A new beginning!

Open Day 3rd July 2016
We have been in our new Centre for 2 months and celebrated with an Open Day for neighbours, members and supporters.  The day was a great success with around 170 people through the doors.  A  variety of activities took place: following a nature trail, butterfly craft, sowing seeds (donated by Kew), investigating pond life.  There was a huge selection of delicious cakes and a wonderful vista through the doors onto the garden and the reserve.  The feedbackwas overwhelmingly ‘excellent’  with lots of visitors commenting on the warm and welcoming atmosphere.

butterfly1 nature_trail pond_life1 pond_life2

Centre OpeningAprThe E-Centre Opening 9th April 2016  The Centre was formally opened by Phil and Janet Hulme of the Hadley Trust. Trustees, volunteers and friends of Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and Barnet Environment Centre, together with local residents and invited guests, attended to celebrate the future use of the building by both charities. The Friends of Barnet Environment Centre organised a self-guided walk around the nature reserve, a demonstration of pond-life and a “show and tell” of interesting wildlife objects. Read more on the Barnet Society’s website.

MADD12thApr16Make a Difference Day 12th March 2016: Mud field to wildlife garden. This “Make a Difference Day” was one of many sessions to transform the area immediately behind the Centre to make this into a garden to be enjoyed by school children, the families supported by Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and other visitors. Volunteers from our charity and from Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice worked to scrub up brambles and undergrowth. Over the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd April we hired a digger and landscaped the garden and on the 4th we managed to prepare the ground and lay the turf that Noah’s Ark had been given by Thompsons of Enfield in an area next to the decking. The garden will have a large central picnic area, surrounded by a path that will be usable by children in wheelchairs, with beds around the edge and a wildflower mound at the far end. Work started on the path on the 6th April. The rush is on to get the garden area looking as good as possible!  We have made a list of wildlife-friendly plants and are asking for donations of plants or seeds from the list that are in your own garden. Please click here to see the list.

Caroline’s wildlife blog: Autumn wonderland

autumn mosiacs smallThis autumn has been really beautiful and very warm. The golden browns, yellows and reds that have adorned our trees have been inspirational. It has been a real joy to work at the Barnet Environment Centre. The management carried out by the Friends of Barnet Environment Centre volunteers has created a mosaic of beautiful habitats that are brimming with wildlife. In the meadow there have been loads of bees, beetles and butterflies as well as grasshoppers and bush crickets.

Perhaps the most stunning experience has been seeing three adult grass snakes! The first was under the large oak tree and I nearly stepped on the snake. It moved away pretty pronto and then froze so I had a great view of it. The next two sightings were with a group of school children. An adult snake was basking in the sunlight when we arrived in the centre of the meadow and one sharp eyed youngster spotted it. Of course, as soon as the children saw it they were shrieking with joy and the snake quickly disappeared in to the long grass. The final viewing was under a habitat plate. I had taken a group of children to look under the corrugated metal plate and when I pulled it up there was another grass snake all curled up, warming itself up. It didn’t hang around! It’s important to remember that grass snakes are not venomous and will quickly disappear if disturbed.

The habitat plates have produced several surprises, including a family of field voles and a couple of large ant’s nests full of eggs. The poor ants frantically try to remove all the eggs underground once the nest is exposed.

The bird life has been really good. Late migrating house martins were seen catching insects over the new ponds. The ponds also attracted a couple of grey wagtails for several weeks. Such a delight to see these lovely birds. We even had a pair of mallard for a little while. The ponds have also attracted a new freshwater invertebrate to the nature reserve in the form of a rather large number of whirligig beetles! A splendid sight! Flocks of jackdaws calling overhead have kept my eyes on the sky! Their call is a real harbinger of autumn. Large flocks of goldfinches have been feeding on the thistles. Their tinkling call always alerts you of their presence.

Our new minibeast area is beginning to attract a lot of insects under the logs. This new area, which was built by volunteers from the NCS Challenge, a charity that helps young people gain practical experience in the real world. Opposite the minibeast area one of the volunteers has built a fernery around an old tree stump. It looks great and hopefully will settle in before the winter sets in.

Beetles, Crickets and a Snake

How can I describe the joy of working at the Barnet Countryside Centre (oops!) I mean the Barnet Environment Centre! Your management of the nature reserve has provided 957 children with a wonderful first-hand experience of nature and me with the best teaching experience I’ve had in my career. I can’t count the number of times teachers, parents and children have said to me, “I’ve learnt so much” or “This is the best school trip I’ve ever been on”. Continue reading

A very successful year of school visits

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School visits in the academic year 2014-2015 were suspended during the winter months and resumed in the spring when Caroline Gellor joined us in March 2015 as the Environmental Education Manager. Since then we have had 34 visits by schools and youth groups with 957 children attending.
In the academic year 2013 to 2014 we had 54 individual school visits with 1378 children attending.  Two of the visits were “self-led” by the school teachers and 52 “centre-led” with the help of our environment specialist. 
The enthusiasm of the children and appreciation by the teachers is very rewarding!    
See comments on a selection of the school visits since Caroline joined us.

Hedge Project Day

The Hedge Project Day took place on the 29th of October 2011 and involved altogether 23 volunteers, some of whom worked on the site where the hedge was to be built, others who made refreshments and food and kept us all happy. The idea of the hedge is that it should be composed of holly, hawthorn and blackthorn, planted quite closely along by the path between Byng Road and Cavendish Road. Continue reading

Bioblitz!

Bioblitz! from Friday 13th July to Saturday 14th July 2012, led by Annabel Foskett, our environmental educator.

A Bioblitz is a race to identify as many species of flora and fauna over a specific time. We were lucky to secure the help of many experts in their field – lots phoned up and said they would like to come and contribute. We also hoped to engage with non-experts to encourage their involvement in this scientific observation exercise. Continue reading