7 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 6 Field Guide to Fantastic Beasts

The seven days are going quickly. After writing about cutting down my environmental impact I saw this article on people who have gone that extra mile. While I don’t think Amy is ready to part with her electric toothbrush it is inspiring to read how other people have made the shift to reducing their waste.

Inspired by Alice’s love of stickman I thought I’d look at some other sources of mystical creatures outside. While the actual wildlife outside brings me a lot of joy I don’t mind adding a fantasy element to journeys outside. After the holiday I am going to be sharing the story Zog by Julia Donaldson. This is the story of a young dragon learning its school lessons. Alongside this, I have plans for setting up a few fantasy elements outside.

Here are three books I’ve found make for excellent inspiration for children’s imagination with the intention of searching for magic outside.

  • Fantastic Beasts and where to find them-J.K. Rowling
  • Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide- Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black
  • The Lost Words-Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris

J.K. Rowling’s books are probably a bit above Alice’s level at 2 years old but for the five-year-olds at school, the odd entry will inspire some hunting outside I hope. The children have been finding lots of trolls under the bridge (climbing frame) and their interest in unicorns is still high. Hopefully introducing them to a few more beasts may develop their plots a bit further.

The lost words is a beautiful book for encouraging people to get out into nature. While this one doesn’t have the fantasy element the poems work as spells to summon the various entries. If you want to encourage writing in slightly older children this is an excellent source of inspiration. But for the younger children, there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in the gorgeous illustrations. Alongside this, I plan to use Jackie Morris Tell me a dragon for some furth inspiration. This, again, has beautiful illustrations for inspiration.

For parents and teachers wanting further ideas look on the John Muir Trust website.

The last of the three books, the field guide, is based on the Spiderwick Chronicles series of books. The field guide is another beautifully illustrated book with sketches and paintings of beasts to find and notes on where to look.

Then on top of the books, you need your beast hunting kit. A notebook for field notes. Binoculars and magnifying glasses come in use. Then a pocket wand is always useful. If you don’t own a pocket wand sticks are often available outside. Alice reminded me we need a camera as well to record our sightings.

We’ve got family visiting today but hopefully get out later to look for signs of beasts. Equipped with knowledge of what to look for and kitted up who knows what we’ll find. Hope you all enjoy the last few days of 2018.

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beast kit

Long tailed tit bumbarrels

I didn’t contribute any folklore Thursday posts on twitter, but did find this little literary reference I liked.

Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread
The fieldfare chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the awe round fields and closen rove
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again

John Clare
The “bumbarrels” is a colloquial for long tailed tits. As a name it rather suits them. The last few weeks I’ve had these coming in the garden a lot and are becoming more comfortably in my presence. 

I’m gradually getting closer for photos of these bumbarrels.

National Allotments Week

This week is National Allotments Week. This is organised by the National Allotment Society. With people having smaller gardens in new builds and pressure to remove allotments for new housing it seems nice to celebrate the allotment. That little space where Brits have escaped to for many years. The first were established in the 1700’s for the use of the poor. By the name Victory Gardens they played a role in digging for victory in the World Wars. Now with a young child I don’t have the time needed for an allotment. I’m still getting on top of my own garden. But my parents do and they have donated various fruit and veg. So to celebrate National Allotment Week I have attempted a rhubarb and apple crumble using the recipe here.

The variety of apples my parents have grown are supposed to be a cross between an eating and a cooking apple depending on when you pick them. So we’ll have to wait and see whether they are tasty or disgusting in the crumble.

The crumble mix felt suitably crumbly before going on.

The finished result. My parents are visiting tomorrow and since they donated the apples and rhubarb I think I will have to save it for them to test. Just crisp it up a little bit more. So we’ll see what do you reckon will it be delicious or totally inedible?

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Apple Picking-Robert Browning

A quick poem linked to the apples.

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Garden update

The long tailed tits have been back again. They are gradually becoming more comfortable with me being around allowing me to get a bit closer for clearer photos than last time.