Friday, 27 March 2009

Wildwood e-news March 2009
In the March edition of Wildwood's e-newsletter we have:
1.   FIRST KONIK FOAL OF THE YEAR - Foal born to herd at Stodmarsh
2.   EASTER HOLIDAY FUN - Book up for Easter events!
3.   KENT MAMMAL IDENTIFICATION COURSE - Learn how to recognise Kent's mammals
4.   DINO WEEK - Great fun had by all
5.   BY THE LIGHT OF A CROW MOON - Moonlight walk at Wildwood
6.   TODDLER CLUB EASTER EGG HUNT - Hunt for easter eggs
7.   WILD HORSE MOVE - New site for Wildwood Koniks
8.   ZOO KEEPER FOR A DAY - See what it is like to be a zoo keeper
9.   PHOTO DAYS - Take photos of animals around the park
10. WATER VOLES RESCUED FROM SEWAGE - Now living at Wildwood
11. TENTH BIRTHDAY - Ten years since the park started

1.  FIRST KONIK FOAL OF THE YEAR - Foal born to herd at Stodmarsh
The first baby Konik Horse Foal of 2009 has been produced by Wildwoods Stodmarsh herd.
This bold project to enhance the wildlife of the Stodmarsh Nature Reserve was developed in a partnership between Natural England and the Wildwood Trust. Thanks to the horses, the sites internationally important biodiversity is being enhanced and protected.
The baby foal was born on a few weeks ago to our conservation herd of wild horses which live on the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, where by the action of the wild horses natural grazing the site is being conserved as a haven for rare plants, animals and birds.
The wild horses are part of a bold plan to re-introduce the wild horse to Britain, the horse imported are the closest living relatives of the extinct Tarpan, the wild forest horse which roamed Britain in Neolithic times.
"The birth of this foal is great news" commented Peter Smith Chief Executive of Wildwood Trust "and is part of the plan for developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain and in this case Stodmarsh teem with wildlife again."

It is always good to see new generations born to our herd when we consider they where nearly made extinct during the Second World War. Some of the wild horses' ancestors were stolen by Nazi genetic experimenters under the patronage of Reichmarshal Herman Goering. The Nazis where bent on recreating a genetically pure 'Arian' wild horse.
Thankfully the polish scientists who were looking after the wild horse herds where able to protect some of them. After the War the protected herds were allowed to repopulate the national parks of Poland under the soviet occupation. Once soviet occupation was ended, with the fall of the Iron Curtain, conservationists where able to transport the wild horses to national parks across Europe.
Wildwood Trust pioneered the re-introduction of these amazing animals to the UK in 2002. Wildwood brought the first ever of their breed to arrive in southern England and these horses and their offspring have been helping to restore some of the most precious national nature reserves in the UK.
The 'Konik pony' as they are sometimes known originated in Poland and Konik is actually the Polish word for small horse.
They are a highly unusual breed in that they directly descended from the wild European forest horse or 'Tarpan' which was hunted to extinction in Britain in Neolithic times. Tarpan survived in central Europe until the late 1800s when the last of their race were captured in the primeval forest of Bialoweiza, Poland, and transported to zoos. When the last of these died in 1910 the pure race disappeared forever.
Since this time conservation grazing projects throughout Europe have used the Konik horses for wetland grazing projects. The former habitat of Tarpan was marshy woodland where their grazing activities help create ideal living conditions for a host of associated wildlife such as rare geese, spoonbills, bitterns and corncrakes.

