Tag Archives: Sutton Ecology Centre

30 Days Wild 2016 – Days 25 & 26

We’ve had two really good wild days this weekend.

Yesterday we went to Mayfield Lavender, an organic lavender farm really close to us. I wasn’t sure how much lavender would be flowering at the moment as it is still quite early in the season, so was pleasantly surprised when we arrived to see how much purple there was already. We parked in a local park and walked through the meadow and woodland to get there – it is a really nice walk – and then spent over an hour walking among the lavender. In order to keep the organic status of the lavender the owners of the farm use a great method to control the pest species, the Rosemary beetle.. they ask the local children to collect the beetles in jam jars and then reward them with a sweet! My three love collecting the beetles, spotting all the other insects and I always find we are much calmer after being there for any time. That wonderful smell! Yesterday we collected hundreds of beetles (so if you are local then please go and help out too!), we saw lots of cuckoo spit and froghoppers, a couple of grasshoppers and crickets, flies, bees, ladybirds, and bugs and beetles.

12And today, as well as playing in the garden all the time we’ve been at home, we took a walk to our local ecology centre this afternoon and had, in Jasmine’s words, a brilliant time! On the way there Ben spotted a June Bug (Summer Chafer beetle) and whilst at the ecology centre we saw butterflies, moths, newts and slow worms galore, two toads, a couple of grasshoppers and plenty of small insects. The spot of the day was the largest Slow worm we think we’ve ever seen! It was easily over a foot long! Jasmine confidently picked it up and held it safely so we could all get a good look at it.. she is amazing that girl! She now, of course, wants to go back as soon as possible to look for it again and has told Gordon that, in future she is to be in charge of picking up the slow worms because she is better than him!1 2TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_25 TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_26


Out in nature

We’ve had five children (my three plus two more) and two mostly nature-based days yesterday and today.

Yesterday morning the kids all played Lego and Jasmine re-potted her beans into larger pots. In the afternoon I had arranged a social meet-up at the local ecology centre with some of our home educating friends and we had a great time. We saw sunshine and snow showers! And lots and lots of wonderful creatures.

In the pond we found tadpoles, water boatmen, pond skaters, sticklebacks, damselfly larvae, dragonfly larvae and a water scorpion. Elsewhere, in the woodland, we found toads, common newts and a couple of slow worms.

Ecology Centre 1 Ecology Centre 2I’m not sure what excited the kids more; the snow or the creatures.. I’d like to think it was a bit of both! It was definitely different, pond dipping in mid-spring in the snow!

Today the kids played games this morning (Uno, Snakes and Ladders, Mastermind and Guess Who) because Thomas didn’t want some of his Lego models played with. We also did some crafts – Ben made a bed for his Furby and there were other crafts going on that included googly eyes and glitter! – and everyone played with the Geomag. Thomas made a diamond and one of our friends made a pretty cool helicopter!

This afternoon the kids all went to forest school and Gordon and I did some shopping and then went for a quick walk through Nonsuch Park. Back at home there was some more crafting involving more glitter, more Geomag play and finally some TV.


Bug hunting and science with chocolate

After the way last week ended I am pleased to say that this week started much better. Sunday morning was nice and relaxing and the kids played (mostly) nicely together. Ben helped Gordon put the food shopping away (I order online), the kids all played Lego and Pokemon, I got a bit more Lego sorting done and there was generally much more harmony in the house.

In the afternoon we went for a walk to the local ecology centre. I wanted to get out somewhere but had forgotten that Gordon was taking the car to work, so we were limited as to where we could go. There was such a Spring feel in the air that I decided it would be a great time to go to the ecology centre and see the start of Spring arriving (and check whether it was time to get out pond-dipping stuff out yet!). I had also seen on my Timehop that this time last year we made nesting material hangers for the birds. As they got well used I am keen to do them again and thought the ecology centre would be a great place to collect some material.

Thomas wasn’t thrilled with the idea of walking so he stomped all the way there! But once we arrived the mood changed for the better and everyone was very happy for a while. The kids played on the logs and then as we walked along the path heading for the minibeast area Jasmine remembered about collecting twigs, so her and Ben spent a while looking for the perfect material for Blue tits and Goldfinches (the birds they want to help!).

