Every year in June The Wildlife Trusts challenges everyone to take part in a ‘Random Act of Wildness’ - that's one each day for a whole month. Your random act could last a few minutes or a few hours depending on how much time you have on your hands, but the general idea is to take a moment out of your busy schedule and immerse yourself in nature, whether it’s in your garden, park or local nature reserve.
We have lots of space here at RSPB Sandwell Valley, and our volunteers are always up for a challenge. Our work parties are out and about in almost all weathers, and our admin staff take regular walks around the reserve during their afternoon breaks. So, to help spread our love for nature and encourage others to take part in the challenge, we thought we’d challenge ourselves to come up with 50 activities, both big and small, you can do here at RSPB Sandwell Valley.
See how we got on below…
It’s almost guaranteed that any time you pop into RSPB Sandwell Valley you’ll see a bird. Whether they’re on the feeders, waiting patiently next to our feeding stations or happily floating past the Hide on Forge Mill Lake, there’s always something to see. Have a chat to our volunteers for info on our recent sightings. We also have binoculars on hand in the visitor centre and Hide to help you get up close and put your identification skills to the test.
You can get in a walk of about 1.75 miles around our reserve – that’s around 2.8km. This is a great activity if you’re on a lunchbreak or enjoying a no-work-weekend. The route takes between half an hour and 45 minutes (depending on how fast you walk!) Enjoy a picnic along the way, or pop into the Hide to see which of our resident birds are out and about.
Whether you’re in need of a much-needed rest after a long walk, or you’re simply looking for a place to relax, our meadows are the perfect place to lie down and have a rest. Enjoy the sunshine, listen to the birds singing and have a nap.
Just opposite our robin feeding station on the path down to the Hide is our hugging tree: a giant, magnificent oak. See how far your arms can reach around it, and ask a friend to join in too!
Our wildflower meadows are the perfect places to spot your favourite butterflies from comma to peacock, speckled wood and brimstone. You can also see them on warm summer days on the path down to the Hide. Sit quietly for a while and see how many you can spot! We also have an event running from 25 May - 2 June where you can explore a butterfly trail and learn all sorts of amazing facts
There’s so many good spots to enjoy a picnic on our reserve. There’re picnic tables outside the visitor centre, numerous benches, or you could have a sit down on the path overlooking the lake. (Note: If you do have a picnic, please do use the bins or take your rubbish with you)
There are loads of different insects to find in our minibeast meadow from ladybirds to centipedes to slugs. Ask at the visitor centre and we’ll show you everything you need to go on your own bug hunting safari.
If you love photography, then our reserve is a great place to put your skills to the test. Walk around the lake for a panoramic view of the valley, get up close with the wildflowers in our meadow, or head down to the Hide and spot our water-loving birds.
If you’ve got a good eye for detail then you’ll enjoy identifying fungi! There’s all sorts of weird and wonderful mushrooms to find on trees, logs, branches and hidden away in little woodland areas. Some of our volunteers are experts, so if you find one and aren’t sure what it is just pop into the visitor centre and ask away! (Note: please don’t pick the fungi)
You can hire a pond dipping kit for just £3 from the visitor desk, or you can come along to our Guided Pond Dipping Sessions every Saturday in summer! We’ll show you how to pond dip and look for different pond creatures including newts, dragonfly nymphs and backswimmers.
Our den building area is a great place to have fun, put your building skills to the test and practice teamwork. You can do den building as part of our Explorer Thursday and Wild Craft Tuesday events, or school sessions - see here for details on how to book a session for your class - or summer activities (subject to availability)
Our robins are always looking for an extra bite to eat for their lunches. We’ve got several feeding stations across the reserve, so if you fancy buying some robin feed from the visitor centre desk (depending on availability) and wait patiently, you might just see one. Sometimes our robins will feel brave enough to come to your hand if you stand very still and very quietly, but if they’re feeling a bit shy you can leave the feed on the station and watch from a distance.
Back in 2017 we had a local youth group come and visit to help create a herb garden. Researchers have found that smelling a nice fragrance can indeed lift our mood, make us nicer and even help us perform better on tasks (How the Scent of Herbs can Improve your Productivity) Take a walk and see which herbs you can smell!
From our wild meadows to quiet woodland glades, there’s a special place for everyone to take a few moments to relax in the great outdoors. If you’re particularly keen in the connection between nature and mental/physical health, why not come along to one of our Wellbeing in Nature sessions on 15 June? We’ll teach you different relaxation techniques and enjoy a series of short walks around the reserve.
