Steve showed me the various projects on hand. The entrance lane, diving deep
into the valley, is full of plants providing food and habitats - an initial
introduction to the ethos of the place. To children, many of whom expect to
see monkeys in the trees because all their nature experience comes from
television, information about the deer, foxes , badgers and birds forming
part of Offwell's wild life is enlightening and exciting.
After seeing the area of regenerating heathland on which different
management techniques are being trialled, we visited the beech walk - then
on through conifer woodland to see the aquatic habitats which were once a
boating lake in the Coplestons' time. Where Victorian rowing boats once
dallied, these are now wetlands, composing marsh, swamp and deep water
habitats with their varying attendant plants.
Leaving the ponds, we went to the Lake Classroom which is a vital part of
the Centre for visiting schoolchildren. Here essential information is given
to help them start pond dipping. This is where Amy and her friends probably
met the first wonders of the day when their nets produced mini-beasts -
caddis-fly larva, daphnia, the larva of the
great diving beetle - small creatures living in an underwater world about
which they knew nothing.
But now they understand the magical concept that some of these strange
creatures will grow wings and fly around.
On these school visits Centre staff have digital cameras at the ready,
recording small faces lighting up with amazement and wonder. These images
are at once transferred to a CD packed with information, pictures, puzzles,
quizzes and other delights, which goes to the children's school next day.