In the minibeast area we searched under logs and carpet tiles and found the usual slugs and snails, worms and woodlouse but we finally got lucky and saw a newt 🙂 Jasmine was so happy to be bug hunting again.. I love that she still loves creepy crawlies so much!

gWe carried on around the site and Jasmine spotted a bee so we watched that for a while, we peered into the pond to see if there was any life yet (we only saw one whirlygig so it will be a few more weeks before it is worth pond dipping yet) and we looked for slow worms but didn’t see any so it must still be a bit too cold for them.

On the way home we studied a wall along a passageway to see if it was a secret entrance to Diagon Alley! We took it in turns tapping bricks but nothing happened 😉


Today started much the same, nice and relaxing. I got up early to fit in my 5k walk/jog and once back home got breakfast done and all the morning jobs completed. I also baked some cakes in preparation for our science this afternoon – the effect of heat on chocolate and then making chocolate truffles!

Jasmine and Ben had their swimming lesson and both did well. Jasmine managed swimming on both her front and back, although she still isn’t keen on being on her back. But she did it! And her teacher (the normal teacher is back after 6 weeks away) was very pleased with her progress.

This afternoon we melted chocolate and talked about what the heat energy was doing to it. Then we made chocolate truffles and chocolate bugs – recipes from an Usborne cookery book Jasmine got from the library.

While the chocolates were in the fridge we took scooters and went to the local playground.


It was good to be outdoors in the sun although there was still a chill in the air. The kids had a great time on their scooters though 🙂

Back at home they watched TV while I made dinner and then we ate some of the chocolates for pudding.

Bed time was half a chapter of Harry Potter (it was a long chapter and my voice gave up!) and then a meltdown from Jasmine once she was in bed because her “head story” had gone wrong and she didn’t know what to do. Maybe I could/should have dealt with it differently but I gave her the advice that she should just go to sleep. My advice didn’t help so she took a while to calm down. I find it so hard to respond in a rational way by the end of the day, especially to something I find so irrational.. definitely something I need to work on!


Tents, reptiles and lost teeth

Yes, as you can see from the title of this post Jasmine’s tooth has finally fallen out! It wasn’t without drama however.. it spent two days hanging on for dear life and not wanting to budge. Two days of her wanting it out but saying it hurt any time anyone tried to move it. And then finally today, as we were out collecting a parcel from a local shop she told me it was bleeding and on inspection it really was. The time had come! After a few seconds persuasion to put her hands away from her mouth so I could look I had it out in a second! And she scooted the whole way home grinning at everyone that passed her to show them her gap! She is very proud! I do hope the tooth fairy remembers to visit tonight 😉tooth

Yesterday morning Gordon took Ben out with him to take the car to the garage (again). While they were gone Jasmine and Thomas played upstairs for a but while I got on with some housework and then Thomas did Reading Eggspress. After he had finished his lesson I got him to read to me. He loves the lessons, earning eggs, spending his eggs and doing the quote quests but I can’t remember the last time he went in the library and read a book! He chose one called “Man of Steel” and read all 5 chapters. I notice when he is reading to me that his brain works quicker than his mouth and he often shortens sentences but keeps the meaning of the story (something I do as well!). I never know whether I should be getting him to read the correct words or whether it doesn’t matter, and I therefore tend to be fairly inconsistent in whether I ask him to repeat it or not. But I figure as long as he is getting the meaning of the book it doesn’t matter really? Right?

In the afternoon Gordon and I put the new tent up in the back garden to make sure it was all there (Ebay purchase). I wasn’t sure it would fit, and also wasn’t sure Gordon was right in trying to do it without instructions! Turns out I was right on one count and wrong on the other.. he managed to get it up but it didn’t fit in the garden! The best news is that, other than the one snapped elastic which we knew about, it is all there and in very good condition too. Looks like we got a good deal 🙂

tent2Today we arranged to meet a friend at the Ecology Centre to do some pond dipping. When we arrived we found there was an organised event on, so pond dipping was out! We decided to join the event.. a reptile day! At £3 per child it was a complete success! They had reptile handling, a trail to follow with questions to answer and a prize at the end, reptile themed crafts and snacks too. So perfect for both us and our friend and her children 🙂

We started with some snake handling and then did the trail, followed by more reptile stroking and snake craft. The kids fell in love with the tortoise! I don’t think they’ve ever seen one so close or stroked one before so it was the “new” animal to them and they loved it!

