Together with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, we are delighted to have set up a group of young people, aged 13 - 17, who share a love of nature, called the Young Naturalists. The Trust sponsored the group from 2018 to 2022.

Under the excellent supervision of Tracy Standish, this group meets every last Sunday of the month at their Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve in Ringwood, on the edge of the New Forest. Sessions include practical conservation and habitat management, species surveys and monitoring, learning from local wildlife expert(s) and more.  Our hope is that over the next 4 years, this group will grow and offer exciting new opportunities which amongst other things, will include a summer school, traineeships and accredited learning programmes.

We were delighted to have recently received an award of Highly Recommended in the Young People category by the CPRE  (The Campaign to Protect Rural England). This award recognises schemes which celebrate a beautiful, diverse and living countryside that everyone can value and enjoy.

Want to Join the Young Naturalists?

To find out more about joining this group, please email Tracy Standish, Hampshire and Isle of White Wildlife Trust:

Want to Join the Young Naturalists?

To find out more about joining this group, please email Tracy Standish, Hampshire and Isle of White Wildlife Trust:

You can read about what The Young Naturalists have been doing every month by going to Blashford Lakes blog

Seven for the Price of One

02 March 2022

It has been a busy time for the Young Naturalists. Here's an update on what they have been up to over the last seven months, snorkelling in the Dockens Water, making besom brooms, helping pollard willows, learning about bird ringing, smelting pewter and much more besides.

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The native and the more exotic

13 July 2020

We have just had our centre's wifi improved enabling us to teach online whilst outside, which is great for our fortnightly Young Naturalists sessions and, although too late for this term, will also allow us to offer virtual sessions to schools as things slowly return to some kind of normal in the autumn.

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Boxes for birds and bugs

09 February 2020

At the end of January the Young Naturalists made bug homes and bird boxes. They took their bug homes away with them but the bird boxes have since been put up on the reserve by volunteer Brenda who monitors them throughout the nesting season.

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Fungi spotting

17 October 2019

Autumn is a great time to go looking for fungi, so on Sunday after spying a few whilst unlocking the reserve in the morning, we decided to head off in search of more during our Young Naturalists session.

We began however with a rather nice job of weeding the path which leads to our campfire – although possibly not the most exciting of jobs, it was one that needed to be done and it was very satisfying to be able to see just how much they had managed to clear in the hour or so we …

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Camping out

14 August 2019

This summer our Young Naturalists once again spent a night on the reserve, cooking dinner and breakfast over the campfire, setting and checking mammal traps, listening to bats, sleeping under a poncho or tarp shelter and getting up nice and early for a morning stroll up to Lapwing Hide.

Meeting in the morning, our first task was to finish off the bug hotel which we had almost completed the month before. To finish it off, we lined the roof with pond liner before adding a piece of wood around …

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Bug-ingham Palace

01 August 2019

Last Sunday our Young Naturalists made a rather magnificent bug hotel in a sunny spot close to the new dipping pond. The improvement works here on the reserve resulted in a rather large number of pallets accumulating, so it was great to be able to put some of them to good use.

We stacked the pallets one at a time, packing them with various different materials to create lots of different nooks and crannies, including bark, sticks, pine cones, old roof tiles, bamboo, off-cuts of roof …

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Bluebells to Beaulieu

10 July 2019

I have been very absent from the blog this last few months, so this is another quick round up of what our Young Naturalists group have been up to since April – it seems like such a long time ago now!

At the end of April we visited another Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Roydon Woods.  Spring is a great time to visit and we had timed ours perfectly with the flowering bluebells.

The group also enjoyed photographing and identifying some of the …

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Odd jobs and enjoying the view

01 April 2019

On Sunday it was time again for our monthly Young Naturalists session, and we began the day by choosing a few items for our new Welcome Hut. These would hopefully be a talking point for both our new welcome volunteers and visitors, both young and old, and make the hut look more inviting. As we are still waiting for the interpretation we didn’t get too carried away and the group chose one item each. As a result, the hut does still look pretty empty, but we’re looking …

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Weaving dragonflies

08 March 2019

At the end of February our Young Naturalists worked with willow artist Kim Creswell to create three dragonfly sculptures that will form part of our new ‘Wild Walk‘. To those familiar with the reserve, the walk is the loop closest to the Education Centre that takes you past the Woodland Hide, Ivy South Hide, over the boardwalk and the bridge across the river then follows the path to the right, along the river and round to the larger bridge where we river dip with school …

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Camping out

July 2018

At the end of July the Young Naturalists spent a night out under the stars at Blashford Lakes so they could experience the delights of the Reserve late in the evening and early in the morning.

