature reserve. Look under logs and stones, in long grass and damp places. A pot with a magnifying glass can help you get a closer look at the creatures you find, just gently scoop them in with a paintbrush or spoon, and put them back carefully exactly where you found them afterwards.
  37. Read a book in a wild place – with all the excitement of the holidays, sometimes it is nice to sit quietly and unwind. Take your favourite nature themed book to a suitable wild place for a relaxing read. My favourite is to read “Tarka the Otter”, beside a river!
  38. Challenge your friends to a nature spotting competition – There are lots of ways to turn wildlife watching into a competition – every year I take part in a ‘Bird Race’ to raise sponsorships for a local bird conservation charity. Groups take part, attempting to see as many different species of bird as they can in one day; it’s great fun!
  39. Research your favourite creatures – there’s no escaping the fact that it is certain to rain at some point during the holidays. If you’re not able to head outdoors because of the weather, pop onto the internet, or visit your local library, and learn all the fascinating facts about your favourite animal or group of creatures. You could design a leaflet or poster telling people about why that animal is so special, and if there is anything we should be doing to protect it.
  40. Learn the countryside code – when we are on holiday and enjoying ourselves it is easy to forget that other people share the spaces we love so much. The countryside is not only our playground, but visited by lots of other people, and it is a workplace and home for many people too. It is important to respect and look after the countryside so everyone can enjoy it. Simple things such as not starting fires, taking litter home, keeping dogs on leads near livestock, and not climbing on walls/gates/fences are good ways to be a responsible explorer! You can find the countryside code here.
  41. Go dragon hunting – of course I don’t mean the frightening fire-breathing kind (you could look for those, but they are very shy and hide with magic), but rather dragonflies; the fearsome hunters of our waterways. Lakes, rivers and canals are the best places to look. These fast flying predators have huge eyes and quick agile reactions enabling them to catch flies and other smaller insects in the air!
  42. Spot roadside wildlife – going on a road trip? It might not be as boring as you might think! Look out for wildlife on the roadsides such as foxes at twilight, or birds of prey including kestrels or buzzards sat on fence posts. When managed well, road verges can be wonderful for wild flowers. The charity PlantLife are running a campaign to encourage more conservation friendly roadside management, find out more on their website: http://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/roadvergecampaign

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Enjoy your WILD summer holiday!
What will you do today?

 

 

Note: This blog contains links to external websites and apps. Sussex Field Notes blog and its author hold no responsibility for content of these external sources.

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