Nature Connections – By Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis

We began by reading quotes pinned up around the room and selecting one that spoke to us.

I chose; ‘I went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out ‘til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in’ from John Muir. It’s the one I have on my blog page and it’s pinned above my desk. There’s a connection.

I recognised familiar faces, lovely people I’d met before through NEW Wildlife and on other workshops to do with nature and the environment. More connections.

We talked of Mindfulness and then we were introduced to the raisin exercise. Yes, that’s what I said, the raisin exercise! We selected a raisin from the box, held it in the palm of our hands, examined it from all angles, sniffed it, touched it with the tip of our tongues, placed it in our mouths and eventually chewed it. I noticed how I automatically went to put it straight into my mouth how I chewed instantly instead of letting it sit for a moment or two. Raisins will never be the same again.

We placed chairs in a circle outside, close to a flurry of snowdrops and did a short mindfulness meditation.


We walked through the nature reserve using our senses to experience the place in new ways. Some were even brave enough to remove their shoes and walk barefoot along a section of spongy moss path. Someone said the connection with the moss made them feel alive.


The great logs lying on the path from the fallen ash reminded me of the photos I’d seen of the recent whale strandings.


My eye darted to the hearts in the bug hotel. I noticed hazel catkins dancing in the breeze, yellow gorse, fresh spears of grass like little arrows being fired from the earth. A raven’s heavy ‘kronk’ dropped from the sky, the watery trill of a robin trickled past my ears. I heard the crunch of leaves underfoot, the distant bleat of sheep, wind rustling the dead oak leaves, making them quake, shiver and shake. I touched spiky pine-needles, pussy willows soft as kitten’s paws, old oak leaves like cornflakes. The air smelled clean and zesty like lemons and in the woods the pungent smell of wild garlic made me think of pesto sauce and lunch.


We sat still as tree stumps for 6 minutes and from my high seat I saw the top of Moel y Gaer Iron Age hill fort and felt a connection with the ancient past.

And after all that, there was still time to have a play with nature, making things from leaves, twigs, willow and moss we’d collected on our walk!



At the end of the day I noticed an excited swapping of email addresses and phone numbers. The day had been as much about making a connection with people as making a connection with nature.

Thank you to Jacinta Challinor and Kate Wilson for connecting us all, with nature and with each other. The day will stay with me for a long time.

Be still and listen……..The Earth is singing.’   Karen Davies.

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Wildlife matters newsletter winter 2015/16

wildlife matters

Here is our winter edition of wildlife matters filled with seasonal activities, volunteering, news, wonderful pictures and more!

Please click the link below to have a look, and let us know what you think 🙂

wildlife matters winter 2015 2016

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Bourbons, Black Buds and Boxing Gloves – By Sarah Lewis

Winter Tree Identification Day By: Sarah Lewis

Take a dozen inquisitive nature lovers, an assortment of twigs and a plate of bourbon biscuits; put them into a warm room on a rainy day with a kettle set to boil, and you’ve got the makings of a most enjoyable day.

Anne set us to work straight away; can we guess what trees the leaf-less branches she’d brought in belonged to? The short answer is ‘No’, that’s why we’re here.   Most of us know how to identify trees when they’re wearing their leaves but in winter, well, it’s a different matter.


I knew that ash trees have black buds, but without leaves, I was stumped over the others. During the course of the morning, we peered through hand lenses, looking for identification clues like hairs, scars, warts and whether buds where opposite or alternate, scaly or not. My favourite new word is ‘lenticels’, which aren’t something you make soup with, but warty marks on the surface of the twigs.


And did you know that the lateral buds on a cherry sit on ‘a stack of pancakes’? Or that the buds of alder look like little purple boxing gloves and elder is good for making whistles but you must ask the spirit of the tree for permission to cut it. Horse chestnut buds are big and pointed and sticky while the buds of beech are slender and pointed, like you could dip them in ink and draw with them. And if you want to make a camp fire, birch twigs are your best bet as the bark contains a waxy resin which is very flammable.


After more tea and biscuits, we ambled around the nature reserve looking at trees. Even in the rain, they looked beautiful against the winter sky. We marvelled in the colours and textures of the different bark, looking for lenticels and scaly buds and putting all we had learned into practice. And all the while a song thrush sang loud and proud, like it owned the whole valley and every tree in it. Thank you to Anne and Kate and all the lovely participants. You were TREE-mendous (sorry)!


