Opening up the natural heritage of Leicester's waterways
The Young Ecology Adventurers programme provides opportunities for young people from Leicester's Somali community to learn about the natural environment and build their skills and confidence trying out new things and overcoming challenges. Working with professional instructors, volunteers, some brilliant partners and the wonderful waterways in Leicester and Leicestershire, the programme is opening up new horizons for young people. Find out more about the programme. We started in the summer of 2017: follow our progress below and on Twitter and Instagram...
July 2017, Week One was our induction day when everyone including came together for the first time at St Matthew's Neighbourhood Centre to learn more about the programme and to ask questions.
Week Two: the first group of young people set off from Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre to practice their canoe skills and how to avoid the trees, stinging nettles and crashing into each other!
Week Three: this week we went in Kata Kanus with 6 people in each, to Belgrave Lock. Volunteer lock keepers explained how the locks worked and we practiced opening and closing the lock gates. The river was high and flowing quite strongly so it took us much longer to get to the lock than we expected.
Week Four: we learned from wildlife graduate and CRT volunteer Chloe about transects and how to do these on the river. Then we split into two groups and made our way up and downstream to record the wildlife and vegetation. Sometimes it was quite difficult keeping the canoe in the right direction as well as noting down the riverbank activity!
Week Five: A group of us learned about camera traps and how they work. We practiced setting them up inside before canoeing to four locations close to the Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre where we installed them. We will collect them and look at the results next week.
We collected the camera traps later on Saturday afternoon and the results are in! Here are some of our pics and videos from four camera traps we set along the River Soar near to Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre. What we found was that some locations were much better than others; some cameras had leaves blowing in front of them, and some had more human activity (boats and canoes) than wildlife.
Egret from Lily Cam
Mallard from Lily Cam
Canada Geese from Trunk Cam
Coot from Lily Cam
Week Six: this was a week away from the water in St Matthew's Neighborhood Centre, thinking about what we we'd covered so far, which feels like a lot and how we could improve it. Hannah and Tom from Cardiff University ran some great activities to get everyone thinking about the programme, the John Muir Award and what we are going to do at the final graduation.
Week Seven: was a trip away from the city to the Grand Union Canal at Kibworth in Leicestershire. This beautiful stretch of the waterway is a conservation area and Site of Special Scientific Interest. We were looking for bats which is why we went so late. We also went through the 800m long Saddington Tunnel. We were joined by Chloe and Natasja, wildlife and bat experts and Jools, Wildlife Officer for Leicestershire County Council.
Learning about bat detectors
Understanding what bats look like
Inside Saddington Tunnel
Natasja's rescue bat
Week Eight: Today we split into 3 groups - river dipping for creatures in the water, setting more camera traps and taking video of canoeing practice. We managed to fit it all in, just.
Week Nine and Week Ten: in the last two weeks we have been preparing materials for the graduation event and to present to Canal and River Trust. This included finishing off video recordings and preparing picture and display boards.
Week Eleven: In the St Matthew's Neighbourhood Centre we presented the project to Canal and River Trust staff including Richard Parry (Chief Executive), Sean McGinley (Waterway Manager for East Midlands) and Liz Fleuty (Development and Engagement Manager). We explained the programme through photographs and videos and had a good discussion on what young people would like to do next. We also had some great food that parents prepared!
Week 12: Our final week and we were fortunate to be offered the facilities at the University of Leicester's brilliant new Medical Sciences building , so we held our graduation there. Young people, staff and some parents all got certificates to recognise their involvement in the prgoramme. The young people all achieved the John Muir Award as well as receiving a certificate from the the Canal and River Trust.
SOCOPA 2017 Site designed by Jon Boagey; photos Jamie Chuaiprasit