From conkers to cave spiders...
Jane Steed from the National Trust's Sheringham Park in Norfolk shares their latest seasonal activities with us. Creepy!
It’s been all about Fungi with the education team at Sheringham Park for the past few weeks. We’ve been creating our own bracket fungi in the woods with natural clay and our reception class forest schoolers and investigating the wonders of the stinkhorn with a variety of ages. This particular fungus seems to fascinate, amuse and revolt children and adults alike. Its fruiting body starts life as a wobbly jelly-filled egg which, according to Rob the learning officer, is in fact edible although it looks like a bit of an acquired taste… At least it doesn’t stink like the fully mature form; “What’s that horrible smell?” asked one scout on a night walk before being introduced to the offending organism which was lurking under a rhododendron.
In addition to the stinkhorn we found honey fungus in large amounts, sulphur tuft, with its greenish, yellowish hue and candle snuff; small grey white twists with a blackened base and many others. A lot of fungus names are pretty descriptive and the forest schoolers were particularly interested in “jelly ears” that they found on rotting twigs in the wood and there is no better way of describing them!
^ The central, white portion of the witch’s egg is the edible morsel – tastes ‘radishy’ apparently…
There is such a wealth of natural materials for crafts and activities at this time of year and our toddler group Acorns spent a highly enjoyable if rather soggy morning investigating some of them. We searched for fallen leaves of different shapes, sizes and colours, acorns and acorn cups, beech mast, sweet chestnuts and conkers. Our theme for the day was 'conkers bonkers' so these featured quite heavily with the construction of some terrific conker worms and snakes and a thrilling and highly competitive relay race (team Sally and Jane comprehensively thrashed team Jenny and Rob but there may have been grounds for a stewards enquiry...) The morning concluded with a stirring rendition of a song about conkers which, once learnt, was strangely hard to forget; the chorus was repeatedly slaughtered by certain members of the education team long after the last Acorn had left!
^ The little Acorns making clay bracket fungi
Even though winter is well on its way, there is plenty to do at Sheringham Park for parents wanting to get their kids outdoors. During half term we had a Halloween trail amongst the rhododendrons and autumn crafts (conkers making another appearance here!). We also spent a morning investigating the fascinating world of the spider with the chance to meet one of Sheringham Park's resident cave spiders; amongst the UK's largest species. There was a 'Wild Afternoon Tea' event for family groups, with foraged berries and fruits for a variety of delicious (and some maybe not so delicious) preserves to consume with home baked chestnut flour scones (courtesy of Denise).
It's all about getting out into the countryside and looking for and learning a bit about some of the natural foods you can find, and then trying some of them out round a camp fire with a hot drink – perfect!
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