This years Secret Wildlife Festival run by Sussex Wildlife Trust at The Secret Campsite was a huge success and we raised £2053 for their coffers.

Michael Blencowe and his fantastic team of Laurie, Ryan, Renzo and Claire put on a brilliant weekend, filled with some great encounters and lots and lots of laughter.

After a brief introduction to the weekends camping with nature, we headed off for an early evening wildlife walk around the campsite and the dismantled railway track. En route we spent time putting out a few of the hedgehog tunnels and trail cameras so that we could see who or what was roaming around the campsite during the night.

We then headed back into the wildflower meadow where we put out the small mammal traps and set up the first glowing moth trap to see who was flying around at night.

Before returning to our tents for a perfect nights sleep, we took an exploratory walk around the campsite to look for bats and glow worms. We found a few glow worms and one solitary bat flew pat the house but surprisingly the detectors weren’t overworked.

First thing on Saturday morning, accompanied by a terrific dawn chorus, we took a stroll along the dismantled railway track as part of the early morning bird walk and returned by 8am for bacon rolls and coffees at the Secret Teapot.

This years mammal traps were far busier than last year and we trapped quite a few wood mice and one or 2 very fast slugs.

The hedgehog tunnels revealed a few footprints from rodents but sadly, no hedgehogs seemed to have visited. There numbers have fallen substantially in recent years.

The moth trap is a real highlight of the weekend as Michael sets about identifying everything that he sees. I’m sure he must make up some of the names but his knowledge is encyclopedic.

Whilst some of the children started bush craft activities with Renzo and Ryan, the rest of us set off into Knowlands Woods for a guided tour with Nick Lear the owner. The woods are managed for wildlife and are particularly beautiful at this time of year. They never fail to deliver. Highlights this year were the white admirals and silver washed fritillaries that were spotted as soon as the showers stopped.

After a leisurely lunch, the pond beckoned and we caught a plethora of great crested newts.

We dug the pond out about 8 years ago and I had weeded it for the first time a week or so ago. Pond dipping is one of the most popular events on the timetable, even if no one falls in.

Therri LaHood the local herbalist then took everyone on a herb walk around the campsite explaining what our native plants can be used to treat and compliment. Its great hearing what these readily available plants can be used for. There is heaps more information available on the plants for a future website where you can read about edibility and medicinal qualities of thousand of different plants. But better still just get on touch with Therri and she’ll tell you more or treat your insomnia in a gentle effective way, just ask Michael.

Following the evening barbecue we re-set the mammal and moth traps.

Then as the sun set, we headed out again to look for bats, owls and more glow worms.

This time, ably led by bat expert Ryan, we hit a rich bat corridor along the railway track and this hive of activity was ably complimented by a large number of female glow worms showing off to any males flying by. Once they have mated, the females stop glowing, a practical, even if a little dowdy, approach.

Sunday mornings weather made for a beautiful end to the festival and after bacon rolls and coffes we saw more Wood mice and slugs and a fantastic moth haul including the unbelievable Lappett moth and a large Emperor moth

Our final session was a brilliant bird and butterfly walk along the railway track where an adder was spotted basking in the sun. He soon slithered off when he saw what was heading his way, but it was a fantastic culmination for what  was the best event so far.

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