What a successful summer for the Sammy the Rainbow Snail family wildlife roadshow!
Over the Summer 2018 summer holidays Sammy the Snail visited 11 green sites across the Tees Valley, engaging 1,743 people, thanks to the help of nine “Friends of“ groups and the input of 46 volunteers and three apprentices.
These events provided opportunities for families to visit and enjoy their local green space, take part in fun activities learning about snails and other mini-beasts as well meeting the volunteers of “Friends of” groups who care for these green gems.
Children were fascinated by getting into close contact with our friendly snails and learning about how snails move, see, taste and smell their surroundings. Our two pet African land snails (Bill and Ben) were especially popular. All the children were extremely gentle and caring when handling our slimy friends.
The highlight of each day was a visit from Sammy the Rainbow Snail. Lots of families took selfies of themselves and their children with this exceedingly rare gastropod!
Our 3D model snail was a great hit, we were all amazed by how complex their internal anatomy was, and how their stomach was coiled inside their shell. But where is the brain?
The snail quiz proved to be a challenge for all ages, and a great way to learn. Popular facts were that snails had a rough tongue (called a radula) which had something like a file with rows of thousands of tiny teeth called dendicles.
Try the quiz here How well do you know snails?
Our visiting families enjoyed getting creative, making colourful snails from loo rolls and modelling clay. The snail finger puppets, badges and book marks were also popular.
The hunt the snail game was great fun. Younger children pretended to be song thrushes and were given a beak (plastic tweezers) to which to hunt for laminated paper snails. They found the colourful rainbow snails much easier to find than green and brown ones. The children quickly worked out that if you were a snail, being camouflaged would help you escape the beady eyes of predators.
Older children and adults puzzled over our “Is it a Mollusc challenge?”. It’s amazing that as well as slugs and snails, that cuttlefish, squid and octopus are also molluscs.
Mini-beast hinting was as popular as ever!
All the activity left everything thirsty and peckish. We had to reassure some children that our snail biscuits were made of gingerbread and did not contain any snails!
Our humorous leaflet “How to protect your prize plants from chomping snails and slugs, whilst still being a nice person” was appreciated by gardeners and formed part of our take home pack. If you didn’t attend an event you can down load this here as well as the children’s activity sheets.
One Planet Pioneer Apprentices, the lovely Zana, Jess and Emily, worked very hard throughout, welcoming people and helping deliver all aspects of the events. Their work at the events will contribute to their portfolio for a level 2 qualification that they are undertaking with the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. We are very proud of them. Find out more about this scheme on their facebook page
Highlights from each event
Coatham Green (Redcar)
We had a bright breezy day at Coatham Green with the Coatham Heritage Group. Thank you to Mags Hayden for the photographs and Margaret for bringing snails from her garden. The mini-beast hunting was very successful with lots of ladybirds, spiders and beetles. To find out more about the work of the Coatham Heritage Group in helping to care and improve Coatham Green here.
Fairy Dell (Middlesbrough)
We joined the Fairy Dell family summer fun day. What a fab event the Friends of Fairy Dell put on. Dodge Ball, Tai Chi and Boxacise were just some of the fantastic healthy sporty activities on offer. Our Sammy the Snail stall received over 800 visitors and by the end all of us and the snail were quite exhausted. We made over 200 snail badges and used 8 kg of modelling clay during the morning. Many people we met, had not visited Fairy Dell before, and were pleased to pick up a site map and footpath leaflet from the Friends of Fairy Dell. Find out more about the group by following the link.
Photographs by David Everitt (Chair- Friends of Fairy Dell)
Rockwell Local Nature Reserve, Darlington
This was the first event of the roadshow, so we were not anticipating a huge turnout. We were overwhelmed when 147 people came due to all the promotion work by the Friends of Rockwell It was such a lovely morning with lovely children – all eager to learn and take part in all the activities. Pat Meredith from the Friends if Rockwell acted as photographer as well as key helper. Local Cllr Dawn Storr, who popped along cheerfully gave us much needed assistance serving refreshments.
Follow this link to find out more about the Friends of Rockwell
Maelor’s Wood, Stainton
There was an extra buzz of excitement at our event in Maelor’s Wood as the Friends of Stainton & Thornton Green Spaces had hidden some golden snail rocks over the weekend and were offering prizes for their return. After the event many families stayed and had a picnic in the sunny meadow and explored the carved animal trail in the wood.
