12 Days of Wildness

Winter snow

Oh, the weather outside is verging on frightful, but we’ve some activities most delightful; embrace the ice and snow, outside you go, outside you go, outside you go...

Derbyshire’s weather isn’t famed for its clemency at this time of year; rain, wind, sleet and even snow are expected to arrive, and it is certainly tempting to stay inside with doors bolted and curtains pulled tightly closed. However, you’d be missing out on a wealth of nature’s treasures if you did. Wildlife needs our help at this time of year more than any other, and will repay you with dazzling, wintery spectacles and a host of species you’d rarely see at any other time of the year. There’s no better way to spend the Christmas countdown, than out and about amongst Derbyshire’s wildlife.

Now that I’ve embedded one festive ditty into your brain, let’s try another. Well, it IS Christmas, after all. Dive on in, and discover the 12 Days of Wildness in Derbyshire.

On the First Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... a membership to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Perhaps the best way to protect wildlife is to become a member of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, or purchase a membership for a loved one this Christmas. From as little as £2.50 a month for an individual membership you could help to fund valuable projects undertaken across the county, and ensure the wildlife you love is around for generations to come – all for the cost of a (small) cup of coffee, or eggnog, perhaps.

Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

On the Second Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... two Christmas ballets

At this time of the year the dusk sky comes alive with the ballet of thousands of starlings. Visiting UK shores from the cooler continent these starlings gather in flocks above their seasonal roosts, performing a mesmerising display that enchants all who witness it. You can find out more about starling murmerations and where to see them here.

Large Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris) roost at sunset, Caerlaverock, Scotland, Solway, UK - Danny Green/2020VISION

On the Third Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... three geocaches to hunt for 

Geocaching is a hugely popular pastime, and the cooler weather shouldn’t stop the fun. The Geocaching website has some excellent advice for getting started, so pop on your warmest mittens and head into the woods for an adventure.

Ladybower Wood, Louise Baker

Ladybower Wood, Louise Baker 

On the Fourth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... four festive stories

Perhaps you’ve spent the day being wild and aren’t ready to give up just yet, despite the setting sun. There are some fabulous examples of nature writing out there to be devoured beside a roaring fire; perfect for this time of year. The Lost Words by Rob Macfarlane and Jackie Morris is a treat for children discovering wildlife words, while Horatio Clare’s The Light in the Dark will ease you into the coming winter with lyricism.

On the Fifth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... FIVE CHRISTMAS WREATHS!

Ahem... Winter conditions can make it exceptionally difficult for birds to source food. Wildlife Watch has some fantastic suggestions for giving nature a helping hand, including Christmas wreaths made twigs, pinecones and birdseeds and edible decorations for your garden.

How to make a wreath

How to make a wreath

On the Sixth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... six marshmallows a-toasting

Who says that barbecues are for the summer? November 5th might be long gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still build campfires to sit around – as long as it’s safe to do so, and the flames responsibly maintained. Christmas has become synonymous with spooky stories, so snuggle down and enjoy treats warmed by the flames.

Child

On the Seventh Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... seven birds a-calling

Step outside and see what you can hear... the winter air is cold and still, but the chances are it’ll be peppered with joyful birdsong every once in a while. Listen out for the robin’s passionate chirp, the mistle thrush’s twittering and the redwing’s chatter.

Children outside

On the Eighth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... eight puddles to jump in

Why not don your wellies and get stuck in? We can expect all manner of wet weather between now and next summer, so we might as well embrace the conditions. Rediscover your childish side and wrap up warm; there’s nothing quite like the crunch of frost beneath your feet, or the swish of a puddle as it touches your toes.

Child & puddles

On the Ninth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... nine animal prints to identify

The mud might be oozing, but it’s also capturing all manner of evidence for wildlife explorers to find. Animal and bird tracks are fascinating whatever the time of year, but become particularly fun to spot when it’s muddy, frosty or snowy.

Child & snow

On the Tenth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... ten Christmas craft activities

Derbyshire’s wild landscapes offer up all kinds of treasures at this time of the year, including fallen leaves, broken twigs and pinecones. Head out into the chill with a basket and gather some of these gems. What masterpieces can you create with their colours, shapes and textures?

Leaves

On the Eleventh Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... eleven constellations

The sky is often at its clearest during the cooler winter months, which is perfect for stargazing. Grab a blanket and plenty of layers, and settle down outside once the sun has set. Can your little ones spot Santa, or any number of festive stars and constellations?

night sky & stars

On the Twelfth Day of Wildness, nature gave to me... twelve (plus) nature reserves to explore

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is incredibly proud of its nature reserves, which provide homes for all manner of birds, beasties, small mammals and amphibians. The charity manages and cares for a wealth of habitats rife for exploration across the county, including wetlands, woodlands, industrial sites reclaimed by nature and wide, open fields. Each of these reserves has something to offer during the chilliest of seasons. You could choose one a week to discover for the foreseeable future...

There are plenty of activities suitable for wildlife watchers young and old via our junior branch of the Wildlife Trusts, Wildlife Watch. We’ve also gathered wild-spiration on our very own website. Whether you fancy a wintery walk on one of our reserves, an identification workshop, a family membership for the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, or something else entirely do pop and have a look at in between festive feasts and repeats of old, comedy favourites. There’s still a lot of joy to be found in and amongst our wild landscapes, even as the fog, frost and rain set in.

Highland cattle at Woodside Farm, Jon Preston
On behalf of the staff, volunteers and all creatures great and small, a very Merry Christmas from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust