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Making a nature trail ~ by Margaret

Making a nature trail

We often make a new nature trail for our visitors. It encourages them to go off on their own into the woods, and makes sure they know the way back to base! It possibly gives them some new information, and certainly they have a lot of fun. They set off with a quiz sheet, and a plastic bag, and a map.

The trail is marked by numbers tied to trees or posts, and for each marker there is a puzzle. This comes in four parts:

  • Finding what they are looking for near the marker
  • Being told an interesting fact about it
  • Observing closely some aspect of it
  • Getting something to take back to base.

For instance:

“Near the marker is a tree with silver coloured bark. This is a birch tree. The bark was used by Indians to make their canoes, and to write on. Nearby is a fallen branch. Peel a bit of the bark, write a message on it, and bring it back.”

“There is a tall shrub nearby with oval leaves arranged in pairs along a single stem. This is elder, and the leaves look a bit like ash. However, ash seeds hang in keys. Where are the elder seeds? Bring a few back.”

Taking back can consist only, or mainly, of verbal answers. For example, they can be asked to count, to draw, to do a rubbing, to describe a colour or a surface. We always avoid asking questions they need prior knowledge to answer, as we don’t want anyone to feel even stupider than we are ourselves!

Children need a prize for completing the quiz, and everyone enjoys one. A suitable prize would be a hot cross bun for toasting themselves over the campfire.

Posted in: Practical Guides, Woodland Activities ~ On: 5 December, 2006

4 comments so far

Victoria Nickson
10 November, 2009

I have just start a new job and i have been asked to develop a nature trail. I was just wondering if you had any tips or information on how to make a trail both environmentally and children friendly? This trail will be on the boundaries of a countryside caravan park.

Deb Millar
8 August, 2007

We are buying a small wood with loads of wildlife, for conservation & educational purposes & are similarly trying to find the best paths to provide interest but not disturb the inhabitants. There are already lots of paths made by badgers. I have been laying sticks in front of setts & burrows to try & work out which ones are occupied. This works well. l can now make sure the paths don’t go too close but near enough to see. If anyone else has bought woodland for Forest School activities, I would value tips & advice.For example I’m wondering if I will have to get planning for change of use etc.

Margaret Hanton
11 April, 2007

Hi, Tracy!

That would be a very good idea, but sod’s law, the prettiest and most interesting plants always seem to be growing in the middle of the path. So the visitors just have to take care. I forgot to mention, we never ask them to pick and bring back anything that matters. Thanks for the reminder.

Tracy Pepler
6 April, 2007

HI Margaret

We are in the process of buying a wood, and one of the things we are thinking about is walking through it. You have a lovely idea there for guests. Do you also try to keep to footpaths/ certain routes to avoid tramping all over little things that are trying to grow?


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