Stodmarsh NNR is situated in the lower regions of the north Kent plain within the Stour valley. The reserve developed when coal mining subsidence formed marshland with large reedbeds, lakes, ditches, meadows and wet woodland.
Stodmarsh is an important wildlife site supporting a number of breeding and migrating birds, some of them rare. As well as birds the site is home to many rare plants and invertebrates.
The reedbeds and lagoons of the reserve are important for wildfowl. Mallard, gadwall, shoveler and pochard ducks breed at the site in most years and in the winter they are joined by teal, wigeon, water rail, white-fronted goose, and tufted duck. Other birds seen at the site include reed and sedge warbler, bearded tit, bearded reedling, bittern, hen harrier, great crested grebe, corn bunting and coot. In the autumn and spring large flocks of martin, swallow and wagtail use the reserve as a stop-over. The site also has the first breeding record for Cetti's warbler in the UK.
As well as birds the reserve also supports a number invertebrates; some of them - such as the shining ram's-horn snail - being nationally rare. Moths seen at the site include the reed dagger, obscure wainscot and silky wainscot. A number of rare plants are also found here such as the carnivorous greater bladderwort, greater spearwort, whorled water-milfoil, soft hornwort, bog bean, sharp-leaved pondweed, and rootless duckweed.
(Photo credit Martyn Nicholls)

2.   EASTER HOLIDAY FUN - Book up for Easter events!

only £2 per person
(One adult per family free)
Must book with Anne
MONDAY 6: Dastardly Dragons! Craft workshop with puppet dragons.
TUESDAYS (7 & 14): Stunning Sea Horses! Craft workshop.
WEDNESDAYS (8 & 15): CSI: Wildwood - Who Killed Mr Bunny? Investigate who murdered the woodland victim using genuine forensic science. 7+ years only.
THURSDAYS?(9 & 16): Animal Weapons! More than teeth and claws, this workshop explores venom, acid and slime too!
FRIDAY 17: Dastardly Dragons! Craft workshop with puppet dragons.
Please call 01227 712111 or e-mail to book now.

3.  KENT MAMMAL IDENTIFICATION COURSE - Learn how to recognise Kent's mammals
Saturday March 14 9:45am-4pm
How to identify our larger mammals from their tracks, signs & sightings.
Cost £25 (or, if booked with Small Mammal Trapping, £40 for both).
Book with Hazel by calling 01227 712111 or e-mail

4.   DINO WEEK - Great fun had by all
Over the February half term Wildwood hosted it's Dino Week, this was the second year it had run and was again very popular.
In fact some of the sessions were so popular that additional sessions were booked on the mornings to cope with demand.
The week started with how life started on planet earth with experiments showing lightening and mixing primordial ooze Tuesday dealt with how fossils were formed and the types of fossils that exist and participants could make their own fossils as well as chisel some plant fossils out of slate.
On Wednesday visitors learnt obout the giant insect that inhabited the world during the Permian era and could make there very own articulated arthropleura.
(Photo credit Sarah Holliday)
By far the most popular session was on Dinosaurs on Thursday, when everyone learnt what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur. There was a chance to make a dinosaur skull from cardboard.
Friday brought the week to an end with a bang - quite literally with people learning how the dinosaurs became extinct. Coke fountains (see picture above) burning sulphur and other experiments that everyone had a chance to have a go.
We have had some great feedback from those who took part like Phillip Alexander  - "I thought the dinosaur workshops over the half term were really interesting.  I really enjoyed making the Dino insects and learning more about fossils. Martyn was very interesting to listen to and  took time to answer my questions when I showed him the fossils I had brought with me. I am really looking forward to the ones in April. Thank you all for putting on such interesting workshops."
Sarah Holliday also took the time to e-mail us - "we brought 4 children to your trilobite-making session at half term, aged 4-8.  They loved it SO much, and were fascinated by the whole thing.  Not only did they make a trilobite each, but were engaged enough to then spend 3 hours painting them at home.  Attached is a photo of the end results, by way of a thankyou for putting on these brilliant workshops."


