The Delights of Spring

Inwoods Small School ended its second term looking predominately a mucky brown colour due to two months of regular rain. But after the Easter break, we returned to green grass, red tulips and yellow primroses, and added a glowing bunch of colourful children, out of their muddied waterproofs, and keen to start the Summer Term.

The sun, warmth and spring growth brought everyone outside for most of the first week, matching the sudden burst of life with much joyful and eager engagement in the outdoor learning landscape. The Oak House deck became a classroom without walls, equipped with resources for drama, painting, construction, water play, reading and much more. We observed and identified edibles in the local vicinity and had an afternoon of ‘Olympic Games’ organised by the oldest group of children, ending with a challenging maths relay race.

The highlight of the week was a hike at, and exploration of, Kingley Vale national nature reserve. Our nature expert, Toby, turned up by surprise to help us keep a healthy focus on the wonderful flora and fauna of this ancient yew woodland and lowland chalk grassland. All manner of Vale animals made an appearance from the second largest (roe deer) to some of the smallest but most important: the latter being the yellow meadow ants that live in interconnected hummocky hills of up to 250,000 colonists with multiple queens. These ants carry chalk-hill blue butterfly eggs, caterpillars and cocoons into their nest where they protect them and milk them for honeydew poo until the adults emerge in June-August. A wonderful example of symbiosis in the natural world that one would probably have no idea of unless you were with someone that knows and shares.

The wildlife seen and heard at Kingley Vale also included the bloody nose beetle, miner bee, brimstone butterfly, peacock butterfly, vivaparous (aka common) lizard, buzzard, kestrel, raven, carrion-crow, whitethroat, chiffchaff, blue tit, great tit, green woodpecker, wood pigeon, pheasant, tawny owl. The plants included yew, whitebeam, dogwood, oak, ash, wayfarers tree, privet, hawthorn, blackthorn, wild cherry, sycamore, field maple, hazel, bramble, gorse, honeysuckle, old man’s beard, ivy, nettle, white deadnettle, red deadnettle, ground ivy, salad burnett, thyme, marjoram, plantain, ribwort plantain, dandelion, daisy, barren strawberry, wild strawberry, celandine, dog violet, early purple orchid, yarrow, yellow hawkbit, knapweed, etc.

If you don’t know what many of these creatures and plants look like listed above, then come and join our Tuesday nature programme and hikes at Inwoods!