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HOW TO have fun in the countryside this summer.

PUBLISHED: 15:32 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013

badger

badger

It's summer - and for the next four weeks (at least) the children and grandchildren are off school and asking "What are we going to do today then?". Keeping them happy through the summer doesn't have to mean travelling far or spending lots ...

It's summer - and for the next four weeks (at least) the children and grandchildren are off school and asking "What are we going to do today then?". Keeping them happy through the summer doesn't have to mean travelling far or spending lots of money. We have the glorious Gloucestershire countryside on our doorsteps, and it's teeming with lots of fun stuff you can do with children over the summer. Here are our top 10 suggestions:



1. Go badger watching - these are our most popular events at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and we organise badger watches throughout the summer at a sett in the Slad Valley near Stroud, led by badger expert Tony Dean. He has visited this sett for years and the badgers are very used to him, so you can sit in the field and watch as they come out in the daylight to Tony's whistle.



2. Climb a big hill - there are so many places in Gloucestershire where there's a fantastic view as pay-off for climbing a big hill. Children love the challenge and then the sense of achievement once they get to the top to see what they can see. Our favourite climbs are Painswick Beacon; May Hill; Crickley Hill Country Park; Haresfield Beacon; Robinswood Hill; Cleeve Hill; Coaley Peak. What can you see from the top of your favourite hill - the Malvern Hills, the River Severn, Wales?



3. Moths by moonlight - Summer is a great time to see moths. Borrow a good moth identification book from your local library, and see if you can attract them by standing in your garden with a torch. See which ones come to you - look out for the large hummingbird hawk moth and elephant hawk moth.



4. Chasing dragons - Dragonflies and damselflies are the jewels of summer. Many can be seen at Coombe Hill Nature Reserve darting over the canal. Take a walk along the towpath to watch them dart around feeding on insects. Our favourites are the emperor dragonfly and the banded demoiselle - see if you can spot which is which. Remember, when resting dragonflies always hold their wings out flat while damselflies always fold them together.



5. Go fossil hunting - Hock Cliff on the banks of the River Severn is our favourite fossil hunting place. The crumbling cliffs make it easy to find fossils in the scree at the bottom (hammering at the cliffs is against the law). You can expect to find devil's toenails, ammonites and sea urchins. Another good fossil place is Rolling Bank Quarry at Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham.



6. Have a woodland adventure - Woodlands are just the best places to visit on scorching summer days, and our magnificent Lower Woods nature reserve near Wotton-under-Edge is well worth the journey for cool pathways, lush open rides, tinkling streams. It's a great place for hide and seek, treasure hunts, wildlife spotting or simply an indulgent picnic.



7. Glow-worm walks - We love looking for glow-worms on warm summer evenings. They are magical when found around dusk, and some of the best places to look are the dismantled railway line (next to Morrisons) on the outskirts of Tewkesbury and on Robinswood Hill in Gloucester.



8. Spot a large blue butterfly - This beautiful species of butterfly was extinct in Gloucestershire for decades, but was reintroduced to Daneway Banks nature reserve a few years ago with huge success. Sit in the grass and watch for the bright blue flashes of colour as they go about their gentle summer business.



9. Go batty - Newent Lake at dusk is a great place to watch bats, as it's a popular feeding area for Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Daubenton's and Noctule bats. Another great bat place is along the River Coln at Bibury, but they can be seen throughout the county often following the same flight path every evening when out feeding on insects.



10. Go for a wildflower walk - wildflower meadows are wonderful places to wile away a summer afternoon. Go equipped with a book like 'Wild flowers of Britain and Europe' by Francis Rose so you can find out what you're looking at. The commons around Stroud and Elliott Nature Reserve at Swifts Hill near Slad are both great for wild orchids, while Greystones Farm nature reserve is lovely for its meadows and meandering rivers.





Garden wildlife diary


It's nice to think of August as a lazy month, even in the garden. There's not a whole lot going on really. Garden birds are malting so even they are quiet and activities such as deadheading after flowers have gone to seed are to be discouraged, as the seed heads can provide valuable food for birds come the autumn.



Something you can do is give any nest boxes a bit of a clear out - a deep clean isn't necessary, just clear out any debris. Also, if you have some patches of lawn that have been left to grow as wildflower meadow, this is the month to give them a mow. Like hay, leave the mowings on the ground for a few days to dry out - this will allow the seeds to drop before you rake up.



At this time of year your compost bin will be rotting at it's warmest rate all year, so keep it topped up with kitchen peelings and garden clippings to make the most of this free, natural process.



