Wildflower Hour-Lesser Celandine

This weeks wildflower contribution was lesser celandine (rannunculus ficaria). I found a patch growing in the shaded passageway behinf my garden, similar in nature to its natural habitat. This is a pretty common perenial growing in open woodland and along hedgerows. It is an early food source for bees flowering from March to May. while it grows in shaded spots it requires sun for the flowers to open.

As a part of the rannunculus genus this places it as a relative to varieties of buttercups, spearwort and crowfoot. It is quite low, forming clumps to a height of 25cm. The heart shaped leaves and small yellow flowers make it quite a pleasant sight at this poiny of the year when little is in bloom.

Poisonous if eaten raw it can cause livestock issues. It is native to Europe, but banned in some US states due to its toxic nature.

The poet William Wordsworth loved them enough to write three poems about them. When he died it was proposed a lesser celandine should be carved on his gravestone. However a greater celandine was carved by mistake.

Edward Thomas also used the lesser celandine as the subject of this poem.

Thinking of her had saddened me at first,
Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie
Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame,
A living thing, not what before I nursed,
The shadow I was growing to love almost,
The phantom, not the creature with bright eye
That I had thought never to see, once lost.

She found the celandines of February
Always before us all. Her nature and name
Were like those flowers, and now immediately
For a short swift eternity back she came,
Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore
Her brightest bloom among the winter hues
Of all the world; and I was happy too,
Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who
Had seen them with me Februarys before,
Bending to them as in and out she trod
And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.
But this was a dream; the flowers were not true,
Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there
One of five petals and I smelt the juice
Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more,
Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.

While a common wildflower I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more on the subject.

Edward Thomas-Spring thaw

Today have been the birthday of Edward Thomas. With the state of the UK weather it seems appropriate to remember him through one of his poems.

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Spring-Thaw

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed

The speculating rooks at their nests cawed

And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,

What we below could not see, Winter pass.

Thaw

Folklore Thursday: A short tale

This week is National Storytelling Week. For folklore Thursday we have been asked this week for one of our favourite folk and fairy tales. This week I have been doing Little Red Riding Hood in school, but for this week I’m going to go with a story I like to use to demonstrate oral story telling. My contribution was first brought to my attention my the notes in Brothers Grimm. It comes from Deutsches Sprachbuch von Adolf Gutbier (German Language book by Adolf Gutbier). It is a very quick story, but it sticks in my head for the rather terrible pun. My retelling may not be accurate to the original, but this is how folk and fairy tales carry on through the years, changing with each telling.

Once there was a chicken and a rooster in a farmyard. The chicken, pecking in the ground, found a little key. The rooster found a little wooden box. The chicken put the key in the box. The rooster turned it. In the box they found a little scrap of fur, a small tail.

This would have been a longer story, but it was only a short tail.

I don’t know if the pun works in the original German, but the story sticks in my head for it. Hope you’ve enjoyed my Folklore Thursday.

 

 

Nature Book Swap

The arts and humanities research council have announced the short list of the UK’s favourite nature book.

Here

The list is an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction and old and new. The books are all ones that have touched people in different ways. They all have some emotional impact.

I read a lot of nature books both fiction and non-fiction and as part of this blog I have shared many I’ve enjoyed. Following on from the dark is rising book group, the AHRC book list and the seed swap I wondered if anyone was interested in a secret nature book swap? You may have ended up with duplicates for Christmas. So here is a use for them.

The concept was done during the 30 days wild. Emails of interest are collected. People are sent an address to send on a nature book too. In this way people encounter new nature books and share their love of the written word.

If you receive a book you own or have read pass it to a friend or family member you think might like it. If you can’t think of anyone give it to charity. No harm having charity shops filled with quality nature writing. Someone will enjoy it.

So initially just looking for who is interested. If you are email me your name and address. All information will remain confidential except who you are sending a book too. I can’t except any liability for anyone who doesn’t receive a book. This relies on trust and goodwill. UK only so no one has excessive postage.