5.   BY THE LIGHT OF A CROW MOON - Moonlight walk at Wildwood
Full moons have traditionally been given names and March's full moon is known as the crow moon by more Northerly Native American Indian tribes in the United States. The name comes from the cawing of the crows that signaled the end of winter.
Wildwood, Kent's award winning woodland discovery park, offers an opportunity to tour Wildwood by the moonlight of a wolf moon on Wednesday March 11th, (clouds allowing) 6.30pm -09.00pm and experience the woodlands and the animals that live here at a time when the darkness belongs to them.
Night tours, led by Wildwood staff are an excellent way to see our nocturnal wildlife, so you will get the opportunity to see Badgers snuffling, watch Owls wide awake, experience the silent padding of the wolves (and if you are very lucky them howling).
Night tours are open to anyone over the age of 10 years (children must be accompanied by a responsible adult). They are scheduled to last approximately 2 hours and, from February to December. The tour includes a meal in our restaurant before venturing out into the park with a Wildwood staff member.
Places MUST be booked in advance by completing and returning a booking form, together with full payment of £20 per person - unfortunately, though you can reserve a place by telephone, a booking form is still required. Places will be allocated on receipt of a completed booking form and payment, strictly on a first come, first served basis.
You can download a Booking form from the following links to our website
(Photo credit Jim Cledry)

6.   TODDLER CLUB EASTER EGG HUNT - Hunt for easter eggs
Toddler club will hunting for eggs around the park on March 30th.
Toddler club is for members only and runs from 10:30am-12.00pm during school term time
(Photo credit Gianni Testore)

7.   WILD HORSE MOVE - New site for Wildwood Koniks
Wild Horses To bring Dover’s downs back to life
A Herd of Wild Horses is set to help Dover’s nature reserve teem with wildlife again.
In an innovative, new partnership between Wildwood Trust, The White Cliffs Countryside Project and Dover Town Council a herd of wild horses are being set free to help breath life back into two of Kent's most important local nature reserves.
A herd of wild horses will be set free to roam on a Dover nature reserve. The release happened at Noah’s Ark Road at 12.00 midday on Tuesday 17th February 2009
Joining the wild horses were Wildlife Experts Peter Smith, of Wildwood Trust and Kirk Alexander of the White Cliffs Countryside Project. They were joined by Mayor of Dover, Cllr Mrs Diane Smallwood, The Chairman of the Allotments Committee Cllr Mrs Sue Jones and the Vice-Chairman Cllr Mrs Ronnie Philpott.
The wild horses will be let out to roam free on Hospital Down which is part of the High Meadow Community Park and Local Nature Reserve owned and protected by Dover Town Council.
Dover residents will be able to enjoy the spectacle of watching a real herd of wild horses living as nature intended.
Thanks to the horses, the sites internationally important biodiversity (In fact 55% of the chalk grassland in Kent is found around Dover and Folkestone, that is 5% of all the chalk grassland in the UK, or about 2% of the chalk grassland in the world) will be enhanced and protected.  .
The wild horses that arrived from Holland 3 years ago and are the closest living relatives of the extinct Tarpan, the wild forest horse that roamed Britain in prehistoric times.

Local people are welcome to enjoy High Meadow but can also help with practical work to conserve wildlife and improve footpaths. Further information from WCCP (01304 241806); the next volunteer conservation days are on Tuesday 10th March and Tuesday 24th March. The WCCP will also be organising some guided walks and Green Gang events to introduce people to High Meadow and to learn more about the Konik horses. Local people can also help keep a watchful eye on High Meadow; contact the WCCP to find out more about becoming a voluntary warden.
(Photo credit Kent News & Pictures)

8.  ZOO KEEPER FOR A DAY - See what it is like to be a zoo keeper
One day only in each month
See what it is like to be a zoo keeper at Britain’s best British Wildlife park.
Only one lucky person per month will be able to book this unique experience (available Tues-Thurs most weeks). Cost £195.
Includes refreshments, T-shirt & mounted colour photo.
For more info contact Anne on 01227 712111 or
Please note no animal handling is allowed. All participants must be reasonably fit and over 18 years old.

