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Get out and go wild
8:00am Thursday 26th July 2012 in Outdoors
Billy Clarke, of Oakley, near Thame, is given the lowdown on wildlife ponds from BBOWT president Steve Backshall Picture: Ric Mellis/BBOWT
Intrepid wildlife explorer Steve Backshall is just at home hunting for beetles and frogs in a nature reserve in Didcot as he is tracking tigers in Nepal; and Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre is exactly where dozens of children found their wildlife hero last week.
Steve Backshall is President of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, which is why he was at the education centre last week presenting awards to children who took part in the Trust’s ‘Do Something for Wildlife’ competition.
Steve was very impressed by the entries which ranged from creating wildlife ponds and bug hotels to sowing wild flower areas and putting up bat boxes. “The quality of the entries is superb, with the children focusing on what they can do in their own back garden, which is the most important thing. They’re all doing things that will provide extra habitats, or will help animals have a better chance of surviving.”
Teri-Faye Coupar, from Fir Tree Junior School, in Wallingford, led a group of friends: Lucy Coles, Megan Giles, Flora Coulson, Hannah Polkey and Wanqing Sun in their own version of a wildlife adventure. Together they spent a week working hard to revive the woodland area at the bottom of their playing field to make it both more attractive to wildlife and a place where other people can learn about nature.
The girls cleared a pond of duckweed and found tadpoles, fish and pond snails already living in it. Having learnt that certain butterflies like to lay their eggs on stinging nettles, they decided to leave them and moved on to creating log piles for beetles and homes for hedgehogs. Finally they created a compost heap using material cleared from the woodland, hoping to make a good place for slugs and snails. Reviewing the children’s photographic book of their project before awarding them a runners-up prize, Steve commented: “They’ve done everything. It’s really great to see how they all got involved, and they’re going to share it with children from other schools too.”
Brothers Ben and Joe Newport, from Fulbrook, near Burford, were inspired by a visit to Chimney Meadows nature reserve to make a superb Bug House in their own garden. “This was the most fun project we have ever done!” they said. The boys carefully collected wind-blown materials like beech twigs, bark and pine cones from local woodland, and scoured their garden for broken roof tiles, garden pots and bamboo canes to make the four-storey Bug House. Awarding the brothers first prize in the 9 years and over section of the competition Steve commented: “These children are on a wonderful wild journey. Projects like this could prove to be a turning point in their lives.” Fifteen-year-old Billy Clarke, of Oakley, received a special award for his extraordinary project running Oakley Animal Rescue (OAR) from a shed at home. Billy has saved dozens of wild animals including many injured birds and a bat, but the animals he most enjoys rescuing are hedgehogs. Over the last two years, Billy has recruited 18 teenage helpers who rescue wildlife casualties and provide advice through a Facebook page. You can do lots of things for wildlife. Go for a walk around Chimney Meadows nature reserve and take a look at the ‘bug home’ that inspired Joe and Ben Newport, discover the near-relatives of dinosaurs at Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre, or take your binoculars to Warburg Nature Reserve and spot birds from the hide. You can also take a virtual visit to our reserves at www.bbowt.org.uk and see What’s On throughout the summer holidays.