I’ll set a deadline of interest to next Friday 12th January. So anyone interested email: natureswap@mail.com

Follow on twitter

#naturebookswap

The wonder of the Lost Words

In my Christmas Round up I mentioned my main present deserved a blog of its own. Having had time to reflect and enjoy reading it I now feel ready to comment on this book of wonder. I’ve only wanted to read a few pages a day so I could prolong the joy.

For Christmas Amy bought me The lost words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. I’ve been aware of the book before its release and had held off on buying it hoping I would receive it as a present. The concept of the book is brilliant for nature lovers and as a teacher who promotes outside learning irresistible. The Oxford Junior dictionary took out 50 nature related words and replaced them with words considered more relevant. These were mainly computer related words such as, “chatroom,” and, “broadband”.

I remember the news story back in 2015 informing us of this decision. While I can understand the reason it saddens me that it is considered more use for children to know what an attachment is rather than an acorn. Many of the changes were seen as a continuation of the disintegration of childhood. Children increasingly have more solitary lives, less time outside and a disconnect form nature. All of this adds up to less resilient children and potential increases in mental health issues. While an argument could be made that the computer time still allows children to interact with people on a global scale it isn’t the same as face to face interaction. This coming from an avid blogger and twitter reader. I appreciate the use of the internet in creating new communities, but it isn’t a replacement for being outside with your friends.

The lost words takes these nature words to use as a basis for an acrostic poem. One poem for each word. Then each word has a title page of the word and then an illustration page. Presented as a beautiful A3 hardback the artwork gets the space it deserves. It feels like a quality package, but is selling at a very reasonable price for something that feels so special. I’ve been a fan of Jackie Morris’s artwork after buying, “something about a bear”. I went onto buy many more of her beautifully illustrated books. The style is perfectly matched to Robert MacFarlane’s words. MacFarlane’s nature writing has been nominated and won many accolades over the years. The partnership between the two on the lost words is a perfect blend. The poems are written as spells. These poems are wonderful fodder for the imagination.

While Alice is currently to young for understanding the poems I like the idea that in the future we use the book as a basis for a wildlife treasure hunt. A fieldguide for childhood lost. We’d attempt to find all the items from the book. Some are readily available in our garden, some would require hunting. A book to go back to again and again. It’s currently making for a perfect fireside read during the cold Winter nights.

And as if by magic a goldfinch has been summoned to my garden.

Birds of a feather

Having written about my new bird feeder I think it’s a good time to look at what I am getting in the garden. Often Summer is quite a quiet time for the feeders with an abundance of food around for the birds they can find themselves. But with the sporadic weather going back and forth between torrential rain and baking sun when the sun is shining the birds are looking to fill up on high energy foods.

Nothing puts the pigeons off coming to the feeders. Even in the rain they will sit out on the feeder getting plumper.

With lots of young sparrows around the feeders have seen the house sparrows back and forth on lots of visits.

The starlings have been swarming in large numbers, then flitting off as quickly as they came.

The blackbirds have been enjoying the wet ground, picking though for the worms come to the surface.

The goldfinches mentioned in a previous blog.

I’ve almost seen the whole tit family. There have been blue tits, great tits, long tailed and coal tits. Although I haven’t managed any photos of the coal tits.

The ever present herring gull shed mafia has been keeping watch over its domain.

I’ve also seen wrens, collared doves, jackdaws, chaffinches and thrushes. Part of the reason for getting so many I believe is down to the variety of food on the feeders. The tits seem to be going mad for the suet and peanuts. The jackdaws come for the meal worms and kitchen scraps. The pigeons seem to devour everything. The finches like the niger and the sunflower heads.

I also have feeders on different levels. Some ground feeders and some up higher on the station. Then I also have some located hanging in the trees and these seem to be favoured by the smaller birds. It’s worth trying putting more than just a seed mix out if you want to attract a variety of birds. Or if there is something you particularly want put out appropriate food.

The insect life has also been pretty good with a good variety of butterflies, dragonflies and bees coming in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour through my garden birds and all have good weekends.

