There was a hush as we arrived in the coach, as we slowly realised that we were in for a treat. The car park was surrounded by lush woodlands and rolling hills. We walked to where we were staying which was a renovated farmhouse. Most of us were in the main buildings, where the only complaints seemed to be that there were a lot of spiders! Four lucky people were in the stable houses which had a bath, unlike everyone else’s rooms.
The first activity was going into different types of forest and seeing what different types of plants there were. Then we walked a little further and had lunch. It was warm and sunny.
Then we walked back to the centre and went pond dipping. We caught lots of things like dragonfly nymphs, caddis-fly larvae, lots of baby newts, and the so-called ecstatic beetle. We caught two adult newts, they were amazing to see up close. They had pink necks and their bellies looked like the inside of a pickle.
We went back to the classroom and did something very unusual which turned out to be lots of people’s favourite activity: dissecting owl pellets. The looks of shocked horror turned quickly into delight as we picked out vole and shrew bones from the small furry mess. We used toothpicks and water to separate the fur from the bones.
In the evening, we went on a walk where we played the badger set game in the middle of the field. Then we went extremely quietly to the other side of a small valley to a wild badger set. We waited for a short while in peaceful silence until a small striped face shot up from the main hole. Then four more proceeded to walk out. We watched them until they left to hunt and then we went home to bed, gossiping and chatting about the day.
On the second day of Folly Farm, we did two activities outside in the wood which were both a lot of fun. For the first activity, we got into groups and were given challenges to complete in an hour and a half.
There were four challenges and each was awarded a certain amount of points, depending on how difficult the challenge was. Each group had to find a place to try and protect and we did the challenges based on that area. The first challenge was making a trap to save the areas from wild animals. Every group made a tripwire with bells connected to it so that if something touched it, they would hear. Everyone enjoyed this challenge because it was really fun seeing if it would work and if not, working out how it could be improved. The second challenge was to create something to collect water by rain. Each group was given a bin bag and a small plastic bowl. The inventions were all very creative some were especially effective. After making these, they were tested to see if they would work by someone pouring a full watering can over each invention. This helped us see how each one could be improved and how much each one worked. This was a very good challenge because it was fun to come up with ways that could work for the rain collector and it was a challenge where you could use your imagination. The third challenge was to make a subtle trail from a set point back to the areas for someone to follow. Each group came up with very clever ideas and they were all able to be followed. This was a great challenge because you could experiment with how you would do it but also, it was fun to find different routes from the centre back to your area and then choose the best one for the trail. The last challenge was to find a stick that had to be shoulder height of the smallest person in each group or shorter. We then had to make it unique and decorate it with whatever we liked in the woods. This was an amazing challenge because we could do whatever we wanted and each group came up with different imaginative ideas. This activity was a lot of fun and Folly Farm had a wonderful, perfect environment to do it in.
After having lunch, we went on to do our final activity at Folly Farm. Our task was to build a fire. The tutor demonstrated how to do it and then, in the same teams as before, we had to make one by ourselves. It was a lot harder than it looked to keep it going because after it was lit, it tried to burn out. The first step was to get some hay and make it into a nest shape. In the middle of it, we had to put a slightly stretched cotton wool ball. This was what we set fire to. After the hay had begun to catch, we had to turn it over, so that all of the hay would catch fire. This was the really hard bit because when it was turned over, the fire began to die, so someone had to blow it to keep it from completely disappearing. After it was turned over we had to add sticks over it, very small ones at first, and after they caught fire, bigger ones had to start being added. None of the groups started their fire on their first try, some only lighting in their fourth or fifth try. After they were lit, we got to cook marshmallows and camp bread on them. This activity was so much fun and it also taught us valuable skills.
Everyone loved Folly Farm, and it was an amazing experience to have because we were taught some very interesting things!
By 8A and 8B