Acres of family fun in a Norfolk woodland wonderland
Autumn, with its crisp days and incredible colours, is a great time to get out into nature with your family. Make the most of the season with these brilliant ideas from The Woodland Trust, writes STACIA BRIGGS
Squirrels and jays are just two of the woodland animals that store food ready for the winter. They need a good memory to find them again – but how good is your memory? Collect five to 10 acorns from the woodland floor, from beneath an Oak tree and then find a good place to store or bury them.
Go off for a walk and then come back and try and find your buried treasure. If you really want to test yourself, store the acorns on one visit to the woods and then look for them on your next visit!
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Collect a variety of leaves. Select two leaves and remove the leaf stalks. Overlap the leaves and pin together using one of the leaf stalks (a little bit like a leaf daisy chain).
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Take another leaf, remove the leaf stalk and pin. Keep going, adding one leaf at a time until there are enough joined together to go around your head. Use the final leaf stalk to join the first and last leaves together. For an easier crown, cut a strip of card long enough to go around your head and then add a strip of double-sided tape to stick leaves to. Staple or tape the crown to the right size.
Take the crown on the walk, decorating it by adding leaves to the double-sided tape as you go.
Bring a plastic cup or bowl with you on the walk and add a dash of water. As you find things on the woodland floor, add to your cup and mash into the water with a stick. Keep adding until you've created a wonderful autumnal scent – although it's unlikely that you'll want to wear it as perfume! When you've finished, find a good place to empty the cup.
What can you create for a woodland animal using just fallen leaves and twigs? Maybe you could make a sleeping bag for a millipede out of leaves, a boat for a wood mouse complete with a twig mast, or an umbrella for an owl.
Find yourself some fallen leaves and some thin, but strong, fallen twigs. Overlap the leaves and use your thumb-nails to carefully make a hole through both layers. Now make a second hole near the first. Push your thin twig down through the first hole and up through the second. Your leaves are now stitched together and you can start creating!
Best done on a dry day – for reasons that will become obvious – kick up a storm on an autumnal day by creating a large pile of fallen leaves and using your feet to create the sounds of a storm.
Stand with one foot buried under the leaves and then take a small handful of leaves and wait for the storm to arrive.
Start to gently rustle the leaves with your feet, then rustle more loudly, then throw your handfuls of leaves in the air and kick as hard as you can!
Woodland treasure hunt
Take a list with you and see what you can tick off as you make your way through the woodland. Look for butterflies, galls, ivy, Harvestman spiders, squirrels, spider webs, owls, leaf skeletons, birds and mushrooms.
More objects to try and spot include a tough and shiny evergreen leaf, two different kinds of winged seed, a sweet chestnut, an acorn in its cup, fallen pine needles, a conker, a pine cone, a fallen twig covered in moss or lichen, 10 leaves (each with a different autumn colour or shade) and a prickly sweet chestnut shell showing its furry lining.
If making a full-scale den seems like too much hard work, try making a scaled-down version for the woodland elves. It's often easier to make your small den propped up against a tree. Use twigs to form the skeleton of the house and then cover them with leaves and moss. You can add further details, such as a table made from a piece of bark set for tea (use acorn cups as teacups!).
Woodland snakes and autumn flowers
Collect brightly coloured autumn leaves and lay them in a line to create a woodland snake, slithering between the trees, through holes and over logs (you may need to leaf stitch them together!).
You can also create a beautiful autumn flower using different coloured leaves.
Make your own natural paint
When you're out in the woods, collect coloured, natural materials such as blackberries, rosehips, elderberries, moss, oak bark, nettle tops and conkers.
Back at home, place each different material in a bowl with a little bit of water. Mash, grind and pound the material to release its colour and then strain, using a sieve or a tea strainer to remove bits of seed or husk. Be careful, because some natural paints will stain your clothes (especially berry paints!). Try using them on paper or to paint large stones, which you can then leave outside to decorate the house – until it rains!
You can also use the materials you've gathered like crayons, although this is a messy project. Simply draw or paint a picture and then colour it in by rubbing berries, leaves or grass straight on to the paper.
There are lots of myths and legends about woodland gods, fairies, elves and spirits.
The Green Man is one of the most famous, a mythical figure often portrayed as a mask made entirely from leaves. Create your own with natural materials collected from the woodland floor. Try making a mud mask in the shape of a face, moulding it on to a tree trunk and decorating or create a giant face peering up from the woodland floor. Leave your creations hidden for others to find!
First, search for a long, straight, fairly strong twig to be your broomstick handle.
Next, collect a bunch of smaller, slender twigs to make up the 'broom' part. Holding the bunch of small twigs tightly together, fasten them to one end of your broomstick with string or sticky tape.
Now you're ready to fly off in the moonlight or compete in the Quidditch world cup!
For more ideas, visit The Woodland Trust's naturedetectives.org.uk/autumn