9.   PHOTO DAYS - Take photos of animals around the park
Wildwood is offering the opportunity to take photos of our animals with our resident phtographer Ryan Ladbrook.
These days will allow photographers of all skills levels the chance to get close to and photograph British animals, at the same time Ryan will be on hand to give help and advice on how to get those special shots.
Different animals will be photographed across the day.
Days will run from 10:30 – 12:30 and 1:30 – 3:30 allowing an hour for lunch when you can make use of our restaurant or bring your own packed lunch.
The days will have a minimum of four people up to a maximum of 10.
The cost will be £75 per person.
These unique days are on Mar 29th, Apr 18th and May 10th with further dates later in the year.
If you would like to book or would like more information please contact Martyn on 01227 712111 or e-mail
All information and booking form available on download
(Photo credit Ken Blackwell)

10. WATER VOLES RESCUED FROM SEWAGE - Now living at Wildwood
Endangered water voles rescued from one of Europe's largest sewage works have been delivered to wildwood over recent weeks.
Thames Water found the creatures at Crossness Marshes beside Crossness Sewage Treatment Works in East London, where work is due to start on an extension to boost treatment capacity by 44 per cent.
To ensure they are out of harm's way, the voles are being chauffeured to our captive breeding centre at the park where they will stay for two years of procreation before returning to Crossness.
Martin Wagner, Thames Water's Conservation Manager, said:
"With work due to start soon on the planned extension to the works, we wanted to make sure these voles were not disturbed or hurt in any way."
"That's why we're transferring them to a breeding sanctuary in sunny Kent. They're likely to stay there for about two years, where we hope their numbers will increase. They will then be brought back to Crossness to enjoy new reed ditches specially created for them. "
"Water voles are a really important feature at Crossness, where over recent years we have re-established over 1.5km of ditches for them and have seen them thrive."
Around 30 water voles are being captured - using carrots and apples as bait - under the supervision of wildlife experts from three sludge lagoons and a 260-metre ditch at Crossness to arrive at Herne Bay in time for their breeding season.
Hazel Ryan, Conservation Officer at the Wildwood Trust, said:
"The water vole is Britain's most endangered mammal so we're glad Thames Water has taken time to transfer the Crossness voles to us for safe-keeping. We hope they thrive for decades to come when they return to their new habitats at Crossness."

The Water Vole Arvicolla terrestris
Rat-sized with blunt nose; chestnut-brown fur; short rounded ears; long hair-covered tail.
Head/body length: 140-220mm; tail 95-140mm.
Weight: 150-300g.

General Ecology:
The water vole is found throughout Britain, though it is less common on higher ground. It is infrequently recorded from parts of northern Scotland and is absent Ireland. It is usually found near open water and dives and swims with great ease. Water voles are sometimes confused with brown rats which often also live near water courses. Indeed, it is sometimes called "the water rat", which is the origin of the water voles' fame as "Ratty" from Kenneth Grahame's book The Wind in the Willows.
Water voles occur mainly along well vegetated banks of slow flowing rivers, ditches, dykes and lakes. They eat grasses and waterside vegetation: 227 plant species have been identified in their diet, though other broadleaved plants may also be eaten at certain times. Water voles excavate extensive burrow systems into the banks of waterways. These have sleeping/nest chambers at various levels in the steepest parts of the bank and usually have underwater entrances to give the animals a secure route for escape if danger threatens. "Lawns" of closely cropped grass, occasionally with piles of chopped food, may surround burrow entrances. Water voles tend to be active more during the day than at night. Male voles live along about 130 metres of water bank, while females have ranges about 70 metres long. They deposit distinctive black, shiny faeces in latrines. Latrines occur throughout and at the edges of their range during the breeding season.
Water voles usually have three or four litters a year, depending on the weather. In mild springs the first of these can be born in March or April, though cold conditions can delay breeding until May or even June. There are about five young in a litter, which are born below ground in a nest made from suitable vegetation, notably grasses and rushes. Although blind and hairless at birth, young water voles grow quickly, and are weaned at 14 days. On average, water voles only live about five months in the wild. Their most important predators are mink and stoats; though herons, barn owls, brown rats and pike are also known to take them.
Water voles are legally protected in Britain.
On the continent they behave quite differently, living away from open water and are regarded as serious agricultural pests. In Britain, water voles occasionally undermine river banks, but otherwise they are harmless and cause no damage.
Recent evidence suggests that water voles have undergone a long term decline in Britain. On current trends it is predicted they may eventually disappear from 94% of their former sites, a decline exceeding even that for the otter.
Predation by the introduced American mink is thought to have a severe impact on water vole populations, even causing local extinctions. This may be because their usual way of evading predators, by diving and using burrows with underwater entrances, does not protect water voles from the mink. Removal of mink is unrealistic for large areas but can be carried out locally in nature reserves and along key sections of rivers to protect remaining water vole populations.
Habitat degradation and pollution are also thought to have contributed to the decline of the water vole. Riverside works such as dredging and clearance of bankside vegetation removes large amounts of the plants water voles depend on for food and causes disturbance. A more sensitive approach to riverbank management needs to be encouraged to protect water voles. Dredging and other work should be scheduled so it does not affect both banks simultaneously and retention or planting of bankside vegetation carried out wherever possible.
Water voles are also probably affected by poor water quality, both directly through contamination of water bodies with pollutants and indirectly through eutrophication, the build up of nitrogen levels in water which causes algal blooms and loss of water vole food plants.
Frequent Questions:
How do I distinguish water voles from brown rats?
The ears of the water vole are hardly visible, unlike those of the rat which stand out. The tailed is furry whilst that of the rat is naked. The muzzle of the water vole is blunt, not pointed, its fur is more red and the tail is shorter. When disturbed they dive with a marked "plop".