ReptilesThe rest of the day was spent scooting to the shops (when the tooth fell out) and watching Thunderbirds on TV.. Gordon has really got them in to it and they love it!

Pond Dipping

Pond dipping.. one of the kids most favourite activities. On our first go at it, two years ago, we got the bug and it doesn’t matter how many times we do it, the kids always love it (well, so do the grown ups if I am being honest!)

On Wednesday we went to the local ecology centre with a couple of other home educating families. We took our nets and buckets and were looking forward to seeing what we could find. We’ve been pond dipping at the ecology centre lots of times over the last two years, but not since the beginning of spring this year so we were keen to see what had changed in that time.


The pond was full of life! We caught so much we had to empty the buckets a couple of times because they were getting too full!

We caught lots of fish, a tadpole, lesser and greater water boatmen, a great diving beetle, lots of damselfly larvae, two dragonfly larvae, water scorpions, pond skaters, pond snails, whirligig beetles and probably more I have forgotten.

pd2I think the kids could have stayed by the pond all day but after a couple of hours we decided to move on to try and see some of the other things the ecology centre has to offer. As we were packing up the nets one of the children came and told me they’d seem a stripy caterpillar. I went to have a look and between us we found around 20-30 Cinnabar moth caterpillars on Ragwort. They are so beautiful!

PD3We walked around the centre, looking for slow worms and grasshoppers. We didn’t see any slow worms but did see a few grasshoppers. Jasmine decided not to try and catch any though because she was keen to continue round to the our next stop. We were heading for the log pile to find newts and toads!

The kids were soon turning over logs and seeing what they could find underneath. They were quite disappointed not to find many newts but did find some toads. Luckily though, Gordon came to the rescue and he went off for a wander and came back having found the newts hiding place! This made the kids day when he showed them where at least 20 newts were hiding!

PD4At the end of the afternoon I think we all agreed that was our most successful trip to the ecology centre so far this year. Everyone had a really good time and it was lovely to see the kids all working together and sharing their knowledge of the animals we found.

Of course, never one to miss an opportunity, I snapped some of the other animals I saw along the way too..

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Being Outdoors

We have spent a lot of time outside this week. One of the consequences of this is that I have been too tired in the evening to blog so I thought I would do a round-up post of all the fun we have had.

On Monday while Jasmine and Thomas were at Forest School, Gordon, Ben and I went to Richmond Park. We decided to go to Pen Ponds, as I thought we might see some water birds nesting or even with young. It was a beautiful sunny day and we didn’t have to go far before we saw ducklings!

Richmond ParkWe only had an hour to explore so we walked a little way around the pond and although we didn’t see any more ducklings, the views are wonderful so we enjoyed the walk. On the way back to the car, Ben kept himself occupied jumping in puddles and running through mud!

Richmond Park 2

On Tuesday we went to WWT London. After going several times in the space of a couple of weeks after we first got membership, we haven’t been for a few weeks now so we were keen to see what changes we could spot in the flora and fauna. We started off on the South Route, stopping at the pond dipping area to look at the underwater camera and then walked around the lagoon to the Peacock Tower where we stopped and did some bird watching. The kids had been a little tetchy at times during the morning so I wasn’t sure we’d manage to stay in the hide for long but once we were in there, they were really keen and we managed to see a good selection of birds, two highland cows (kept to help maintain the grass areas!) and see out a rain shower!

Wetlands 1On the walk back to the entrance we saw two herons fly overhead and land in a pond right next to us! It was amazing to see!

After a stop for ice cream we just had time to walk along the West Route to the Wildside, to see if we could spot any nesting birds or Spring insects. We weren’t disappointed with the birds and we saw a Canada Goose, Coot and Swan all on a nest, but we didn’t manage to spot any dragonflies as we’d hoped.

