Wild Activities: Adventures in Nature
Welcome to our activities page. Each month we will post a seasonal activity to hopefully inspire you to go outdoors and connect with nature. Some of these activities will be aimed at children and families while others will be more appropriate for adults, but we hope that whatever your age or stage you will find ideas here that take you on an adventure in nature.
Here in Wales, January often brings our first fall of winter snow and the temperatures dive overnight, barely rising above freezing level the following day. This creates the perfect environment for making ice pictures. For this project you will need to wrap up warmly and go for a walk in your local woods or park, taking a bag for storing and carrying the natural materials you collect. When out on your walk remember to look around you for signs of winter: birds gorging on the last of the berries; tracks and trails of mammals and birds in the snow and leafless trees silhouetted against the winter sunset, their branches black lace-like against the sky. If going on a walk as a family, remember to pack a flask of hot chocolate to encourage any young stragglers!
You will need:
A variety of natural materials collected from the woodland floor or along the hedgerow on your walk e.g. holly berries, alder cones, the last of the autumn leaves, fir or spruce needles etc.
Old, empty plastic containers (e.g. margarine or ice-cream tubs) or plastic/metal plates
String or wool
What to do:
1. Arrange your natural materials on the plate or at the bottom of the recycled container.
2. Fill the plate or container with enough water to cover the natural materials.
3. Cut a length of string or wool and make a loop out of it, tying the ends together and laying it on the side of the plate or tub with the knotted ends in the water and the loop hanging out (this will be used to hang your ice picture).
4. Leave the plate or container outside overnight for the water to freeze.*
5. The following morning, release your frozen ‘picture’ from the container (you may need to use a little hot water around the edges to help with this process). Using the string loop, hang it outside on a branch or fence. If you make several, they look beautiful together hanging on a tree.
*If the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing point overnight, you can put your containers in the freezer overnight.
We would love to see your ice pictures. Please send us a photo to post@cambrianwildwood and we will post some of them on our social media.
Although the shortest month of the year, February can often feel never-ending as the long, dark days of winter take their toll. This month’s activity encourages us to use all of our senses outdoors, find beauty in nature and feel alive once more, ready for the spring.
This is an activity for both adults and children. Scroll to the bottom for a printable PDF version for children where they can tick the boxes as they go.
Winter Sensory Scavenger Hunt
Instead of the traditional scavenger hunt which encourages us to look for and collect natural objects, this scavenger hunt encourages us to capture experiences in nature through our senses. So, wrap up according to the weather and enjoy a mindful walk in nature, using your senses to collect the following experiences/sensations.
a) Fresh air b) Gorse flowers
c) Wet leaves d) Pine needles crushed between your fingertips
a) Catkins b) Animal/bird tracks in mud or snow
c) Pause for a few minutes to watch clouds moving across the sky
d) Trace with your eyes the silhouette of a bare tree against the sky
a) A robin singing b) Creaking trees/branches
c) Water flowing d) The wind
a) A cold, smooth stone b) The bark of different trees
c) Soft moss d) Feel the wind in your hair or against your face
Raindrops or snowflakes on your tongue.
Birds are courting and busy building nests, buds are swelling and bursting into leaf, the fields are filling with new-born lambs and wildflowers are quietly appearing in hedgerows. Nature is beginning to awaken after its long winter sleep. This is the perfect time to start using a ‘sit spot.’
A Sit Spot is a quiet place in nature that you visit regularly, using your senses to develop your awareness of and connection to nature. Time spent in nature helps lower blood pressure, improve concentration, and develop imagination and creative thinking. Sit Spots were used by our ancestors to gain knowledge of birds, plants and trees and develop their animal tracking and wilderness survival skills. Sit Spots have also been used by naturalists to learn about patterns in nature and animal and bird behaviour. Adults and children can all use Sit Spots today to help us relax, improve our wellbeing, and get closer to nature.
Choose a quiet place in nature, which could include your garden or local park. Sit Spots are more effective if used regularly, so ease of access is important. Find a spot where you can sit comfortably and safely. Try not to take your mobile phone, or if you must, put it on silent.
Next, use your senses to help you become more aware of your surroundings.
• Touch – notice the ground supporting you, touch the bark of the tree you may be leaning against, feel the sun on your face.
• Smell – damp earth after a shower, flowers, the air around you.
• Sight – observe the many shades of colour, the way a bird moves, the veins in a leaf. Become aware of and use your peripheral vision.
• Listen – become aware of the nearest/furthest sound, can you hear birds or the wind?
• Taste – this is more difficult, but raindrops and snowflakes offer possibilities!
The secret to improving our wellbeing in a Sit Spot is to ‘tune in’ rather than ‘zone out.’ If you find distracting thoughts creeping in, use your senses to bring you back to the present once more.
Try to make Sit Spots a part of your daily or weekly life. Ten minutes sitting quietly outdoors on a regular basis can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. You might be able to sit for longer at weekends or in the evening. Sunrise and sunset can be magical times for a Sit Spot. Notice the changes around you as the seasons progress. Some people like to take a journal with them, to record through words and drawings what they observe and feel. Find out more about sit spots here.
