By Tom Simpson
Gatwick Greenspace Partnership Officer
Every year during May half term Gatwick Goes Wild as the Greenspace Partnership hosts a week of events to help local people learn about wildlife and find new ways to enjoy their greenspaces.
This year’s activities began with a Family Holiday Club in the Gatwick woodlands near Crawley. Our guests started a fire with fire steels and produced a tasty cordial from the abundant Elderflower along the woodland edge. Later, we learnt all about the local trees; collecting leaves for ‘hapazome’ prints and turning willow into charcoal for pencils. After lunch, we wandered across the meadow and were lucky enough to spot a Gatwick Grass Snake. Wet weather for Wednesday’s guided walk along the River Mole meant only the hardiest nature enthusiasts made it along. The wildlife took cover but one sharp-eyed girl spotted several tiny species sheltering from the rain. Among those identified were Wandering Pond Snails, a Short-fringed Mining Bee, Froghopper larvae, Soldier Beetles, Glow Worms and even a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.
Glow worm by Rachel Bicker
The exclusive invites to the Butterfly Ball and Grasshoppers Feast, were gratefully accepted by both insect and beast (especially of the human kind). The moth trap was a real highlight and the ever-popular Poplar Hawk-moth stole the show by getting up-close with some of our guests.
We headed across the meadow, where Slow Worms, Grass Snakes and Demoiselles joined the party, before putting pond nets into the water to see if the aquatic invertebrates had received their invites. No ball is complete without a masquerade mask and an impressive array were crafted that afternoon.
It was back to the River Mole again on Friday evening when Martyn Cooke of the Surrey Bat Group brought his expertise (and an array of exciting equipment) to help spot some elusive winged mammals after dark. Whiskered Bats were seen emerging from their roosts on an infrared camera, Noctules were picked-up on the bat detectors calling loudly over the floodplain and Common Pipistrelles swooped on their prey directly overhead.
The first day of 30 Days Wild saw our Mammal Detectives following tracks and soon sniffing out ten Longworth traps set in the Gatwick Woodlands. After freeing four Voles from the humane traps, the trail continued. Badgers took the bait and left their mark in their latrines and Foxes posed in front of the trail cams. Once in the woods our detectives dissected owl pellets, made some tracks of their own and carefully crafted critter shelters for our woodland mammals.
This year’s Gatwick Goes Wild was the best yet with more people, more wildlife and even more fun. We would like to thank everyone who came along to join in and all the staff and volunteers who helped to put on a wild half term.
Next up is the Gatwick Wildlife Discovery Day on the 22 June – a bioblitz event for all the family where you can help us to identify and record as much wildlife as possible in 24 hours at the Gatwick Aviation Museum.
Why wait another year to ‘Go Wild’ when the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership have plenty of events running throughout the year? Events calendar.