The Big Garden Birdwatch may only take place once a year, but we keep a regular count of all the birds we see at RSPB Sandwell both from Nature’s Reach (our visitor centre) and from the lakeside Hide all year round. You can count the birds too, or, if you’re more interested in insects, you could see how many butterflies or damselflies you can count during your visit instead!
A change of scenery is a great way to boost inspiration and help you find the creative solutions you’re looking for. If you’re a creative soul you might relaxation in drawing. Whether you choose to draw in pencil, pen, or even a mini watercolour set, there’s lots of places to sit and draw across the reserve. There are some great views of the lake from the Hide and the lakeside path if you’re interested in landscapes, or you can sit and draw the birds you see on the feeders from the visitor centre.
There’s lots of ways you can help us raise money for the RSPB and our projects such as surveys, conservation, and species protection. If you’re looking for something local to do why not hold a sponsored walk around our reserve, or – if you’re looking for a bigger challenge – you could walk around the whole of Sandwell Valley! See here for more ideas on fundraising.
Have you been feeling low lately or stuck in a negative thought loop? Research has shown that a 90-minute walk in nature can lower activity in the part of the brain linked to negative reflection, but a walk in an urban setting doesn’t have the same effect. Head out on a walk and write down all the positive things you can see or think of. You could turn this into a hobby if you like, a sort of nature journal full of all the beautiful nature and wildlife you see on your daily adventures.
Sticks and fallen leaves can make great little homes for our resident wildlife. Why not have a go at making a home for a worm, or a mouse or even a blackbird? What do you think their homes might look like?
We can all easily spend time listening to Youtube, Spotify and Itunes, the heavy modern beat of our busy daily lives, but have you ever stopped to listen to the music of the natural world? A choir of goldfinches; the caw of a crow; the honk of a geese. Even the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, or the tapping of rain against wood, and the gentle rush of wind through the treetops on a summer evening. Everything in nature makes a sound. Stop and sit for a minute. What can you hear?
Studying can be difficult sometimes, especially when there’s lots of noise and distractions. Turn off your phone for a moment, sit down in the grass and inhale the fresh air. Sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D (very important for maintaining healthy bones and muscles) and natural light is much better for your eyes than artificial. You could also bring a picnic with you and study with friends.
One of the most popular mindfulness techniques is Gratitude - the act of being thankful and taking notice of what you are thankful for. Head on a walk around the reserve and make a list of all the things you are thankful for. You could even have a go at saying thank you to nature too: to the bees for pollinating our plants, or to the trees for providing shade from the sun. Find out more on the practise of Gratitude at mindful.org/
Knowledge is Power, said painter Sir Francis Bacon back in 1597. How much knowledge about the natural world do you have? How many trees can you identify? Can you tell the difference between a bullfinch and a chaffinch? How many flowers can you name? Our wildflower meadows and flowerbeds are full of all sorts of bee and butterfly friendly plants such as buttercups, dogrose, cornflower, and forget-me-nots. Some are big; some are small. See which ones you recognise and which ones you can name. Our friend David Domoney has a list of all his favourite flowers for June here.
Our Bee Bank by the lakeside Hide is full of buzzing bees from ashy mining bees to red mason bees. You might also spot bees around our flowerbeds and wildflower meadows. See how many different types of bees you can find as you wander around the reserve. Our volunteers are always happy to help you identify your findings.
Do you know your birch from your beech? Your oak from your sycamore? Take a look at the leaves around you, the colours, the shapes, whether they're big or small. Are they smooth or prickly? Do they grow on trees or bushes? The Woodland Trust has a great app that helps you identify leaves and the trees they belong to. How many can you identify?
We have our very own Musical Glade just off the main path down to the Hide from the visitor centre. See what sounds you can make using our natural instruments.
Summer doesn't always mean sunshine and blue skies. Our trees and plants and the ground beneath our feet needs regular water to help things grow. Too much sun means the earth can become hard and rough, and leaves can wilt and even get sunburn! So if it does rain remember that the nature and wildlife around you is being looked after. Grab your wellies, enjoy the rain and go and see how many puddles there are for you to jump in.