After arriving on the Saturday morning they got straight down to the task of setting up camp, using old army ponchos to make dens to sleep under and whittling pegs out of willow. Once that was done, the Young Naturalists took part in a butterfly count and explored the local Rockford and Ibsley Commons. Next on the list was setting insect light traps and mammal traps in the hope of catching some interesting wildlife overnight.

After dinner round the campfire the group set out on a night walk to hunt for bats. The managed to pick up Pipistrelle bats on the bat detectors in the woodland and near Ivy South hide.

It was then to bed for some well-earned sleep and to prepare for an early 5.30 am wildlife-spotting walk. Whilst they didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary on the walk they had a good wander and worked up an appetite for breakfast cooked over the campfire.

A check of the overnight mammal traps yielded nothing despite a couple of them having been sprung. The light traps however provided 31 different species off moth to identify, along with a Dark bush cricket and an Oak bush cricket.

In all, it was a fabulous night out on the reserve.

Toasting wraps on the campfire

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Exploring the downs

June 2018

At the end of June the Young Naturalists travelled to Martin Down National Nature Reserve in Hampshire. The reserve is home to a fantastic variety of plants and animals associated with chalk downland and scrub habitats.

The group were interested to see what flora and fauna they could spot and the list of species got off to a good start, spotting Bullfinch and Yellowhammer and then hearing Chiffchaff calling. They were also lucky enough to hear the purring of Turtle doves at a couple of different spots.

The insects did not disappoint either and the group were treated to sightings of Cinnabar moth along with Meadow brown, Marbled white, Small skipper, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Small heath, Holly blue, Ringlet, Small white and Small tortoiseshell butterflies.

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Making Movies

April 2018

At the end of April the Young Naturalists were joined by Paul from Strong Island Media, who had come along to take photos and film them during a session. As a result they managed to fit in a wide range of activities to showcase what they get up to and in the process enjoyed a very varied day!

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Brilliant Brownsea

April 2018

It seems like a long time ago now, but mid-March we headed with our Young Naturalists to the Purbecks, to hopefully explore and discover some different habitats and visit some new places. Unfortunately the weather was partly against us, and whilst I had hoped the snow from the start of the month would not return, it unfortunately did and cut our weekend short. A weekend away at the start of the year before many of the group became focussed on exams and revision had seemed a good idea at the time!

After meeting at Blashford on the Friday night, we headed over to Brenscombe Outdoor Centre just outside Corfe Castle which was to be our base for the weekend. On Saturday morning we were up bright and early and drove the short distance from the centre to the chain ferry, crossing the entrance to Poole Harbour for the ferry to Brownsea Island.

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Young Naturalists building bird boxes

30th October 2017

Dawn Chorus

Follow this link for details of the dawn chorus session

For more information contact Tracy Standish on 01425 472760 or email

Residential Weekend at Beaulieu

November 2017

At the end of November the Young Naturalists headed back to the Countryside Education Trust‘s Home Farm in Beaulieu for another two night residential. With a few different people to their last visit in May, they had plans to re-visit some of the activities and places they enjoyed earlier in the year, whilst also doing something a little bit different. Here’s what they got up to…

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Young Naturalists building bird boxes

30th October 2017

Eleven of Young Naturalists made twelve very fine bird boxes to replace some of the older ones on the reserve that have seen better days. Volunteer Geoff very kindly sourced some offcuts of timber and pre-made the kits for the session, leaving the group with the task of putting them together and numbering them, so they could be identified later on and monitored. I’m not sure what they enjoyed the most, the opportunity to use power tools or the opportunity to have a go at pyrography to put their stamp on their creation.

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Young Naturalists on the Bird Trail

24th September 2017

The Young Naturalists participated in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire Ornithological Society “Bird Trail” at Blashford Lakes. Before starting the trail, the group watched a bird ringing demonstration and visited Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre‘s static display of birds. Once on the trail they managed to spot 47 different bird species. On heading back to the Centre and handing in their sightings sheet, the Young Naturalists were delighted to discover their bird spotting efforts had paid off and they had come second in the competition.

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Young Naturalists visit to Martin Down

4th June 2017

On 4th June 2017, twelve Young Naturalists joined us for a trip to Martin Down National Nature Reserve, one of the largest areas of uninterrupted chalk downland in Britain. Jointly owned and managed by Natural England and Hampshire Country Council, the reserve is home to a fantastic variety of plants and animals associated with chalk downland and scrub habitats.

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Beaulieu Weekend

13th May 2017

Click on the links below to find out more about the exciting activities the Young Naturalist group got up to during their residential weekend in Beaulieu.