WWT Wetland Centres will open their doors to school pupils from December 1. Forced to close their doors to such excursions in March, the conservation charity is pleased to be able to once again help children reconnect with nature in a safe and secure environment. A survey conducted by the charity Young Minds revealed that 80% of children felt that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse. Young people across the UK have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic, having had to adjust to dramatic changes in their education, routines and home life. The positive impact of time spent in natural environments is well documented and a visit to wetlands allows children the time and space to reap the benefits of the wild outdoors. WWT’s National Formal Learning Manager Mark Stead said: “We’re so excited to be welcoming schools back to our wetland centres. It hasn’t been the same without them and many of our regular visitors have told us that they’ve missed seeing children learning about the importance of protecting wetlands and their wildlife. “The last few months have been a challenging time for teachers and we’ve been working hard to ensure that they and their pupils can still have a fantastic time whilst remaining safe on site. It will be great to once again see children’s faces light up as they discover the wonder of wetlands and their wildlife.” WWT’s curriculum-linked learning sessions make the most of the sprawling open-air environment at the wetland centres and are suitable for a range of ages and abilities. Led by experienced staff, sessions are hands-on, promoting learning through exploration and discovery. Staff have been spending the last few months putting in place all of the steps necessary to keep school groups and other visitors safe and are now taking bookings. All of the wetland centres have been accredited with the “We’re Good to Go” UK wide Covid-19 safety standard which ensures WWT is operating within the relevant government and public health guidance in relation to Coronavirus. As the current situation remains uncertain, WWT are also guaranteeing that schools can re-book or cancel free of charge should they be unable to visit due to coronavirus. To find out more, visit WWT’s Learning Zone to find out what’s happening at each centre.
Spring has sprung and the Bewick’s swans are making excellent progress on their migration back to their breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic!
Congratulations to Anna, who has win the Poetry Competition!
WWT joins campaign encouraging all children to protect nature in their backyard Backyard Nature is a new UK-wide campaign aiming to get all children, regardless of where they live, to spend more time outside enjoying and protecting nature in their backyards. We are pleased to be one of their recognised partners, encouraging children to become Backyard Nature Guardians by signing up at www.backyardnature.org The campaign, including its partners, aim to give children the tools they need to protect their own patch of nature, regardless of how big or small their patch is. It could be a plant pot on a windowsill, a pond close to home, or a corner of outdoor space at school. What does matter is that they do something little and often to protect it. By tackling the nature crisis close to home, Backyard Nature Guardians will help protect the planet for the future.
WWT is appealing for stories from young nature lovers who can trace their passion back to visiting a wetland centre on a school trip.
Creating wetlands in cities around the globe just got easier, thanks to a new good practice manual launched this week at the Ramsar Convention in Dubai by WWT Consulting. The handbook, created with Nanjing University Ecological Research Institute of Changshu, showcases successful examples of urban wetlands from all over the world including London Wetland Centre, Colombo City in Sri Lanka and Changshu City in China. Covering wetlands of international importance, city waterscapes and even modest urban ponds, the book features invaluable planning, design and management advice needed for a thriving wetland. WWT Consulting Associate Director Matt Simpson said: We are collectively responsible for safeguarding the health of our wetlands in order to guarantee the vital role that they play in our lives. With this handbook, we hope wetlands everywhere will be winning. By creating a new straightforward publication that illustrates valuable experiences and principles referencing 12 wonderful wetlands across four continents, we hope these practices will be widely adopted. The handbook was born out of a result of discussions held at the workshop “Good practices for integrating urban development and wetland conservation” earlier this year. The aim was to share best practice examples and ideas on urban wetland design and management. The suggestions put forward at the workshop were then translated into a guidance manual. The handbook can be found here.
