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AUGUST 2018

Royal Parks: Mission Invertebrates

Mission Invertebrates

I love working with The Royal Parks and their Mission Invertebrates project team.  It's a fantastic project that's been funded by the People's Postcode Lottery.  Royal Parks want to know more about the grassland invertebrates that live in the Royal Parks.  They're using the information to inform the parks' management to make even better homes for the wildlife.  Invertebrates are often underrated, but they are incredibly interesting and essential to the planet.  Mission Invertebrates team aims to show everyone just how brilliant invertebrates are.  They organise large numbers of free family friendly workshops across all eight Royal Parks and Brompton Cemetery, so there's a chance for everyone to get involved.  

There's always a story-teller and a chance for families to sit under a small gazebo and listen to an amazing story about invertebrates.  Last year, I really enjoyed the snail stories but this year, the story was more invertebrates in general and the story teller herself, quite exceptional.  Olivia Armstrong ... can't recommend her highly enough!  It's a delight to listen to her and watch her skillful story weaving. Olivia involved the children and gave them all roles as invertebrates... watching the butterflies flying was a delight.

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It's such a fantastic project.  I went to Green Park for one of their August family events.  The range of arts and crafts activities is impressive... and all invertebrate linked.  Badge making is always popular but chilren also got a chance to make a newspaper pot, fill it with compost and plant a seed.  The table with the big container for mini-beasts and bugs is always popular.  Children tend to queue up to make friends with slugs and snails whilst their grown ups keep a more hestitant distance!

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Kirsty organised some insect sweeping and headed off into a clump of wild thistles and tall wild flowers followed by an enthusiastic band of children and parents/carers.  Having listened to the explanations about the mini-beast examining equipment and watched how to sweep the nets in circles of eight, the children set off in small groups looking for bugs.  Tentative sweeps with the net soon gave way to more enthusiastic movement and before long, their nets were filled with wriggling treasure that was being carefully examined.  The level of cooperation and net-sharing was lovely to see.  I really enjoyed watching the parents get as enthusiastic as their offspring! 

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One of the most exciting finds was a large orb-weaver spider.  She had built an impressive web before being scooped up into a large net  and was remarkably cooperative about being peered at and exampined before eventually being taken home to her web.  I have to own to not being very good with spiders ... but somehow being behind a camera is diffierent!  This particular spider moved gently and slowly in the net and then eventually on Kirsty's hand... before gently being introduced to a range of children brave enough to handle her.  She was quite large!

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The Mission Invertebrate team have a huge vehicle for their park tours. Last year they had a giant snail.  This vehicle has all sorts of different 'habitats' inside so that youngsters can explore, find and match invertebrates to habitats.  The visitors' book, different stickers, badges and magnifying lenses are irresistible lures, and all the youngsters, and some oldsters, leave appropriately decorated.

Green Park also played host to Mudchute Farm's Dexter cattle and rare breed sheep again this year.  The Royal Parks team fence in an area of wildflower meadow and the Mudchute visitors munch their way through the meadow.  Each different breed will graze leaving different sward heights and their feet will break up the soil unevenly to allow the wildflower seeds to get a good start for the following season.  It's great fun watching Tom the farmer, rounding up his animals to take them back to Mudchute for the night.... but even more fun watching open-mouthed Green Park visitors watching!  And all within a stone's throw of Buckingham Palace!