Big thank you from

The rich tapestry of education now available to our children

by Paul Cormacain

THE badger looked like he was resting. He was in a field under a tree near a river, on his belly and with his front legs stretched in front of him. There were rabbits and birds in the area, and doubtless if you were to look for mice you would find plenty. So it was good badger country.

When I looked over the hedge at him, for it was an adult male, he did not move. When I made a noise he did not look up, so I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that it was a dead badger I was looking at.

I examined the lovely creature, could find no gun shot wounds, so presumed he had been struck by a car. There was a road not far away.

The animal could have been injured there, and was then able to crawl a short distance away. Or a car or lorry driver may have thought it the decent thing to do and brought the corpse away from public view.

So I was then on the lookout for cadavers on our roads, and it was surprising what turned up. During the travelling of about one thousand kilometres on local roads, a number of dead badgers turned up, as well as a few foxes and some birds.

Most creatures now know that the traffic on motorways is very fast, and it seems to me that they have learned to stay away from the fast roads. Nevertheless, one dead fox and one dead badger did turn up on motorways.

The other dead creatures turned up on ordinary roads, some large and broad roads, others narrow country roads. It seems sad to see dead creatures on the road, but one has to be realistic and think, better a badger or fox than a human. I was at a funeral the other day, and am feeling philosophical!

The dead creatures on the roads made me think of the facilities now available for the next generation to now study wildlife in its broadest sense.

The Wildlife Trust is particularly energetic in its education and its youth programmes. Schools and parents alike should be aware of this, and should encourage the next generation to be even more careful, more conscientious, than our generation was.

In its headquarters, the Wildlife Trust at Crossgar has managed to recreate the main threatened habitats in Ireland.

The organisation may have Ulster in its name, but rightly is concerned with all habitats in all four provinces in Ireland. Wild bogland, wildflower meadows, woodland and wetland are all taken into account. These landscapes are all uniquely recreated at Crossgar.

Aimed at the young, the facilities and activities include Key Stage I to 4 resources, and Wildlife Safaris. then there are creepy crawly and woodland safaris, environmental games and pond dipping.

I always thought that pond dipping was one of the most satisfying pursuits for both school children and adults, for one never knows what one may conjure up out of the water. There is space for recreational facilities, and fieldwork equipment is available.

The Wildlife Trust has a Wildlife Wagon, a mobile exhibition which travels through the country raising awareness of local wildlife and environmental issues.

Of course, it uses the most modern techniques to address the oldest of problems, with environmental videos and interactive computers. You can have a visit from Barney the barn owl, or get involved in a campaign to save the habitat of the barn owl. Come to think of it, I have not seen a barn owl for a couple of years now.

Then there is a 'touch box', environmental talks are available, and of course there are 'Walk on the Wildside' Programmes.

If you are involved in teaching, or in youth clubs, you could think about going to Delamont Country Park with your charges. In partnership with Down District Council there is involvement with education studies based on woodland, shoreline, pond and grassland habitats.

You could take the children to the Bog Meadows, a fascinating place almost in the middle of Belfast. Among the things you can do there are bird watching, a tradition that goes back many, many years. You can also take part in pond clipping, habitat survey, and there are primary and secondary school resources.

Whether a parent, teacher or youth leader, why not get in touch with the Wildlife Trust. Discuss your situation with them, and then take your child, or children, to one of their spots.

Impart some knowledge, to children or adults alike, and learn more about the world about us. And learn how to protect it and improve it.
You can contact the Wildlife Trust on 4483 0282. And have fun!

Coming Events

Saturday 16th April - Early, early bird start at yarn for the Dawn Chorus at Castle Archdale, talk to 6862 1588

Monday 25th April - With the Lisburn RSPB hear Stephen Foster talk about Wetland Management, contact David McCreedy on 4062 6125.

Thursday 28th April - Birdwatch Morning at Castle Espie. 10.30, call 9187 4146

Monday 2nd May - Bank Holiday craft activities at Castle Espie, at 2am, phone 9187 4146

Saturday 7th May - Dawn Chorus Walk at Oxford Island, early bird start at 6am, more from 3834 7438.

Friday 21st May - There will be a May Spring Weekend, courtesy of Lisburn RSPB, going to Speyside. Contact Peter Galloway on 9266 1982 for more.

Ulster Star