Now that the weather is improving here in England it means I can take my Cub Pack out more often. We are fortunate enough to have our meeting place situated near Beacon Wood Country Park, which means that the Cubs can learn about nature, environment and local history.
The area that is now the country park has, over the centuries been used by the locals for many things. For approximately 400 years it was just rolling woodland, providing our ancestors with timber for a variety of uses. During the Elizabethan times there was a beacon atop a hill, part of the long network that was used to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada. From 1885 the area was used for gunpowder manufacture and an orchard. Later, in 1935 the woodland was excavated for clay, for the manufacture of cement, leaving the park land pitted and more hilly.
When I was growing up, I used to play in the woods with my friends and we referred to it as “The mudhole”, but it was frowned upon by our parents as an unsafe play area.
But by 1991 it had been revamped by the local council and was opened as Beacon Wood Country Park. Some of its heritage is still visible along the footpaths, sleepers from the old rail tracks and even one of the wagons was left behind, now preserved for all to see.
This term our Cubs are concentrating on the Naturalist activity badge and our task this week was to identify at least six trees and to do a pond survey. So we headed out into the woods.
Within minutes the Cubs had managed to identify four species of fauna in a 30ft radius of the park entrance. Brilliant, we were on a roll. We decided to head down to the large pond area to see if it had changed much since our visit last summer. It had! The water was almost touching the decking walkway, which made it much easier for the Cubs to spot the local pond life; water boatmen; pond skaters; water fleas and even a crested newt swam past.
It was at this point that Bagheera shared some photographs with the pack of a common newt, playing dead, that he had spotted on an earlier visit to the park. A chorus of “ooh’s, ahh’s and Eurgh” ensued, but at least now they knew what one looked like and would be able to recognise it later on. We headed away from the pond (before any of them tried to fall in) and up towards the car park & picnic area so we could enjoy a quick game of manhunt before the evening was over.
On route though, I spotted that we were within feet of a geocache and had a very good idea of where it was hiding. This would be a perfect opportunity for the Cubs to route around under rocks and fallen branches to investigate the wildlife underneath and for me to put another smilie on the map. I explained briefly about the cache Beacon Wood – Innominate (GC3VV9T) and pointed to the direction of the hiding place. There were a few possibilities but we were lucky enough to find the right one straight away.
However, it was only as we carefully lifted the hiding place that we realised how lucky we were. You see, we didn’t just find a micro geocache under there. We also got a close up of a common newt that we had only been discussing a few minutes beforehand and of course the inevitable slugs. Apparently newts like to have those for dinner!
I can’t until next week, I’m excited by what else we might find (oh and perhaps another geocache too).