Every Thursday morning we hold our Wildlife Gardening Sessions where our team of volunteers maintain and look after the flower beds across the reserve. If you’re enthusiastic and passionate about plants why not come along? Whether you’ve got green fingers or are simply interested in learning more about the botanical world, we’re always looking for more volunteers to join our friendly team. See here for details, or pop into the visitor centre for a chat.
Have fun on our natural obstacle course on the path down to the lakeside Hide (it’s just past the huge log that looks like a crocodile – you’ll know it when you see it!). Test your balancing skills and find your way across the logs. (Some smaller children may need help with the wider steps, so please make sure there’s always someone on hand to keep whoever’s doing the obstacle course safe).
Summer doesn't mean it'll be sunny every day. Rain is good for our plants and trees, and also provides drinking water for our resident wildlife. The combination of sunshine and rain means there may be rainbows on the horizon. Have you ever tried to chase a rainbow?
If you're a real adventurer why not make your own nature trail track using sticks, leafs and stones to guide the way for other explorers across the reserve. Create arrows, messages and signs to lead the way. Craft Invaders have a fantastic blog on how you can get started! (Remember: don't break branches. Use only what you find on the ground).
William Wordsworth, Edward Lear, Emily Bronte, Robert Burns, Alfred Tennyson, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson... There have been many great writers and poets over the years who have taken great inspiration from the nature and wildlife around them. Whether you've spotted a host of golden daffodils or a leaf that's evergreen, find a woodland nook or an open meadows and try your hand at penning a poem.
Make a chart of all the things you think you might hear outdoors like the wind rustling through the trees, birdsong, a buzzing bee or crunching leaves. Bring your chart with you on your next visit and find out which sounds on your list you can hear. Were there any extra sounds that you heard? If you don't fancy making your own chart The Woodland Trust has a great activity sheet you can download here.
Have you ever walked barefoot in the grass? Our feet go through a lot; helping us stand up and move around all day, hidden from the sun most of the year round due to the cold weather. But now that it's summer your feet are in need of a break and walking barefoot could do them the world of good. Maybe you've got ticklish toes or are a bit squeamish about mud, but walking barefoot has actually been said to have both physical and mental benefits including decreasing muscle tension, relieving stress and improving sleep. You can read more about the research here.
It's a game nearly everyone has played at least once. Whether you're on a long journey in the car, or trying to keep busy on a rainy day. Find a spot and see how much you can see! I-spy is a game you can play as a team, or on your own. If you're someone who spends a lot of time looking at a computer or your phone, a bit of I-spy can be a great way to give your eyes a well-deserved break. If you really fancy a challenge have a go at playing I-spy and go through the entire alphabet from A-Z. We don't think we've spotted anything beginning with X yet...
There are all sorts of different sized pebbles and rocks across our reserve and we love painting them at our community and family events such as our Explorer Thursdays. If you fancy painting a pebble why not come along, or you could bring your own paints from home and have a go yourself on a visit (as long as you don't make much mess ).
If you don't fancy trying your hand at painting a pebble, why not have a look for some instead? Sandwell Rocks is a Facebook group that decorates rocks and hides them in various locations for others to find and brighten someone's day. You can either pick up the rock and take it home, or re-hide it for someone else to find.
Sometimes we want to get things done quickly. Maybe you've got an exam when you return to school or university, or you've got a work deadline coming up and it's all you can really think about. Before you know it you're working long hours into the night and you can't quite remember the last time you went outside. Sometimes little and often is more, and slow and steady can win the race. Take a look at the snail, for example. It might be a little bit slow, but it keeps moving at a steady pace towards it's goal. So next time you visit our reserve see if you can spot a snail. Watch how it moves and remember that whatever's on your to-do list just do a little bit at a time at regular intervals. You might find it helps your workload and relieves some stress.
At this time of year most of our flowers are in full bloom and brightening up our reserve with all the colours of Summer. Take a walk and discover which smells are your favourite.
You might have heard of the ‘Spark Joy’ and 'Kon Mari' movements pioneered by Marie Kondo. Sparking Joy is all about de-cluttering your life and focusing on what makes you happy, what literally ‘sparks joy’, causing a physical reaction that elicits a smile and makes you feel good inside. On your walk around the reserve look closely at what you see and see if it sparks joy. It could be a specific bird like a blue tit or jay, or maybe a particular shaped leaf or even the way the sunshine reflects off the surface of the lake. What sparks joy for you?