If you have a garden pond now's a good time to tackle any problems with blanket weed. The best way is to put in a rake and twist the weed around it to pull it out. Then leave it on the side of the pond for at least a day so that any resident mini-beasts can find their way back into the pond before the weed is disposed of.



Now sit back, relax and enjoy your summer garden and its wildlife.






Countryside diary


It's a bit of a quiet month in the countryside too - the breeding has finished and the feeding hasn't yet started. You'll probably see farmers out sowing winter wheat, and there will also be cattle or sheep being moved to graze in pastures that were cut for hay last month.



If you're responsible for any hedgerows, please resist the urge to start flailing or cutting them. The berries ripening there right now are an important food source for birds, and the hedges themselves are home to countless species. February is the best month to cut hedges, and then only one side each year.



Places to visit on August:


Check the main feature 'How to have fun in the countryside' for lots of ideas of nature reserves and countryside places to visit this month, as well as things to do once you're there.




My favourite place - my garden in The Wye Valley


Rosie Kelsall



In the long, drawn out late summer evenings, there's nowhere I prefer sitting than in my garden in the Wye Valley watching the wildlife world go by.



Above me I watch the swifts and swallows gather in increasingly large flocks as this year's young join the melee. The screeching swifts circle ever higher until they are only dots in the sky. These aerial acrobatics will, I guess, stand them in good stead for their long journey south to Africa.



As the dusk closes in the bats start to appear and, down by the river, I watch out for Daubentons bats swooping low over the water, gleaning insects from the surface. The occasional lazy fish pops up to catch a mouthful and the ripples spread out across the water. The overwhelming feeling of long lazy summer days seems to be reflected in the water as it slowly makes its way south to Chepstow and then out to sea.



Whilst you can't all come and enjoy my garden with me, there are many places in the Wye Valley where this experience can be recreated. From the Symonds Yat car park you can walk down to the River and enjoy the newly surfaced cycle route which takes you towards Monmouth. Alternatively the many villages dotted along the Wye valley provide access to the tranquillity of the riverside on a summer's evening. I'd recommend Symonds Yat East, Lower Lydbrook, Redbrook, or Brockweir, all with pubs next the river where a peaceful summer's evening can be spent contemplating the wonders of the natural world.




Membership of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust costs from just 2 a month. Join on-line at www.gloucestershirewidlifetrust.co.uk, phone 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Reservoir Road, Gloucester, GL4 6SX.


It's summer - and for the next four weeks (at least) the children and grandchildren are off school and asking "What are we going to do today then?". Keeping them happy through the summer doesn't have to mean travelling far or spending lots of money. We have the glorious Gloucestershire countryside on our doorsteps, and it's teeming with lots of fun stuff you can do with children over the summer. Here are our top 10 suggestions:



1. Go badger watching - these are our most popular events at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and we organise badger watches throughout the summer at a sett in the Slad Valley near Stroud, led by badger expert Tony Dean. He has visited this sett for years and the badgers are very used to him, so you can sit in the field and watch as they come out in the daylight to Tony's whistle.



2. Climb a big hill - there are so many places in Gloucestershire where there's a fantastic view as pay-off for climbing a big hill. Children love the challenge and then the sense of achievement once they get to the top to see what they can see. Our favourite climbs are Painswick Beacon; May Hill; Crickley Hill Country Park; Haresfield Beacon; Robinswood Hill; Cleeve Hill; Coaley Peak. What can you see from the top of your favourite hill - the Malvern Hills, the River Severn, Wales?



3. Moths by moonlight - Summer is a great time to see moths. Borrow a good moth identification book from your local library, and see if you can attract them by standing in your garden with a torch. See which ones come to you - look out for the large hummingbird hawk moth and elephant hawk moth.



4. Chasing dragons - Dragonflies and damselflies are the jewels of summer. Many can be seen at Coombe Hill Nature Reserve darting over the canal. Take a walk along the towpath to watch them dart around feeding on insects. Our favourites are the emperor dragonfly and the banded demoiselle - see if you can spot which is which. Remember, when resting dragonflies always hold their wings out flat while damselflies always fold them together.



5. Go fossil hunting - Hock Cliff on the banks of the River Severn is our favourite fossil hunting place. The crumbling cliffs make it easy to find fossils in the scree at the bottom (hammering at the cliffs is against the law). You can expect to find devil's toenails, ammonites and sea urchins. Another good fossil place is Rolling Bank Quarry at Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham.



