East Devon school children explore the Pebblebed Heaths to learn about habitats
This visit was one of a series of field trips organised by Clinton Devon Estates to encourage children to engage with their local countryside and understand how the heathland is managed.
The 22 children from Classes 4 and 5 at Otterton Church of England Primary School were supported by Clinton Devon Estates’ Countryside Learning Officer, Kate Ponting who led some practical work to highlight some of the features of the rare lowland heath at Bicton Common and the variety of wildlife living there.
Kate said: “Children are often taught about rainforests and other habitats across the world but I think it’s really important to give some local context and raise their awareness about the amazing countryside they have all around them.”
Separated into groups, the children were taught how to examine two metre square quadrants and create their own classification keys to help them identify plants.
Lucy Alcock, school teacher from Otterton Primary School, said: “The children have learnt all about habitats, the importance of conservation and a history of the local area. Days like these are so useful, as they bring to life what we’ve been learning in the classroom. They can get practically involved and see what is happening in the real world.
“The team from Clinton Devon have been fantastic, they’re really knowledgeable and they’re great at getting the children excited about nature.”
The children learned about the three main techniques used by Clinton Devon Estates to manage the heathland: introducing grazing animals, clearing invasive vegetation, by hand or using a chainsaw, and controlled burning known as swaling.
Earlier in the week Drake’s C of E Primary School from East Budleigh enjoyed a similar trip. School teacher, Claire Pegg, said: “Green Class had a fantastic day with the Clinton Devon Estates team learning about local habitats and the importance of conserving them for wildlife. The trip supported the children’s learning in class by providing them with hands on practical experience in their local area.
“The children enjoyed being botanists, looking for different species of plants and writing a key to help them identify each plant.”
Lauren and Amalia from Drake’s Primary School Green Class said: “We went to Bicton Common to learn about habitats. We made proper keys to sort out our plants and found nine different types of plants. We were told we would make good botanists when we’re older.”
The Pebblebed Heaths, which are estimated to be more than 240 million years old and cover over 2,800 acres in East Devon, are owned by Clinton Devon Estates and managed by the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, a charity set up in 2006 by Clinton Devon Estates.
The Heaths are located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection area, representing one of Europe’s most important conservation sites.
For more information on Clinton Devon Estates educational trips please contact Kate Ponting on 01395 446918 or visit http://www.pebblebedheaths.org.uk/schools.ashx