Eden Wild Goose Nature:
'Wetlands Day' at Susan's Farm
We planned our first nature day to be at the Aglionby Wetlands site, but water was coming down from the sky and water was coming up from the river, so we relocated to Susan’s Farm in Houghton. Nature got the better of our Nature Day. A range of ages enjoyed the rearranged day as we engaged with some path clearance, fungi recognition, farming activities a visit to the Gosling Sike Wetlands. Susan provided Palestine Soup (Jerusalem Artichokes), rolls and organic fruit for lunch. We concluded with a round-up of what we had learnt during the day along with some nature poetry. Our thanks to Susan Aglionby for the warm education centre and an opportunity to be on her farm.
This event was supported with a grant from Cumbria Council Council.
Our first Nature day
Though the date of February 20th had been in the diary for months, somehow there must have been a block in the booking system. We'd definitely booked ahead for a dry, 'hint of spring even though it's still February' sort of day and instead what we got was rain, rain and lots of it. So much in fact, that when we got to the wetland site at Aglionby we decided it wasn't going to work.... Not a hard decision as we watched the water rising rapidly all around us. A quick but bedraggled conference at the farm gate ensued and Susan Aglionby very generously suggested we relocate to her farm headquarters in Houghton Village.
A few phone calls and emails later, and our whole group of about 25 were informed and safely reassembled at Susan's Farm, a glorious organic farm focusing on rearing Longhorn cattle, various sheep breeds and assorted hens and geese. Susan believes it's too good to keep to herself so all sorts of folk of all ages and histories get to have a go at various farm related tasks, and to experience and learn about the abundant nature all around them. It's truly a life giving and life affirming place. So we felt privileged to spend a day there with Susan herself to give us a lead. And by midday the sun had even decided to join us for our activities, resolutely bursting through the thick clouds that had formed a blanket for most of that grey stormy month.
Some of us formed an impromptu working party, scraping away the weeds that were growing through the rubble track, laid to enable the quad bike to reach outlying parts of the farm without churning up the turf too heavily. I can personally vouch that it was hard, finger numbing work. Somehow though, the power of being together and working on a task that was valuable if unglamorous, and benefitting something bigger than 'us', counteracted all that, and it was good fun. (I admit had it been for a day rather than an hour or so, I might have revised that opinion!)
Meanwhile others in the group stayed in the warm and learnt about different kinds of lichen, what it takes for them to grow and why they are important, playing their unique part in the ecosystem. Closely examining the lichens through eye glasses, the group were astonished to discover the intricate and beautiful patterns that are all around us but don't seek attention, quietly growing slowly on trees, walls, rocks and anywhere else they can thrive. I think, from the enthusiasm expressed, Jane who lead the group, succeeded in sharing her passion for these small organisms. Still others went off to say hello to the pony and the chickens and other traditional farmyard favourites, and the children had fun looking for and collecting freshly laid eggs.
With 'Palestine soup' made with homegrown Jerusalem artichokes, piles of organic bread and flapjack, and delicious organic oranges we were fortified for the afternoon, with more farm and wetland orientated activities ahead. Pond dipping, that perennial favourite, rather fortuitously produced a small fish on the first go for one young dipper.
And so it went on till we finished our day with a bit of a reflection where anyone who wanted read a favourite poem based around a nature theme.
Despite the soggy start and the temptation to call the whole thing off as unviable, a really happy day was had by all who joined in, both younger and older.
So thank you to all who came, mucked in (literally), shared time together and generally enjoyed yourself, however you chose to do that on the day.
And especially thank you to Susan and her friends who made the day possible for us, and who joined in with great gusto, sharing her passion and commitment to the farm and what it represents. Look out for our next Nature Day on May 28th, when we can guarantee (maybe) that the weather will be more agreeable. We'd better get that order in now, good and early!