Make a Bird’s Nest
The birds are very busy at the moment building nests and laying eggs. Keep an eye out for birds carrying twigs, dried grass and moss in their beaks. This month’s activity is one for the kids – build a bird’s nest using natural materials.
Go out to the garden to collect thin twigs, moss, old leaves and dried grass. Alternatively, take a bag to collect materials when you go out for a walk.Twist and weave the thin twigs and dried grass into a bowl shape. Then stuff the gaps with moss and line the bottom of the nest with the old leaves (or something soft like feathers or sheep wool).
How about looking for smooth stones and painting them to look like eggs to put in your nest?
Find somewhere in your garden to hide the nest. Think like a bird! Is there shelter? Will it be safe from cats? Is it too low? Too high? Close to food and water?
Perhaps you would like to draw and colour a picture of a bird and cut it out to pop into your nest?
The Dawn Chorus
May is the best month of the year to enjoy bird song. Usually, it is the male bird who sings to attract a mate, defend their territory, and keep other male birds away. Singing is hard work, so it is the strongest males who sing the best and are first to attract a mate. The female bird knows that the stronger the singer, the more likely he is to have the best territory and help her to raise a successful brood of chicks.
The first Sunday in May is International Dawn Chorus Day, when across Europe people set their alarms early to wake up, go outdoors and listen to the free concert. But the dawn chorus can be enjoyed any morning from mid-April through to early June. The chorus starts about an hour before sunrise, often led by robins, blackbirds, and song thrushes. The sound swells to its peak between half-an-hour before sunrise and half-an-hour after, before gradually quietening to the sound levels we are familiar with during the rest of the day.
The dawn chorus is at its best when the weather is fine and dry, so keep your eye on the weather forecast, set your alarm for an hour before sunrise and take a blanket or chair outdoors with you to enjoy nature’s symphony in comfort. A flask of tea, coffee or hot chocolate always helps if the air is chilly! If you’re feeling a bit lazy, open your bedroom window instead and enjoy the music from the comfort of your bed.
If you would like to learn the individual songs of birds to help you identify them among the chorus (or impress your friends!), go to the RSPB’s bird song identifier.
By June, all the trees have come into leaf and flowers are to be found everywhere. In our gardens, parks and countryside there are lots of beautiful natural materials to collect and then create a piece of environmental art. A Mandala is a circular, geometric pattern which is sometimes used as an aid to meditation. This month’s activity focuses on creating a colourful, circular pattern using natural materials on the woodland floor, in your garden or park, or even on the beach. It’s time to get creative!
Choose a quiet place outdoors and collect some natural materials like leaves, flower petals, twigs and stones. If you are not in your garden, remember to only collect fallen flower petals as it is an offence to pick wildflowers.
Choose a special object as the centre, putting it on the ground and then laying other items in a circle around it. Arrange another circle of objects around the first circle and continue adding more circles until your mandala is complete. It can be as big or as small as you wish. Then stand back to admire your artwork. You could take a photo to remember it.
This year the rowan trees are dripping with berries. At Bwlch Corog (our site), the rowan branches are drooping with the weight of the berries. I can’t remember such a good year for these beautiful berries. This is good news for birds like the blackbird, mistle thrush and redwing. 37 species of bird have been recorded eating rowan berries. The Celts fermented the berries to make wine, but today, most people use the berries to make a jelly. Rowan jelly is the traditional accompaniment to venison, and also tastes good with roasts, cheese and even toast and butter! Enjoy!
1.3 kg (3lb) rowan berries.
900g (2lb) apples
Peel, slice and core the apples. Put the apples in 1.2l (2 pints) of water and boil them until soft. Add the rowan berries and simmer to a pulp. Strain through a muslin bag. For every pint of juice, 450g (1lb) of sugar will be needed. Warm the sugar, boil the juice for 10 minutes, and then add the sugar. Boil for another 10 minutes. The jelly is ready when a teaspoonful of the mixture dropped onto a plate forms a visible skin. As soon as the setting temperature is reached, pour into clear, warm jars and seal.
Top tip: the best way to collect the berries is to cut the clusters as a whole off the tree and trim the excess stalks before cooking.
(Recipe taken from ‘Wild Food’ by Roger Phillips)
Autumn Leaf Collage
This month’s activity is for our very youngest friends. It is a great excuse for parents, grandparents, and carers to take young children for a walk in the woods or park and collect autumnal leaves, to be used back home to create a collage. Whilst collecting, if there are plenty of leaves on the ground, encourage the kids to create a large pile of leaves which they can jump into and pretend they are a hibernating hedgehog by curling themselves up into a ball and peeping out through the leaves. Catching leaves as they fall from the trees (and making a wish when a leaf is successfully caught), is another favourite activity.
1. Collect a variety of differently shaped leaves in autumnal colours, red, orange, yellow and brown.
2. Arrange the leaves on a large piece of paper or cardboard (you could cut up a large, cardboard box or cereal packet). Try not to leave too many gaps between the leaves.
3. Using PVA glue, stick the leaves in place. You can then paint all over the front of the leaves too which will give them a nice shiny look when the glue has dried, as well as preserving the leaves a little longer. Gold glitter (always popular with young children!) would look good sprinkled over the finished collage before the glue dries.
4. Leave flat to dry and then hang on the wall to admire.