The Prince of Wales Open Space was unveiled to the public this week after undergoing a dramatic makeover with the help of local kids. The event was hosted by Enfield Borough Council, Thames Water and WWT who teamed up to breathe new life into the neglected space, turning it into a wetland sanctuary to bring animals, plants and people together. They consulted schoolchildren at Prince of Wales Primary School, who drew colourful pictures of what they wanted the area – the size of two football fields – to look like. The youngsters celebrated the transformation by sowing seeds, planting shrubs and meeting a range of invertebrates that live in their new waterscape. Andy Graham, Head of Community Wetlands at WWT, said: With the help of local schoolchildren, we decided to give the Prince of Wales Open Space the Cinderella treatment so that the 16,500 residents of Enfield have an attractive outdoor space where they can soak up nature. Wetlands help wildlife and provide many other benefits too, including helping to reduce water pollution, limiting the risk of flooding, and improving drainage in the surrounding area. It’s great to see so many people out here today to mark the official opening of this great new space – both green and blue. Rosemary Waugh, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Thames Water said: At Thames we know we’re custodians of the environment and were delighted to fund the Prince of Wales Wetlands project. Our community investment fund is for projects that both engage our customers and enhance the environment, delivered by trusted partners, the team have done a wonderful job on achieving the outcomes of the project. New specially constructed wetlands, such as shallow pools, streams and boggy woodlands have been carved into the foundations, providing welcoming homes to a wide variety of water-loving wildlife including dragonflies, kingfishers, beetles, and birds. New footpaths have also been added to the site to improve access for all and allow visitors to get off the beaten track. The wetland site was meticulously designed so that these stunning features will ease pollution and flooding along the Turkey Brook and River Lea. The creation of this new urban nature reserve also offers local schoolchildren and the community a chance to enjoy, learn and manage the space by planting flowers, carrying out bioblitzes and observing wildlife. Kids will find natural play features such as giant logs and local education events will offer residents the opportunity to learn more about the habitat. WWT have been working closely with the pupils at the Prince of Wales Primary to teach them about the importance of wetlands so that they will grow to understand and appreciate them when they are older. This project is part of a wider initiative by WWT to create and restore more community wetlands in its urban spaces.
A wasp spider – a species relatively new to the UK – was uncovered during a survey to discover local animals and plants as part of the Salt Hill event. The striking arachnid with yellow and black stripes was first recorded on the island in the 1920s. It arrived from the continent and spread through the south of England as a result of the milder winters. The survey – known as a bioblitz – was led by Conservation Science Masters students from Imperial College London who also ran quizzes, arts and crafts, pond dipping and bug hunts. Working Wetlands Conservation Officer at WWT Claire Hutchison said: Even if you know nothing about nature, surveys are a great way of learning how to identify some common plants and animals that live in the park, and a way of spotting something more unusual – like a wasp spider! The day was a great success. Despite the fact that there were bouncy castles, face painting, sports, games and more at the event, our stall was busy all day. The kids loved the simple activities like using crayons to make leaf prints and using nets to search for creatures in the stream. Maybe we met our young scientists of the future! WWT teamed up with expert naturalists, scientists, volunteers and the community to show people that there is a wealth of wildlife on their doorstep. A total of 45 species - 10 plants and 35 animals including bugs, fish, birds and mammals –were discovered in the small area of the park and stream which was surveyed. Thames Water also attended the Playday, issuing tips about saving water and organising an engineering game for youngsters. Salt Hill Park Play Day is held by Slough Borough Council to celebrate the national day for play, highlighting the importance of play in children’s lives and promoting using parks and open spaces for physical activity. The activities were held as part of the Save the Salt Hill Stream project, and aimed at sparking children’s interest in nature and reconnecting them with wildlife. WWT also spoke with locals about the new proposed plans for wetland creation in Salt Hill Park and asked for their feedback on the planned changes.
Year two schoolchildren helped create their very own living water feature by filling a small pool with wetland plants. They also got their hands muddy by making finishing touches to a nearby Mediterranean gravel garden, digging holes and filling them with lavender and other lush shrubs. The mini wetland will be fed by local rainwater, which will pass on to the gravel garden and nourish the plants there. WWT Project Manager Andy Graham said: We have been working with communities and schools in Enfield to create wetland oases of all sizes in the area. As the bigger wetland development in the nearby Prince of Wales Park nears to a close, we want to teach our youngsters about the importance of wetlands so they’ll care for them long into the future. The arrangement is part of a sustainable drainage system (SuDS) which mimics the natural processes by catching and slowing the flow of rain water to streams and rivers, and filtering it to remove pollution and prevent flooding along the way. Examples of SuDS include interconnected ponds, reedbeds and living green walls and roofs. The scheme, backed by WWT and Enfield Borough Council, also involves the creation of wetlands at the nearby Prince of Wales Park.