6. Have a woodland adventure - Woodlands are just the best places to visit on scorching summer days, and our magnificent Lower Woods nature reserve near Wotton-under-Edge is well worth the journey for cool pathways, lush open rides, tinkling streams. It's a great place for hide and seek, treasure hunts, wildlife spotting or simply an indulgent picnic.



7. Glow-worm walks - We love looking for glow-worms on warm summer evenings. They are magical when found around dusk, and some of the best places to look are the dismantled railway line (next to Morrisons) on the outskirts of Tewkesbury and on Robinswood Hill in Gloucester.



8. Spot a large blue butterfly - This beautiful species of butterfly was extinct in Gloucestershire for decades, but was reintroduced to Daneway Banks nature reserve a few years ago with huge success. Sit in the grass and watch for the bright blue flashes of colour as they go about their gentle summer business.



9. Go batty - Newent Lake at dusk is a great place to watch bats, as it's a popular feeding area for Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Daubenton's and Noctule bats. Another great bat place is along the River Coln at Bibury, but they can be seen throughout the county often following the same flight path every evening when out feeding on insects.



10. Go for a wildflower walk - wildflower meadows are wonderful places to wile away a summer afternoon. Go equipped with a book like 'Wild flowers of Britain and Europe' by Francis Rose so you can find out what you're looking at. The commons around Stroud and Elliott Nature Reserve at Swifts Hill near Slad are both great for wild orchids, while Greystones Farm nature reserve is lovely for its meadows and meandering rivers.





Garden wildlife diary


It's nice to think of August as a lazy month, even in the garden. There's not a whole lot going on really. Garden birds are malting so even they are quiet and activities such as deadheading after flowers have gone to seed are to be discouraged, as the seed heads can provide valuable food for birds come the autumn.



Something you can do is give any nest boxes a bit of a clear out - a deep clean isn't necessary, just clear out any debris. Also, if you have some patches of lawn that have been left to grow as wildflower meadow, this is the month to give them a mow. Like hay, leave the mowings on the ground for a few days to dry out - this will allow the seeds to drop before you rake up.



At this time of year your compost bin will be rotting at it's warmest rate all year, so keep it topped up with kitchen peelings and garden clippings to make the most of this free, natural process.



If you have a garden pond now's a good time to tackle any problems with blanket weed. The best way is to put in a rake and twist the weed around it to pull it out. Then leave it on the side of the pond for at least a day so that any resident mini-beasts can find their way back into the pond before the weed is disposed of.



Now sit back, relax and enjoy your summer garden and its wildlife.






Countryside diary


It's a bit of a quiet month in the countryside too - the breeding has finished and the feeding hasn't yet started. You'll probably see farmers out sowing winter wheat, and there will also be cattle or sheep being moved to graze in pastures that were cut for hay last month.



If you're responsible for any hedgerows, please resist the urge to start flailing or cutting them. The berries ripening there right now are an important food source for birds, and the hedges themselves are home to countless species. February is the best month to cut hedges, and then only one side each year.



Places to visit on August:


Check the main feature 'How to have fun in the countryside' for lots of ideas of nature reserves and countryside places to visit this month, as well as things to do once you're there.




My favourite place - my garden in The Wye Valley


Rosie Kelsall



In the long, drawn out late summer evenings, there's nowhere I prefer sitting than in my garden in the Wye Valley watching the wildlife world go by.



Above me I watch the swifts and swallows gather in increasingly large flocks as this year's young join the melee. The screeching swifts circle ever higher until they are only dots in the sky. These aerial acrobatics will, I guess, stand them in good stead for their long journey south to Africa.



As the dusk closes in the bats start to appear and, down by the river, I watch out for Daubentons bats swooping low over the water, gleaning insects from the surface. The occasional lazy fish pops up to catch a mouthful and the ripples spread out across the water. The overwhelming feeling of long lazy summer days seems to be reflected in the water as it slowly makes its way south to Chepstow and then out to sea.



Whilst you can't all come and enjoy my garden with me, there are many places in the Wye Valley where this experience can be recreated. From the Symonds Yat car park you can walk down to the River and enjoy the newly surfaced cycle route which takes you towards Monmouth. Alternatively the many villages dotted along the Wye valley provide access to the tranquillity of the riverside on a summer's evening. I'd recommend Symonds Yat East, Lower Lydbrook, Redbrook, or Brockweir, all with pubs next the river where a peaceful summer's evening can be spent contemplating the wonders of the natural world.




Membership of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust costs from just 2 a month. Join on-line at www.gloucestershirewidlifetrust.co.uk, phone 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Reservoir Road, Gloucester, GL4 6SX.

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