What are the main field signs of water voles?
They leave characteristic tracks in mud flats close to the water. The forefoot has four toes which leave a distinctive star shaped pattern, while the hind foot has five toes with the first and fifth toes leaving prints almost at right angles to the three central toes.

(Photo Credit Thames Water)
11. TENTH BIRTHDAY - Ten years since the park started
This year marked the tenth anniversary of the park, though it did not start out as Wildwood but rather as Wealden Woodlands, then a butterfly farm which was replaced by Brambles (a petting zoo).
Wildwood is hoping to mark this important milestone by having a birthday party later in the year.
With this in mind we are trying to collect photographs of the park to create a montage of the history of the park over the decade since it began, we can scan slides or photos and if people have anecdotes regarding our history then we would love to hear them too.
Please contact Martyn on 01227 712111 or by e-mail at
(Photo Credit Anthony Eden)

If you enjoy the Wildwood newsletter and have a friend who would enjoy it too, then get them to subscribe by sending their e-mail adddress to

Martyn Nicholls
Press Officer
Wildwood Trust
Tel: 01227 712111
Wildwood Trust
Herne Common
Herne Bay
Registered Charity No 1093702
Wildwood Trust is Kent's unique 'Woodland Discovery Park', a visitor attraction with a difference.
Wildwood is not only the best place to bring the family for a day out, but it is also a bold and innovative new charity, backed by the UK's leading wildlife conservationists. As a new charity Wildwood needs everyone's support in its mission to save our native and once native wildlife from extinction.
Wildwood Trust's vision is to bring back our true 'wildwood', a unique new way of restoring Britain's land to its natural state. This involves releasing large wild herbivores and developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain team with wildlife again.
The Wildwood 'Woodland Discovery Park' is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here.
Set in a sublime 38 acres of Ancient Woodland, Wildwood offers visitors a truly unique experience. Come Nose to Nose with our secretive badgers, experience what it is like to be hunted by a real live pack of wolves, watch a charging wild boar or track down a beaver in his lodge.
Wildwood Trust runs a highly successful programme of Conservation Projects
- we are the UK's leading experts in rescuing and re-establishing colonies of Britain's most threatened mammal, the water vole. Wildwood Trust has pioneered the use of ancient wild horses to restore nature reserve. Wildwood Trust has been at the forefront of efforts to re-establish the European Beaver back in Britain where they belong. European Beaver have been proven to help manage water ways to bring back a huge range of plants, insects and animals.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this newsletter then please e-mail unsubscribe to

No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG -
Version: 8.0.237 / Virus Database: 270.11.10/1996 - Release Date: 03/11/09 20:42:00