Wetlands 2As we left the Wildside we walked past the otter enclosure on the way out, and we were really lucky that the otters were out! Obviously we had to stop and watch them for a few minutes before heading home.

Wetlands 3

On Wednesday we did our Spring Nature walk, which you can read all about here. The kids took their cameras out to the local ecology centre to photograph signs of Spring. Of course, looking for these signs meant hunting for toads and newts and peering into the pond!

Ecology CentreThursday and Friday we spent at home and in the garden. Our Insectlore butterflies began emerging from their chrysalides and we were thrilled to be in the right place at the right time for the second and watched it enter the world!

ButterfliesAnd then finally today we went to the May Fair at Morden Hall Park. We have been to the fair for the last two years so the kids know what they want to do before we have even get there! The highlight of previous fairs for them was the Bumper Boats – think little powered boats in a big paddling pool, each with a squirter so they can soak each other! They have been talking about these boats all week, but when we got there today there were no Bumper Boats to be found! Luckily, the disappointment was short lived and they soon found other activities to keep themselves occupied.

They rode mini jeeps, stroked a ferret, watched the entertainer, saw birds of prey, went on the trampoline, held rabbits and guinea pigs, won toys, dug for a badge at the National Trust stand and ate some delicious fudge. What a great day!

Fair 1 Fair 2 Fair 3
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Spring Photography

A couple of weeks ago a friend mentioned that she wanted to go on a Spring nature walk with her son, to take photographs of all the signs of Spring they could find and make a seasonal display. I knew Jasmine and Thomas would love to do the same with the cameras they got for their birthday so we arranged to go together. The date was set for Wednesday of this week and plans were made for others in our home education group to join us, and then on Tuesday her little boy came down with Chicken Pox!

So, best laid plans and all that.. yesterday we went on our Spring Walk with our home education group, but without our friends who had thought of the idea. I do hope he recovers soon and they manage to get out because the idea was wonderful and the kids had such fun with their cameras.

We chose the local Ecology Centre as our place to go. It is convenient to get to and has a diverse population of flora and fauna within the grounds. I think we found a good selection of it yesterday


I thought I would share some of the kids photos first. Amoungst the usual blurry ones (of which there weren’t as many as I feared – it seems they are learning to keep still) there were some great shots. Today’s problem was getting too close to the object they were photographing, but it is all learning for them and as you will see, they are getting much better!

They took lots of photographs of different flowers.

From Jasmine

Jasmine flowersand from Thomas:

Thomas flowers

And the best of the rest, from Jasmine it includes the tree canopy (the leaves grow back in the Spring), a dragonfly that landed nearby, tadpoles in the pond and the reeds in the pond.

Jasmine 2

From Thomas it includes a Horse Chestnut tree full of flowers and the Slow Worms we found.

Thomas 2

I think the kids did a really good job of finding lots of things to photograph that show “Spring”. They looked, listened, noticed so much. They are very keen to learn the names of flowers and trees and are very aware of the nature and beauty around us. I am going to make a photobook with each of them so they have a keepsake of their “Spring”.

I also took my camera out and in between taking photos of the kids taking photos, I got a few shots of Spring myself.

Buttercup Dragonfly Ladybird Robin

Making Potion on the Halloween Trail

With no car and a storm passing through, we haven’t really been out anywhere in the last few days. We’ve walked to the shops, but that is about it! I had loads of ideas of places to go this week and they’ve all been put on hold while the car is in the garage getting fixed.

So when I saw that the local Ecology Centre was holding a Halloween event today there was no question that we would go! The Ecology Centre is just over a mile away so is easy to get to on foot, and we always have a great time when we are there.

When we arrived today the kids were all given a “Cauldron” (a brown paper bag) and a recipe for “Witch Withering Potion”, which included things like “1 witches wart”, and “two goblin fingers”. We had to follow the signs around the Spooky Trail and look for the labels on trees and bushes telling us where to collect the ingredients.

