Author Ronnie Reed
Can we make a huge pile of leaves? asked the earnest face looking up at me. It was a warm, soft, autumn afternoon, a Saturday, and we had just finished lunch sitting around our camp fire. I looked around at the remainder of the group chatting to each other. The question had come from one of the girls who had been part of the Wildlife Ranger group here at the Seven Sisters since it had started back in the spring. They were all a similar age; twelve, thirteen years old, and had one thing in common; they liked being out of doors, were interested in wildlife and enjoyed lighting fires (actually that is three things in common). We had spent this particular morning tidying up after a storm had bought down a young tree across the fencing that surrounds our dipping pond. We had removed the debris from the fence, cut it up and created a wood pile habitat with it. The group had also been busy cutting up butternut squashes to make soup which we cooked over the fire they had lit. As the tools were put away and the soup was poured out this little bit of the forest became quieter.
Why do you want to build a big pile of leaves? I asked. The reply was an impish grin. So we can jump into it. I looked up at the boys expecting indulgent laughter and instant dismissal of the idea. To my amazement there were excited nods of agreement. How old are you guys? I asked but had to smile. For the next half an hour this group of cool, street wise youngsters organised themselves; improvised rakes from fallen branches, laughed and shouted instructions until they downed tools and stood around a (it has to be said) huge pile of copper brown beech leaves, stirring gently in the breeze. Then one by one with shrieks of laughter they did exactly what you do with a big pile of leaves, they jumped into it.
And had a great time.
Over the year we had done lots of different things as a group. There had been bushcraft sessions, when they had learned to use saws and knives safely to make things; mallets, rolling pins, butter spreaders, unsuccessful spatulas (my fault), time spent down on the beach rock pooling, surveying the pond to find out what lived in it, a morning working hard to tidy up the shingle garden outside the visitor centre, a session removing debris from the pond during which we had watched a dragonfly larva, that had dragged itself up the stem of a reed, emerge from its larval skin to dry in the sun before trying the freedom of the air. They had built debris shelters and cooked a variety of different things over the fire; they had learned new skills, laughed, argued, moaned, been great and been a pain at times. The amazing thing was they had come back month after month until the winter became too cold and wet and we had wished each other happy Christmas and I promised I would start again in the spring.
And in a couple of weeks time, I will do just that and start again. The second Saturday of the month as always, and we will meet up; maybe learn some new skills, revisit some old ones, discover some new things, and a year on each of them will bring something different to the group from last time.
I dont know what this season will offer but I do know we will have lots of fun and lots of laughs.
Maybe you know a young person who would like to join us.
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Wildlife Rangers at Seven Sisters Country Park
Where: Seven Sisters Country Park, Exceat nr. Seaford, East Sussex, BN25 4AD
Who: 12 to 16 year olds
Day: Every second Saturday of the month throughout the year. 10.30 15.00. (starts 8 March 2014)
Interested? Contact Ronnie Reed, click here to email or call on 01323 870100