Discover more about Maelor’s Wood and the other community wildlife sites that the friends of Stainton & Thornton Green Spaces care for here
Sammy the Rainbow Snail visited Roseworth Twice! We were especially excited to be at Roseworth Library as we were able to make good use of the new wildlife garden! We were all really surprised to find lots of ladybirds, shield bugs and spiders in flower beds in front of the library too. Thank you to the wonderful library staff for allowed so much noise in the library!
Drinkfield Marsh Local Nature Reserve, Darlington
A super morning with the Friends of Drinkfield Marsh. The friends group were delighted that for over half the participants it was their visit to the marsh, who were amazed that this beautiful nature reserve was nestled between housing and industry in North Darlington. Dedicated Friends group member, Hardy Jones, surprised us all by being Sammy Snail for the morning. Here is our great team of volunteers from Drinkfield Marsh.More about this wild oasis and the volunteers who care for it can be found here
More about this wild oasis and the volunteers who care for it here .
Ward Jackson Park
This beautiful Victorian park was an excellent location for Sammy Snail. Assisted by the Friends of Ward Jackson Park we attracted lots of attention from families who were visiting the park. The Friends group are on the lookout for more volunteers . Find out more here
Bluebell Beck, Acklam
A majestic weeping willow tree created an enchanting natural canopy for Sammy Snail activities at Blue Bell Beck. The Friends of Bluebell Beck were on top form; welcoming families, helping with crafts, badge making and refreshments with their infectious enthusiasm (pictured below) Find out more about the Friends of Bluebell Beck on their facebook page.
The nature reserve in Linthorpe Cemetery is a peaceful place to get close to nature in Middlesbrough. The Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery & Nature Reserve were kept busy making badges and crafts for visiting families. It was just as everyone was enjoying refreshments that the heavens opening with a dramatic thunder storm….it’s amazing how many people can fit under a gazebo! Find out more about the work of the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery here
Errington Woods, New Marske
This was our final event and a smasher. We always love working with the Friends of Errington wood, they are such a jolly bunch of volunteers. They can be usually seen on Friday morning’s felling trees or building steps and footpaths, so this was a something a bit different for them. We found some pretty interesting mini beasts too. A real treat for all the staff and volunteers was the fruit cake and flapjack made by the super Liz. Follow the link to find out more about their valuable work tasks ….and cake eating. Thank you to David Sanderson of the Friends of Errington woods for the super photographs
A team photo from Errington Wood – fab volunteers and apprentices! Follow the link to find out about Errington Woods and the work of the Friends group.
Behind the scenes
Behind every roadshow are unsung heros, doing stacks of preparation. A big thank you to Barrie Metcalfe,who spend many a morning pre-cutting badges, photocopying activity sheets, laminating posters and filling take home packs, along with Zana, Emily and Jess. Barrie has been especially pleased to receive new extra sharp scissors.
All of the baking was done by Nigel Dobbyn and he designed our snail logo and all the artwork, cartoons and poems for the activities. He says he never wants to ice another snail face on a cookie ever again.
Bright future for our snail super stars
Our garden snails were returned to the garden of Jacky Watson (Wildlife Trust staff member), she was quite surprised to receive 30 as she had given us 7.
Jacky says “So 7 snails from my garden went on tour with the Tees Valley Wild Green Places crew and 30 have been “returned” to live out their retirement in my garden. It’s going to seem quiet after life on the road. No more strawberries and cucumber in the dressing room. No more adoring crowds. Anyway, #snailscience and #snailshowbiz have not done with them yet. They have been numbered S1 to S30 and will now feature in a long-running, if intermittent, study-come-social-media reality show. When encountered round the garden, they will be photographed, logged, plotted and posted. Watch this slimy space.”
However one snail did escape and was found when Sue cleaned her car last week. It was hiding under the spare wheel and is now found freedom in the Wildlife Trust garden.
Our two African land snails however can’t be realised into the wilds of Teesside, as they are not native species and would not survive anyway. They live for several years, which is quite a commitment. At the end of September they will be adapted by Wildlife Trust apprentice, Zana, who became extremely found of them. Zana’s favourite food is also cucumber so they should be very happy.