Have you ever tried to balance rocks on top of one another? It's not as easy as you might think. Rock-balancing (also known as stone-stacking) has been used by different cultures for different reasons all over the world, and today it is often done to help people relax, improve concentration, meditate, play, and create art. Rock-balancing is a great challenge. If your stack falls down, don't give up - try again. How high can you get your stack?
Take a break and enjoy a refreshing cup of tea or coffee in your favourite spot. You can purchase some of our bird-friendly coffee from the Visitor Centre, or you can bring your own flask/reusable cup from home. Using reusable cups is a great way to help save on single-use cup waste! You can keep them in your bag and fill up at home or when you’re out and about.
Whatever time of year you choose to visit, there's always something new to discover at RSPB Sandwell from tiny insects to colourful leaves to acorns. Can you find something that's smooth and something that's rough? Or what about something that's shiny or something that's prickly? Make your own list of things to find or ask at the visitor centre desk for which activity leaflets we have available (season dependent). Keep an eye on our Facebook events page for our Bank Holiday Scavenger Hunts,
Daily life can become a bit much sometimes, and it can be difficult to stop and and find the time to do the things you want to do. When you're feeling under pressure and all you want to do is wave you hands in the air and ask the world if it would just mind stopping for a moment so you can get off, it really is time to set aside a few minutes to simply sit down and breathe. Find somewhere quiet and take a seat. Then sit up straight and breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take in the fresh air, expand your lungs, relax your muscles and let go of all the stress in your body and mind. You can close your eyes if you like. Listen to the birds singing; feel the wind on your face. Breathe in. And out.
Do you know the difference between stratus and altostratus? Or cumulus and cumulonimbus? Clouds can appear quickly and sweep across the sky, or they can rest above you for what feels like an age. Some are big and fluffy; others are long and spindly. Use the Met Office Guide to help you identify which clouds you can see! Lie down on the grass and look up at the sky for a while. If you have a creative eye, you might see different shapes in the clouds. Maybe there's one that looks like a bird or an elephant, or maybe you've spotted a cloud that looks like the shape of Australia or one that looks like a cheese! There are endless possibilities...
If you're looking for a quiet spot to finally sit down and read that book you've been meaning to read for ages then our Storytelling Corner might just be the perfect place. It's a quiet, shady spot under the trees full of natural benches and seats to relax in. Flick open a page and read whilst listening to the natural ambience of the birds and wildlife around you.
Our gates and visitor centre don’t open until 10am, but if you’re an early riser the reserve paths are always open for a morning walk. Whether it’s to take the dog for a walk, do a spot of photography or simply enjoy some me-time, this is a wonderful time of day to listen to the birds and enjoy the sunrise. However, if you don't fancy waking up before your alarm clock, families are welcome to join us at our Wednesday Evening Drop-In Sessions where we'll be open until 7pm and enjoying a variety of nature and wildlife activities including pond-dipping, flower pressing and campfire cooking,
Hygge is the Danish way of life. It's all about being cosy, enjoying the little things in life, slowing down and spending time with friends and family whether you're sitting around a campfire, enjoying a cool drink on a hot summer's day, watching the stars or simply getting back to nature. Sounds great, right? So next time you fancy getting together with your friends why not pick a clear spot to lay down your favourite picnic blanket, watch the butterflies and bathe in the warmth of the sunshine. Or if you fancy some fun around a campfire keep and eye on our Facebook events page. Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere wherever you are and enjoying the good things in life with good people. To find out more about hygge see here.
If you’re interested in becoming an RSPB member, whether as an individual or as a family, pop into the visitor centre and we’ll be happy to have a chat with you. We can register you on the day, or let you know everything there is to know about joining.
Whether you've got an half an hour or half a day to spare, we're always looking for enthusiastic individuals to join the team at RSPB Sandwell Valley. There's roles on the visitor desk and in the Hide, become a member of our morning work parties or help out at our community days in the summer. Pop in to Nature's Reach for a chat or email us at email@example.com. You can view some of the volunteering opportunities we have available here. Wherever you are, if you love being part of team and have a love of nature and wildlife, we'd love to hear from you.
So, if you’re planning on taking part in the 30 Days Wild Challenge, or if you’re simply looking for a fun activity to do on a free weekend, we hope this list will help you find your own connection to nature. Once you’ve completed a challenge don’t forget to upload a photo and tag us in it!
- The team at RSPB Sandwell Valley
Photography credits: Aaron Scott Richards, Andy Purcell and Cathy Taylor
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654