A scheme that has given thousands of disadvantaged school children easy access to nature has been shortlisted for an award. WWT and HSBC’s ‘Inspiring Generations’ programme which aims to give pupils from poorer backgrounds the chance to experience nature has been nominated in the ‘Charity Partnership: Financial’ category at the Third Sectors Business Charity Awards. Free school visits, new school resources, and building the infrastructure around school visits are at the heart of the project, which has been a huge success over the past five years. Over 68,000 pupils in the most deprived areas of the UK have benefitted from free school visits to WWT Wetland Centres since Inspiring Generations was launched. For many of these young people, this is a rare opportunity to learn about, and spend time in nature. Lorna Fox, WWT’s Learning Advisor, welcomed the news. She said: This partnership has been so successful that we have been able to go above and beyond our original project objectives. We have produced research which is contributing to the national conversation about the value of outdoor learning, and we have made strides to improve school visits for children from deprived communities, as well as focusing on those with special educational needs and disabilities. Our long-term partnership has been further cemented by our volunteering programme: In 2017, 318 HSBC volunteers carried out valuable practical conservation tasks at WWT centres.” Nick Appleby, Senior Corporate Partnerships Manager at WWT, added: HSBC and WWT have worked together for over a decade. We share the belief that wetlands are vital for both people and wildlife. They clean our water, protect us from flooding and provide us with food and materials. Wetlands store more carbon in their soil than rainforests, and 100,000 species of animal rely on freshwater ecosystems. They are also valuable for our health and wellbeing. Children who spend regular time in nature are more likely to become environmentally conscious adults, which is essential if we are to protect and restore the UK’s vital wetlands, which have reduced by 90% in the past 400 years. Children from deprived backgrounds are far less likely to spend time in inspiring natural places; when they are given the opportunity, it has a particularly positive impact. Inspiring Generations is a six year programme, fully funded by HSBC. Winners will be announced on May 23.
A stunning new garden, which pays tribute to the Canadian outdoors and picked up a Gold medal at the 2017 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, has opened at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Burscough. The feature, which was funded by the Royal Bank of Canada, will give visitors to the centre a flavour of the North American wilds. As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, the people of Lancashire will be able to immerse themselves in the garden, which draws inspiration from the vast and ecologically vital boreal forest and freshwater lakes. Centre Manager, Nick Brooks, said: “The garden has been relocated within Martin Mere’s new Wooded Wetlands development which opened in August 2016. Wooded Wetlands showcases species and habitat found in the boreal and we were thrilled to receive the opportunity to give visitors a taste of the great Canadian wilderness right here in Lancashire. It really is an awe inspiring garden and is going to be very popular with our visitors– we are very grateful to Royal Bank of Canada for continuing their longstanding support of WWT’s wetland conservation through their Blue Water Project”. To recreate a slice of Canada, designer Charlotte Harris has included mature pines, glacial boulders and a copper lined, burnt larch wood canopy reminiscent of wooden shelters created by hunters and travellers exploring the riverside. The world’s largest land-based biome and one of the planet’s largest sources of unfrozen fresh water, the boreal is a huge area of forested natural habitat. It stretches across the far northern latitudes, from Siberia to Scandinavia and right across Canada, where a third of the entire biome is found. As well as providing a diverse habitat for thousands of species of flora and fauna, the boreal also plays an important global role in the reduction of carbon dioxide. Dave Thomas, CEO, RBC Capital Markets, Europe said: “This year’s Royal Bank of Canada Garden celebrates our Canadian heritage and once again reinforces our longstanding commitment to water preservation. Congratulations to Charlotte and the team at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust who were able to recreate the Garden so quickly, providing an inspiring space for visitors for years to come.” The Wooded Wetlands development opened at WWT Martin Mere in August 2016 after a six-month construction stage. The new attraction was a complete redevelopment of the North American area of the waterfowl gardens and features waterfowl species found in the boreal zone. The swamps and forests in North America form a continuous ring of wetland wilderness around the entire globe. They form the world’s largest biome and are the destination of choice for many breeding waterbirds. It’s experienced the biggest temperature change in the world over the last two decades and faces many threats. This new development highlights the threats and species that inhabit biome. The garden includes a waterfall pen which is home to buffleheads, a diving seas duck; a boardwalk through central pens accessible via a log cabin to see species such as trumpeter swan and Carolinas; the central lake that has canvasbacks on it and a tepee encampment demonstrating how indigenous people lived sustainably in wetlands. The attraction