Anne Brenchley works for Actif Woods Wales. For information on their activities in Wrexham, see

Two of our participants were Nature Rangers from the Plas Derw Trust

We also had an artists in the group who loves to paint trees;

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Willow basketry course

joy this one day course with Mandy Coates and learn the wonderful art of basket making with willow, or improve your skills. We will be creating stunning hanging conical basket, and incorporating natural materials we find in the hedgerow.

mandy basket

Mandy is a basket maker who weaves traditional and contemporary willow baskets, and  began her craft after meeting a basket maker at a festival 28 years ago. The simplicity of the tools and the fact that she could gather her materials from the countryside around her appealed to her.

Please bring lunch and secateurs if you have some.

Refreshments will be provided, booking is essential: Booking Form basket weaving course

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Needle felting course

Join NEWWildlife and Heather O’Leary on a days course learning the art of needle felting on Saturday 7th November. The day will run from 9.30 to 4.30, at Rhydymwyn Valley Nature Reserve near Mold. Cost: £45 including all materials and refreshments. By the end of the day, we will each have made a needle felted brown hare to take home.

“Based in the village of Trefriw in Snowdonia National Park, Heather O’Leary designs and creates remarkably realistic animal needle felting kits based on her own sculptural work. Because they are created using un-dyed British wool, the end products are truly organic and reflective of nature.”

Booking is essential, place secured upon receipt of payment. Booking form: Booking Form needle felting course

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Wildlife Matters newsletter – summer edition

The summer edition of our newsletter is hot off the press filled with interesting information about how we look after our reserves, recent sightings, events and training courses and gorgeous seasonal photos (there’s even a recipe in this one to celebrate the Great British Bake off!!) Please click the link below to have a look 🙂

wildlife matters summer 2015

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Wild Sunday – By Sarah Lewis

Find Sarah at

I blog about SLOW things mainly. Taking time for noticing, sniffing, watching, being. The little terns at Gronant beach don’t have much time for being slow right now.

This Sunday we responded to a plea on Facebook from the wardens at Gronant, the chicks are beginning to hatch and the kestrels have noticed. Kestrels mostly eat voles and lizards but they will take little tern chicks. The wardens reckon that having people placed along the beach might help keep them at bay.


From the path to the viewing platform, I spotted a reed bunting dressed like a country parson, singing in a tangled rose bush. It’s not a glamorous song but he’s persistent and I like his style. High in the wide blue sky, specks of skylarks sang without pausing for breath. And I’ll swear I heard the fishing reel sound of a grasshopper warbler coming from the tall grass.


The edges of the board walk were lit up with deep pink orchids and silver sea holly like a glitzy catwalk. As we approached the beach, the creaky cries of little terns could be heard over the whistling marram grass. We watched them overhead, bright white, like freshly laundered hankies fluttering in the breeze. Some had tiny silver sand eels dangling from their beaks, others were chasing, swooping, landing, lost among the pebbles in the fenced-off colony. We chatted to Jack the warden, who was very bright-eyed even though he’d been on duty since 4am. As we spoke a kestrel appeared hovering over the dunes. Jack ran off to the far end of the colony and we watched to see what it would do. It hung motionless over the marram grass at the back of the colony then circled high and moved away. Maybe our presence put it off? Through my binoculars I could see it in aerial combat with a pair of buzzards. Obviously it has chicks somewhere in the vicinity and felt threatened by the presence of these big birds of prey. So it goes in the natural world. Buzzards bother kestrels, kestrels bother little terns, little terns bother sand eels.


Whether we helped see the kestrel off I don’t know. I do know that it was fantastic being at the colony. It felt big and wild there, we had a real sense of the battle for survival that goes on in the natural world. And for me, I’m pretty sure a spell on a windswept beach under a big blue sky, certainly helped my survival. I felt alive and ready for anything…though perhaps not being carried off by a kestrel.

Gronant has the potential to be the largest little tern colony in the UK this year but they need help. If you’ve an hour or two to spare, get down there for a bit of reviving wildness and give a hand to protect these feisty little birds in the process.


Or see search for Gronant Little Terns on Facebook – their pictures of little tern chicks are very cute!



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