Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Along came a spider...

While wandering around the butterfly trail at Wicken Fen, you may notice a few additions. Gazing from one of the trees is a large spider, while down in the grass lurks a giant pike! These beautiful willow creations were made by a group of children taking part in a three day project at Wicken Fen. The group were at Wicken to get to know each other before they make the transition to secondary school.

On their first day, we did a tour of Wicken Fen, getting inspiration for the willow sculptures. We saw lots of butterflies and dragonflies. We also went on a bug hunt, finding caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and lots of spiders!

After lunch, everyone got their creative hats on and the result was a host of ambitious designs! Inspired by the watery habitat, one group decided to make a pike as long as Lois!

The second day saw their designs come to life. Our lovely team of volunteers helped the group make two butterflies, a spider and the notorious pike. Using woven circles, teardrops and ovals, the designs became a reality. Everyone showed a real dedication to detail - one of the groups had even brought along some beautiful pebbles to use for the spider’s eyes!

We arranged the creations near the spot where we had been working, using a handy tree for the butterflies and spider.

The third day involved all things water! First, the group got to explore Wicken Fen the best way possible – by boat! Jack gave a tour of the Fens and the group learnt all about its history and habitat.
Then, having travelled on top of the water, the group delved into what lurks within it. Sadly no pikes were found while pond-dipping, but all manner of other creatures were discovered!
We caught lots of dragonfly nymphs, which live in the water while they grow and develop into dragonflies. We were amazed to discover that they can exist in this stage for up to four years! We also watched a water scorpion battle and had fun catching the elusive pond skaters, which seemed determined to escape us!
But it was the newts that were the prize catch! The most exciting watery resident to be caught was the Great Crested Newt, the largest newt found in Britain. It has a beautiful orange underside. We learnt that newts are common at Wicken Fen, but are a rare species, which is why their protection is so important. We all had a quick look before releasing her gently back into the water.
So at the end of the three days, we had not only got to know each other, but learnt lots about Wicken Fen too!

Sophie Atkinson
Community Engagement Assistant
Anglesey Abbey

Photography © Sophie Atkinson; Hannah Lissaman

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