Follow me on twitter for more quick posts.

I’ll finish with an Emily Browning poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Taking the story out

Today I’m going to be starting a series of articles covering ideas for 30 days wild for teachers and parents. Fairy tales and traditional tales are a key part of childhood. They capture children’s imagination, teach moral lessons and prepare them for the hardships of life. The vast majority of these stories take place outside and often in woods and forests. The backdrop of the forest makes up a large part of our fairy tales and folklore going back to a time when people were worried about the perils of the forest.This idea was well covered in gossip from the forest-Sara Maitland

Now we have the reverse situation if we don’t get people outside we face dangers for their mental well being and physical health. Teaching and taking the children out has been shown to be beneficial for children’s health and developing their education. Whether you subscribe to forest school practises or just the ideas in Richard Louv’s-last child in the woods, outdoor play is important. It promotes health, helps tackle childhood obesity, but more importantly for me it develops a love of nature and creates imaginative children.

A key message in last child in the woods is that a lot of the best imaginative play happens outside, seeing as many of the best fairy and traditional tales happen outside it is a perfect chance for going out of the classroom, out of the house to tell them. This might only be a basic as taking the picnic blanket out in the garden, to the park on the school playing field, but it changes the engagement with the story. It makes it more than just a story at hometime in school. Some parks have dedicated story spaces to go and read a story in or a story chair.York Museum Gardens have a storytelling area hidden away.

storytelling-area-web

For some teachers reading in this way may be a worry. The children will be too excited, their focus will be elsewhere. At the start of the year I explain to classes these times we are going outside to learn have the same expectations as the classroom. We are still going out to learn and the same expectations to listen are still required. It is made very clear that children who can’t follow instructions will miss out next time. I am fortunate in that my school has a large playing field (it is one that hasn’t been sold off to make a new housing estate)  with trees along the back giving us nice spaces to go out onto, but even going out a concrete playground will add interest to the kids.

In terms of practicalities in Summer going out to read a story on the field or playground is straightforward as most of the time the grass is dry enough to sit on. Currently though it is not. I have a large tarpaulin that we take out. The children take the edges and stretch it out and then sit on the edges while I peg it down. If you have a nice spot under a tree or maybe a stage on the playground it again adds to the feeling of the story being more of an event than just home time story.

I like telling stories orally, but that requires an element of performance and acting some teachers may not be comfortable with. For stories I don’t know as well I generally stand to read the story with the children sat on the tarp. When it’s a story I know well it can be told orally acting the story out. This allows more fluidity and movement, moving amongst the children keeping their attention better. It’s a good way to engage the children in their topic. By reading the story outside it encourages the children to continue the story during their break time as they connect their story with outside. So I find stories read or performed outside will be re-enacted during break and dinner time extending their learning into these times. Becoming familiar with stories and having the opportunity to act them out is a vital element in children becoming story writers. Pie Corbett refers to this as imitation. Through this stage of imitating stories they then come to innovate and change the stories to make their own versions. By reading and performing stories outside it widens the possibilities of a story. For example a chase between the wolf and woodcutter in Little Red Riding Hood can stretch over the field rather than being squashed in the classroom.

For parents just taking the picnic blanket to the park with a story again has an added element of excitement, taking the story beyond just reading it for bedtime.

So key reasons for reading outside:

  • Create excitement and engagement.
  • Extend the learning beyond the classroom, children will often continue their story games into break and dinner time.
  • Time outside benefits health and mental health.
  • Space to roleplay stories with no limits on running, jumping, etc that you would have in the classroom.
  • Boy engagement. It always makes up an element of school improvement plans now. The boys in my class like getting out and generally end up following close behind for outdoor stories so they can spread the tarp. This then ends up with many of them sat at the front for story rather than trying to hide at the back not listening.
  • Creating a love of literature and the outside.

 

I will be following this blog up with several examples of stories I like to use outside and what additional activities I do alongside reading the story. If you use any stories outside currently or decide to take your class or children out please comment below. I’d love to hear others experiences.