Visit to Troopers Hill by Summerhill School's year 3 classes
7 October 2010
Yesterday 3 classes of 7-8 year old children from Summerhill School visited Troopers Hill. Rob and I had visited the school last Friday for Rob to give a talk and slide show about the Hill and now it was Jules' (our "parkie's") turn to show them the real thing.
We met the first class at the Summerhill Terrace entrance to Troopers Hill Field at 9.45am. Jules then carefully led the class round the outskirts of the field to avoid them getting covered with newly cut grass. This is actually a photo of the second class that visited but as you can see, there was no doubt at all amongst the children about what the play area was for.
As each class passed through the entrance from Troopers Hill Field to the Local Nature Reserve there was a collective "Wow" as they saw the view.
Various grannies', uncles' and aunts' houses were pointed out plus the more standard landmarks of St Mary Redcliffe, Cabot Tower and Ashton Court.
The chimney was the next port of call. Jules explained the copper smelting process and how the duct that used to lead up to the chimney combined with the chimney created a massive flow of air to raise the temperature in the furnace to melt the ore. This was possibly less interesting than everyone going inside the chimney to have a look!
Then on down to the "gully" following the pied piper parkie to look at the 300 million year old pennant sandstone.
We were very lucky to find some bell heather still in bloom so the children were able to recognise them from Rob's slideshow on Friday. Jules was able to reinforce the message about how special this area of acid grass and heathland is and how you will not find heather growing wild in such a large open area, elsewhere in Bristol.
Climbing out of the gully we looked at large toadstools that some pupils said looked like doughnuts. We did not know the name of this particular species and Jules used this to explain why it is very important not to pick or touch mushrooms or toadstools when you are not absolutely sure what they are. (Antiseptic wipes and water were at the ready for little hands in case "deaf ear" syndrome did occur).
After stopping at an excellent example of broom, describing the beautiful yellow flowers that it grows in May and showing the burst seed pods, we were then able to show the children a couple of examples of a species of fungus that we did recognise (carefully cleared of bramble in advance at 8.30 that morning). Fly agaric raised much interest and some interesting questions. Why is that one less spotty than the other one? Why is that one round and the other flat? What ate the toadstool? For the last question I had to say that I thought it was likely to be a small mammal that was probably tolerant to the poisons in fly agaric. Does anyone know any different or what small mammals, if any, can tolerate fly agaric? The only 3 small mammals I have definite evidence of using Troopers Hill are the wood mouse, bank vole and pygmy shrew.
We finished with a visit to the coal spoil heap, where the children could see the bits of coal glinting in the sun, the remnants of coal mining on Troopers Hill, then it was back to school for the next lesson.
The second class were really lucky and saw a large buzzard hovering. Later I found a scattering of feathers in Sally's Glade and wondered whether that had been the buzzard's elevenses.
After the second class's visit Jules and I were invited back to school for an excellent lunch (quiche, cheesy potatoes, peas and some excellent mixed vegetable, followed by crumble and custard or fresh fruit). We had a very professional guided tour of the school by two of the older pupils, were delivered to the staff room and then had a brief break before walking back with the final class. Just after passing Summerhill Bakery (formerly Jones the Bread) we saw this magical city of mushrooms:
Jules and I were very impressed with the behaviour of the pupils and the pre-planning that had gone into this visit.
A particular thank you to all those dog owners who read the notices about the visit and made sure their dogs were under control.
One of the questions asked by the Summerhill School children was, "What eats fly agaric?". That is the red toadstool with white spots shown in the photos above. The answer today, from Justin Smith who led an extremely interesting "Fungi Foray" on Troopers Hill today, was, "Rabbits and squirrels". So as we rarely see rabbits on the Hill I would guess grey squirrels have been snacking on the fly agaric.
We also showed the children some very large fungi by a silver birch. At the time we did not know its name. Justin came to the rescue today. It is called brown roll-rim and although it might not kill you the very first time you eat it will probably will the second.
This was how it looked when the children saw it.
and this is how it looked today, a little past its best.
All the best,
Susan 7 Nov 2010