There was a tremendous sense of anticipation and excitement on Tuesday morning, as Year 1 prepared to set off on what was, incredibly, the very first school trip of 2021. Indeed, it was the first trip since early October 2020! As part of their work on Seasons, Year 1 have termly visits planned to Rutland Water Nature Reserve at Egleton. Of course, the Lent Term visit was cancelled as we were in lockdown, but the October and May visits have been able to go ahead – phew!

With the minibuses loaded with children, adults and the most important thing of all – the packed lunches – we set off for Rutland Water under slightly grey skies but the sun was shining in the minibuses as the sound of excited chatter filled the air. We had a little hiccup on the way when we came across an unexpected road closure, resulting in a slight detour which turned out to be picturesque as we drove all the way around Rutland Water itself. In true Year 1 style, we had barely left Oundle before the first questions were being asked and they were questions that will be familiar to any adult who has travelled with children – ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ and ‘Is it lunchtime yet?’ – the latter was asked repeatedly until lunchtime, of course!

On arrival, we were met by familiar faces in the form of our Anglian Water Education Rangers Luke and Eileen. This was Laxton Junior School’s 7th visit in the last 3 years and Eileen has been there for every one of them. Not only that but she later told us that she specifically finds out when we are booked in and volunteers for that day because she enjoys working with us so much – how lovely! After a quick comfort break and a piece of fruit to tide us over until lunchtime, we set off for our first activities, bug hunting and pond dipping. Whilst one Form bug hunted, the other pond dipped and then we swapped over!

We were the first bug hunting visitors to the reserve since October, so the bugs were out in force and probably quite surprised by our arrival! We carefully turned over logs, rocks and smaller stones before using a soft brush to gently sweep our finds into our pots. We then took our pots to Eileen who helped us to identify the creatures and transfer them to the correct tray. Once all of the millipedes, centipedes, red ants, newts, beetles, worms, woodlice, slugs and snails were grouped together in trays, Eileen explained why they were grouped together in this way. They were classified as carnivores (meat eaters), herbivores (plant eaters) and detritavores (eaters of detritus – any decomposing  matter).

Luke showed us how we would carefully squat and kneel on the pond dipping platforms before moving the net through the water in a figure of eight pattern. It was really important to follow the instructions carefully in order that no-one got an unexpected soaking and we’re pleased to report that everyone listened beautifully resulting in dry children (and adults!) all round! The weather has been rather cooler than the seasonal norm, so some of the pond creatures that we found were slightly smaller than they might usually be in mid-May but we still found a variety. The water boatmen were tiny but we could still see their long hind legs working like paddles to move through the water. We also found lots of water fleas, a good number of freshwater shrimps, Ramshorn snails and damsel fly nymphs.

Finally, it was time for the most anticipated event of the day – lunch! Sandwiches were devoured, crisps crunched, apples munched and appetites sated ready for our afternoon activities. We were all given spring walk charts and a pen and set off to do some nature detecting, spotting buds, catkins, nests and much more. The last activity of the day was a scavenger hunt. We worked in pairs to fill our baskets with the items on our lists. Who would be the first to find a feather, a coloured stone, a snail’s shell (empty!), a knobbly twig, a sticky plant, a nibbled leaf and a small piece of bark? It wasn’t a race and actually we worked really well as a team, helping each other and pointing each other in the direction of the various treasures.

We thanked Luke and Eileen for our day and headed back to the minibuses for the ride back to school. There was less chatter and possibly a little snoring on the journey back and we all concluded that it had been a fantastic day! Mr Greaves and Mrs Waterhouse were thrilled to receive cards to thank them for driving two of the minibuses – they said it was a pleasure and hope they get to go again next year!