All the ingredients were things found naturally, such as Haw berries, Horse Chestnut leaves, Crab Apples, Lime Seeds and we saw lots of witches and wizards along the way too!Halloween trailOf course, being at the Ecology Centre, the kids were keen to find some creatures. We peered into the pond and saw lots of fish, and we looked under carpet tiles and logs and found one tiny slow worm and several toads and newts. The slow worm slunk away before I got a photo but the kids picked up a couple of toads and newts and spent several minutes admiring them before carefully placing them back.Halloween Trail 2Once we had collected everything for our potion and seen all the animals the kids needed too, we went back to the entrance field, where the final activity was to plant a seed. The kids each made a paper plant pot from tissue paper and planted a wild rose seed. I loved the way it was done today because the organisers had simply opened up some rose hips and the kids each picked a seed out to plant! It was much nicer than planting seeds from a packet, and something I will definitely remember for the future.

As usual, we had a great time at the Ecology Centre and we’ll be putting our potions by the door on Thursday night to keep all the witches and goblins away!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

More days out

We have been out and about again over the last two days. Yesterday we met up with Caterpillar Tales at Claremont Landscape Gardens for a picnic and then went on to meet another family from our home education group at Garsons Farm, where we all went fruit and veg picking.Claremont Landscape GardensToday we went to the local ecology centre, another place we visit frequently! We met up with a local family who are considering home education and a friend of theirs who is already home educating. They had never been to the ecology centre before so we tried to show them a bit of everything!

We had another good pond dipping session and caught 2 newt tadpoles, fish, whirligig beetles and the largest water boatman I think I have ever seen! We also caught a dragonfly nymph today.

Away from the pond we saw a slow worm, three newts and lots and lots of toads. We also found (dead unfortunately) what we think is a  lesser stag beetle? Can anyone confirm this for me please?Ecology CentreJasmine did make me laugh while we were looking for the newts and toads. You can see in the top right photo above how she is holding the toad. She came and told me that this is how Steve Backshall (from Deadly 60) holds the poison dart frog so she was doing the same as him!

Whenever the TV is on at home at the moment, the only thing Jasmine and Thomas want to watch is Deadly 60! Still, it seems to be teaching them something!




Newt hunting and pond dipping

I woke up this morning and my back felt quite a lot better, thank goodness!

We had friends visiting today, our neighbours from our old house. The kids have known each other since they were babies and always get very excited to see each other, and today was no exception!

Luckily, with my back feeling better I managed to drive us all to the ecology centre as we had previously arranged.

Our friends have never been to the ecology centre before so we were looking forward to showing them round and introducing them to all the animals we frequently find.

We were definitely not disappointed today and after playing around the stepping stones for a bit we walked to the logs and the kids found lots and lots of small toads, some centipedes and a smooth newt.

Smooth NewtAfter lifting all the logs (at least twice!) we walked over to the pond to start pond dipping. I had taken one net and one sieve on a pole with us today so was hoping to catch some of the smaller inhabitants of the pond.

The kids had a few turns each with the nets but didn’t seem to be catching much. Between us, in the first 15 minutes we caught one tiny fish, some pond skaters and a couple of water boatmen and damselfly larvae. I was just starting to get disappointed and the boys were beginning to lose interest, so I let Jasmine take a net and fish by herself, thinking she wouldn’t catch much more.

I don’t know how she does it. She really is a creature magnet or something, but in the next few minutes she caught a  newt tadpole, 2 good sized fish, whirligig beetles and more! She also netted a water scorpion skin which was quite interesting to look at.Pond dippingAfter quite a long session dipping in the large pond we moved over to one of the small ones to see if we could catch anything different. Thomas took charge of the net so Jasmine went off to catch grasshoppers by herself.

We didn’t catch much today in the smaller pond, just one damselfly nymph and a dead frog! Jasmine found several grasshoppers though and managed to catch one or two.Bugs
It was well after 1pm when we left the ecology centre and we still hadn’t had any lunch. Ben was starting to get hungry but I really think Jasmine would stay there all day if she could! She was very disappointed when I said it was time to go.

I’m sure we’ll be back again soon though!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall