For the Visitor Experience Team, we are now in our busiest time of year. As well as holidaymakers, over the past few weeks classes from many local schools have visited the reserve for a fun and educational day out in the run up to the end of term. On the 11th June we welcomed the Rainbows and Guides from Thurso, a group of girls aged 5 to 15 full of enthusiasm and curiosity about the Flow Country. For most this was their first visit to Forsinard Flows; the train ride to the reserve gave them an initial glimpse of the landscape just beyond the edge of their hometown and they spent the day exploring it further.

The youngest of the group, Rainbows, started their day exploring the Visitor Centre, looking at the treasures that the volunteers and wardens have been finding on the bog for the past 21 years. They were fascinated by our collection of animal remains and droppings! After talking about the wildlife that lives at Forsinard, we turned our thoughts to what might be living in their gardens in Thurso. Using old plastic bottles, twigs, canes, pine cones and hay they made bug houses to create shelter and nesting sites for insects living in their gardens.

After some arts and crafts, the group donned wellies and coats for a walk along the Dubh Lochan trail. The Flows Lookout viewing tower generated much excitement, but we managed a few moments of quiet at the top to listen to the chorus of skylarks. Finally, there was time for pond dipping. Along with a nice diversity of dragonfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae and water beetles, the favourite spot of the day was a small palmate newt!

Whilst the Rainbows were learning about wildlife, the older group, the Guides, spent their time at Forsinard Flows figuring out peat. They were joined by Roxane, a peatland scientist from the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in Thurso. Roxane gave an interactive talk to the Guides about the peatlands in the Flow Country, discussing what peat is, the importance of the habitat and how scientists study it. For the future conservation of the Flow Country, it is important the younger generation understand the significance of the landscape they’re growing up in. To explore Forsinard in more detail the Guides then took part in a peatland challenge, searching for evidence of animals found in the Flow Country, recording peat depth and conducting plant surveys. Even though the weather was a bit windy and cold, we were lucky enough not to get rain so the girls could spend most of their day outside, having fun whilst learning about the peatlands and wildlife right on their doorstep.

Thanks Guides and Rainbows for your visit!