2013 Conference of the British Naturalists’ Association

I attended the 2013 BNA Conference yesterday at Forest School in Snaresbrook, primarily to help out Essex Amphibian and Reptile Group with some pond dipping. They ran pond dipping activities for people attending the conference, alongside bat walks, butterfly hunting and other similar activities that were run on the day by knowledgeable naturalists.

This was my first outing with Essex ARG and my first encounter with the BNA, and I now have a very positive impression of both. Pond dipping took place in nearby Manor Pond, contiguous with Epping Forest; this proximity to the ancient woodland no doubt led to the school’s name. This is a pretty pond, and with a variety of wildlife lurking amongst the crack willow and yellow flag-iris it would seem to be a great pond for nature too. Essex ARG in the form of Ray Cranfield and Neil Phillips skillfully netted some of the resident pond-life to show to the curious, and shared their depth of knowledge with everyone. I used my environmental education experience to assist some of the children with dipping the pond too, making sure no-one ended up taking an unplanned dip themselves!

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Ray Cranfield and Neil Phillips test the waters at Manor Pond.

After the pond dipping sessions, we mingled with the rest of the BNA Conference (with the theme of “Wildlife and the Urban Landscape”). There were some fine exhibits and information from various organisations in the school’s dining hall (a very fine building; we were watched over by wooden angels carved into the woodwork of the ceiling!). There were also some fascinating and entertaining talks from Professor James Hitchmough and Bill Oddie.

I then followed Epping Forest’s Senior Forest Keeper, Andrew Gammie, on a nice long walk through some of the nearby Forest. This was great for me, as I got the chance to become better acquainted with this part of the 6,000 acre plus Forest – I don’t often venture this far to the south-west when exploring. Having walked an hour to the venue that morning, and including the walk home at the end of the day, this added up to a very fit and active Saturday!