Last weekend, it decided to rain. Of course it did, that was the weekend of our Big Wild Sleepout! I spent days watching (and dreaming about!) the weather forecast and it looked like it might just dry up in time for us to pitch the tents and enjoy an evening of activities out on the nature reserve. Luckily for us, the weather stuck to it's forecast and just as people were arriving at 4pm, the rain eased off.

Our nature reserve is very unique when it comes to campsites. We don't pitch in fields, we spend the night in our Discovery Area in little pockets surrounded by wildflowers and blackberry bushes. Our visitors brought their own tents and dinner and enjoyed some relaxation in the calm and beauty of the nature reserve. Whilst the tents were being pitched by the adults, the children helped us re-build our Bug B&B. Some people even brought materials from home, which the bugs will be very grateful for! 


We took the group for a little walk to look at some birds. Although none were experienced birdwatchers, we were keen to show them the huge flocks of wading birds that decided to rest on our islands that day taking shelter from the bad weather. Burrowes Pit was a sight to behold - hundreds of different species of waders gathered on the islands. We had a reserve record for Redshank with over 300 spotted in one go. 


Afterwards we headed back to the campsite to gather round our campfire and enjoy toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate and stories. Unfortunately the evening was too cloudy to see the stars but a local astronomy group (Ashford Astronomical Society) kindly joined us to give us a talk about the plants and constellations above us. From there we headed along the trail to see if our badgers were out. Leaving peanuts along a certain part of the trail had been enticing them there for a week already so we hoped for a glimpse. Sadly, the badgers were not playing ball and we weren't able to see or hear any. We did however spot a glow worm, some newts, a toad and plenty of slugs and snails along the track!


By this time it was getting late and many decided to retire to their tents. Some of us stayed up talking round the campfire and at midnight the clouds cleared and the stars came out! We were able to see the milky way, Jupiter and it's moons and even a glimpse of Saturn. 

The next morning, we all got up at a leisurely time and had a look at the moths in the traps that we set the night before. Everyone was fascinated by these small insects. Who knew they could come in so many shapes, sizes and colours?! After a few cups of tea, biscuits and some chocolate cake (yes for breakfast!) for a birthday boy, our visitors started to pack up their tents and got ready to leave. Some stayed and walked the main nature trail, enjoying a few more hours on the reserve but I'm sure others were keen to get home for a wash and put their feet up on the sofa after our jam-packed event!


Thank you to all who came and for the volunteers who helped make this event a success. We look forward to running it again next year!

(Click the pictures to enlarge)