Pond dipping with Grandad

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Eight year old granddaughter recently revelled in the delights of pond dipping during her visit to the UK. Our ex-pat family live in the US and visit during the summer to see us and escape the heat of Texas in August (probably when it’s at its most challenging). If she tried pond dipping there she could easily net a baby alligator; here it’s a tad safer and there was great interest in the smooth newts we found in our garden pond.

Neighbourhood friends she has here came round to play. They all wanted to pond dip and not only were tiny young smooth newts found, but also some fully grown adults which were studied, observed and returned to the pond.Grandad supervised, pointing out other things – dragonfly nymphs, water beetles, a spider with a white rear end (promptly named as a “white-bummed spider”) – but what thrilled them the most were the newts, generating loud squeals of delight.

I encouraged granddaughter to watch the bumblebees at work on the lavender, stuffing their leg sacs full of pollen. She’s always liked bees but at first was a bit wary of getting too close. That was until I suggested she learned how to gently stroke a bee while it was busy getting pollen, showing her how to do it and saying she needed to be a bit daring to do this too. Her first attempt at bee stroking was – understandably – rather hesitant, but after that she had the confidence to try it again…and again…and usually made straight for the lavender when she went into the garden.

I heard her say to one of her friends “Have you ever stroked a bee?”

“No”

“It’s easy. I’ll show you how”

What struck me more than anything was the intensity of interest in simple hands-on and observational pleasures that she and her friends gained from being in our relatively small garden, using their eyes and senses to experience what was going on around them. And that was before we included the hover flies and butterflies, and the evidence that Ferdy the Fox had been digging holes in the lawn again!

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