was partly funded by the Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Hollickwood Primary School children get planting![/caption] A project in which schoolchildren help to reduce flooding and pollution, while learning about wildlife, has won a major national environmental award. The project was run across 10 schools in North London by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), supported by Thames Water and the Environment Agency. At each school, natural features have been created to show how wetlands slow down and store heavy rainfall to relieve flooding, and clean the water by filtering it. The features, including bog gardens and ponds, also act as hands-on places to learn about nature and the water cycle. The project won the Best Practice for Innovation Award at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) 2016 Awards. WWT’s Head of Community Working Wetlands, Andy Graham said: “The great thing about this award is that it’s not just about WWT, Thames Water and Environment Agency who are names you’d expect to see at these awards. It’s also about all the schoolchildren, teachers and parents who helped to plant the bog gardens and ponds, and the teachers who use them every year to show children how nature helps to protect us all from floods and pollution. Their enthusiasm has brought our project to life. I’m very proud for all of them.” Environment Agency National Biodiversity Manager, Alastair Driver said: “Having initiated this project in 2011, we are absolutely delighted that it has won this award for innovation in a category with some very impressive finalists. I had the pleasure of planting up some of these wetlands with the children and teachers and I have seen how important it is for young people to learn first-hand about the multiple benefits that wetlands provide for people and wildlife. The commitment of the London schools who enthusiastically embraced the construction of these wetlands in their playgrounds will reduce flood risk and water pollution and attract wildlife for many generations to come.” Thames Water’s Corporate Responsibility Manager, Rosemary Waugh, said: “Managing flood risk and nurturing enthusiasm for wildlife are two of our passions, so we’re delighted to be supporting the Suds for Schools project. It’s very worthy of the recognition it’s received.” Wildlife Trusts CEO Stephanie Hilborne presents the CIEEM Award to WWT SuDS Project Officer Rita Serra, Andy Graham, Rosemary Waugh and Alastair Driver The winning project’s full name is “SuDS for Schools”. SuDS stands for “Sustainable Drainage System” which reflects that rainwater run-off is managed and recycled onsite. The water is used to create wildlife zones, rather than flowing off into drains and into the local Pymmes Brook. The Brook is a stream in Barnet which is prone to flooding and pollution due to being overwhelmed by all the drains emptying into it. So SuDS for Schools helps local communities and wildlife too. Through the project, the schoolchildren have an outside area to learn about themes such as the water cycle, wetland nature and how local waterways like the Pymmes Brook are an important part of local communities but have become degraded and polluted in modern urban times.
Poorer children are less interested in being outdoors in nature than better-off children, but that difference can be turned on its head after just one day spent learning outside. That’s according to early findings from a study by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). WWT’s study – thought to be the first of its kind – is investigating the long-term impact of a school visit to one of WWT’s wetland centres on pupils’ attitudes and values around nature and wildlife. Groups of pupils from different schools were tracked from the day before their first visit and for a further year or more using focus groups and surveys. The responses of pupils from schools in poorer areas – where a high proportion claim free school meals – were generally far less positive about nature and wildlife than their peers before the visit. But when researchers followed up in the weeks afterwards, they found this group had developed a greater interest and positive attitude, including wanting to do things to help wildlife. These preliminary findings come one year into the study. Over the next year more schools will join the study and final results are expected in 2017. Lucy Hellier, WWT learning project manager said: “Young kids that learn and play outside are more likely to be healthy and active. They get direct experience of weather and the seasons and wildlife – things that are only possible outdoors – and they get to assess risks, solve problems and develop creativity. “The benefits may seem obvious, but in reality many children don’t get to be outdoors in a natural environment in any regular or meaningful way. And that’s even more common among kids from deprived areas who, as a result, may be less enthusiastic about wildlife and nature.” “WWT has an opportunity to change that. 55,000 children visit our wetland centres with their schools each year. We want to ensure that single day inspires them and their teachers enough to have a lasting positive impact on their lives. Every clue from this research is valuable and we’re really excited about what we might find over the coming year.” Other early results from the study also indicate: Pupils enjoy their school visit and learn new things about wildlife and nature Pupils’ attitudes improve more if the visit is related to a broader topic that they’re studying or activities that they do back at school Pupils are just as interested in outdoors and nature related activities, as they are in being sedentary and indoors