Discover The Countryside !

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The Fascinating World Around Us -
An Introduction to British Wildlife and Habitats, for Adults


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Sorry folks! This course is not currently being offered but may resume in due course.






6. Local Environmental History -
    Geological History


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The history of Devon looked at with an environmental focus, over a geological time scale of millions of years. For example:
  • Would you expect to find a hippo in your pond? Once upon a time you might have done!
  • Why do many parts of Devon have that famous fertile red soil?
  • The area is rich in fossils. What are they and where do you look for them? 
  • What can fossils tell us about a particular landscape?
  • Where did flints come from?

The activity will also take a brief look at the geology of the area with particular reference to the effect this has on the landscape and wildlife.

  • What can the presence of  particular plant species tell you about an area?

More clues of the countryside.

7. Local Environmental History -
    Human Influence on the Landscape


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A look at Humans and their interactions with the local landscape, from Neolithic times to the present.
  • How much of the landscape around you is natural?
  • How could you use a variety of clues to date your local  hedges and why were hedges originally invented?
  • Heathlands as a man-made habitat.
  • Is that an ancient woodland?
  • Why do some trees in woodlands have such a strange growth form, with several different trunks?
  • Can modern agriculture coexist with wildlife?
  • Should the countryside be kept as a museum?

This is history from a variety of different angles, put together in a way you may never thought of before.

8. Managing your garden or land to benefit       wildlife.
    Designing, or restoring natural ponds.


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Over 75% of ponds have disappeared over the last 50 years, with devastating effects on many aquatic organisms. Dragonflies in particular have been badly affected. Ten percent of British Dragonfly species have been become extinct in Britain over the last 25 years. Creating a pond in your garden can be of very real benefit to aquatic species, as well as providing an endless source of fascinating creatures to observe.

This activity will tell you all you need to know about creating your own garden pond to provide maximum benefit for wildlife.

Do's and dont's of position, depth and gradation, linings, what plants to use where and tips for overcoming problems such as algal growth.

Then sit back and watch the wildlife find it!

9. Managing your garden or land to benefit       wildlife.
    Woodlands and what to do with them for       maximum wildlife benefit.


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What to do with an area of woodland.
  • Should you just leave it alone?
  • Ways to encourage biodiversity (a variety of organisms) in a woodland area.
  • Why you should resist the temptation to be tidy!
  • Traditional methods of management such as coppicing.
  • Designing and placing rides and glades in a woodland. Why are these important?
  • Managing pest species.
  • Is it an ancient wood? Plant indicator species.
  • The creation of new woodlands. What trees should you plant? (First look carefully at the land you are going to transform. Is it more valuable for wildlife as it is?)
10. Surveying Wildlife -
      How do you know what is there?




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(Image courtesy of B. Walker)

Many animals are extremely secretive and difficult to locate. Or, they may be very small and difficult to spot in amongst vegetation. So how do you find out what is there? This activity will show you a variety of different ways of answering that question.

For example:

  • How would you go about surveying birds, or butterflies in a particular area?How could you compare numbers of individuals of different species at different times?
  • How could you locate as many different types of beetle as possible?
  • How do you discover what wildlife your pond is attracting? Is it very different to your neighbour's pond?
  • How many different kinds of plants are there in that wild flower meadow? Which ones are the most common?
  • Is the management you are using in your wooded area having the desired effect?

Try your hand at using a variety of different sampling methods for a wide diversity of organisms.

The activity will also offer a very brief look at how an ecologist would go about surveying habitats.