A Wild Year at Low Barns

From hedgehog greeting, nature rambling to pond dipping and electro-fishing, Durham Wildlife Trust’s Low Barns Wildlife Watch Group have enjoyed another wild year connecting to nature.

Now in its fifth year running at Low Barns Nature Reserve in Witton-le-Wear, one of our region’s most important wildlife sites, the group brings together young nature lovers on the first Saturday of every month to embrace the wildlife on their doorstep.

The morning sessions, aimed at children aged 4-11, this year have included indoor and outdoor activities, surveying, field trips, guest speakers and feathery and prickly visitors. The fun activities have been finely crafted by the group leaders, volunteers Rachel Richards, Anne Kelly and recently Honia Devlin, who share a passion for the natural world and for inspiring young people to learn and care for it.

Rachel, an ecologist, brought back the Wildlife Watch group to Low Barns so that local children could explore and enjoy the natural world. The Trust’s reserve has a wide range of habitats for children to explore and is home to many different types of birds, mammals, plants and insects plus it has a classroom in the cosy visitor centre which is ideal for indoor learning.

Barry Moses, who has been a visitor to Low Barns since he was young, has been bringing his son Charlie to the group for over two years. Barry explained: “I started bringing Charlie because I wanted him to develop an interest in wildlife and learn about the importance of conservation from an early age. He loves coming, every session is different and there’s been so much we’ve both learned and enjoyed this year.”

Scooping up the activity of the year for Charlie, and several of the boys in the group, was discovering and recording what was lurking beneath the water whilst pond dipping at Low Barns. Whilst Abigail’s favourite moment was when the guest speaker from A Prickly Problem arrived with two hedgehogs.

Keith Thompson’s two daughters Abigail and Aimee are regulars. The family all recalled the bird ringing session and explained how fascinating it was to see how tiny, fragile and delicate the birds were and to learn how important recording their travels are for conservation.

From spotting a woodpecker at Cockfield Fell to toasting marshmallows at Deepdale, the field trips this year successfully engaged the children with the great outdoors. The session on recycling delivered by Helen McGonigal, a writer, blogger and zero waste enthusiast, also taught our future generation how they can help the environment from the comfort of their own home.

Anne Reed, County Councillor and foster parent, has been bringing children to the group since it re-established, she added: “The group is such a valuable resource for families and the area. The children love coming and the sessions are delivered in a fun way that helps the children really develop a deeper understanding of their environment and how to look after it.”

The children also explained they never leave the group empty handed. Combining nature with art, they have designed their own bird boxes, robin baubles, butterfly biscuits and prickly acorn hedgehogs. Each craft matches the seasonal theme of each session and provides a great keepsake.



As well as making crafts the children have also been making new friends. Several parents mentioned how coming to the group regularly has also connected their children to each other.

The group are looking forward to enjoying a new set of wildlife adventures together in 2018 and welcome more young nature enthusiasts to come along and join the fun.

Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of The Wildlife Trusts. Their aim is to encourage children to engage in their environment and the issues affecting it. Low Barns Wildlife Group are one of over 300 groups across the UK. DWT also run the Rainton Meadows Wildlife Watch. Details of sessions for both groups can be found here: https://durhamwt.com/events/

Karen Statham – DWT Volunteer