Moss Ambassadors


Bat encounters

Flanders Moss NNR

Sometimes we do events and move straight on to the next one without knowing about the ripple effect that the event might have. Below is an article by Joyce Firth for the local community newsletter, the Thornhill Views, which is an interview of the youngsters who gave Chris Packham his guided walk around Flanders Moss a few weeks back. It is very pleasing to see the impact that such an event might have on those involved and very encouraging to see that there are young Flanders Moss Ambassadors already telling people in their community all about the fantastic site on their doorstep.

Early start!

So what made three young people and their Mums get up and out at 5.30 am, on a Sunday morning, in the summer holidays? UK Bioblitz did!

Chris Packham, TV presenter and naturalist and his UK Bioblitz expert team surveyed 50 sites across the UK during 10 days in July, including Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve. The purpose was to highlight the extent to which the nation’s wildlife is under threat.

Shona, Niamh and Deia  were the local guides for the visit spending an hour and a half with Chris Packham and sharing all their knowledge about the moss with him. Scottish Natural Heritage staff, volunteers and local partners were also present at the invitation only event.

I met Shona and her Mum by chance as they returned home and it sounded so interesting and exciting I asked the young people to tell me about it to share with Thornhill Views readers.

Shona explained they’d heard about the survey just before the end of term and all pupils in P5, 6, & 7 Thornhill Primary School were invited to attend. This class group had made five visits to the moss as part of their outdoor learning last term, had built a snake hibernaculum as well as taking part in the art/science project ‘Flanders Moss Under the Microscope’. She said, “We were called the Mossaholics!”

Niamh said “The visit started at the hibernaculum our class built – all 22 of us! But it takes 10 years for the wood to break down to make a safe and warm space for adders to hibernate.” SNH staff and volunteers make several such structures each year to support the resident adder population.

All three girls were really enthusiastic about getting a chance to see the bat expert handling a soprano pipistrelle from one of the 6 wood/crete bat boxes installed on the reserve. Shona explained this tiny bat is “more common than a common pipistrelle!” Niamh said “It was so cute to see it close up but that some people are afraid of bats.” Deia added “It’s amazing that something so tiny can eat thousands of midges a night.”


Close-up bat experience.

Shona said the spider expert was really excited to have found a tiny bog sun-jumper spider to show to the Chris and colleagues. These are very rare spiders and I asked if it would be easy to spot. Niamh explained that was unlikely as “They jump really quickly almost teleporting from place to place.” Chris mentioned the spider on his Twitter feed that day and said “Look it up!” I did and was amazed to discover this tiny arachnid is championed by Angus McDonald MSP for Falkirk East.

The tour looked at many aspects of the reserve including dragon fly larvae and sundews. The girls loved being with Chris – seeing him getting down on his knees and enthusiastically getting into the action. Deia said “I really enjoyed getting to meet Chris Packham and he was really impressed with our ‘Under the Microscope’ Art Beat exhibition.”

Local artist Darren Rees was the ‘Artist in Residence’ for UK Bioblitz and made daily water colour sketches of the different sites.

I asked if the visit had been filmed. Deia said: “We recorded a little video for Chris Packham’s You Tube channel saying why we wanted wild life.”

The girls were given caps and badges and their parents were given campaign post cards to send to Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform asking for some bold and brave changes to improve the health of Scotland’s countryside. Shona thought it would be good if people put “their own ideas forward on it too.”

Niamh said “It was fun to look at things up close but it made me think I should help conservationists to look after these creatures because they’re cool.”

At the end of the visit Chris congratulated all the people working for wildlife. He said that this had been the only site visit led young people.

We should all be rightly proud of such a special nature reserve in our area and even more of the learning opportunities given to our community by reserve manager David Pickett, volunteers and other partners, especially Kate Sankey at West Mosside.

Nature reserves may not be enough but the life lessons given to our young people at Flanders Moss offer a great start to them becoming champions for nature in the broadest sense.

We don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to be part of this national campaign but can take inspiration from our local children and join the new biodiversity group being set up in the village.

See you at the hibernaculum!

Joyce Firth



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1 Response to Moss Ambassadors

  1. Pingback: People, Peat and Poetry Project – The overview – 10 year anniversary | 2 bogs, a swamp and some islands

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