Downland wildlife on the Powell Day walk

By Mary Shotter, Biology Technician

The wooded slopes and rolling hills of the South Downs are a very special landscape and provide a habitat for a wide and interesting variety of species, so Powell Day provided a perfect opportunity to see them at their best in the early spring sunshine.

Not far from the start point in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, as we climbed gradually along a valley between War and Holt Downs, the browns and greens of the landscape were punctuated by a large patch of bright yellow coltsfoot, one of a few plants with the unusual habit of flowering before any leaves emerge. It is the leaves from which its name derives – when they do eventually unfurl in April they are large and hoof shaped.

Along the track were also patches of Juniper, the berries of which are used for flavouring gin. Once common, it is now a rare sight, due to habitat loss.

The colourful bracket fungus, turkeytails, covered piles of logs besides the chalky tracks. Further along between Buriton and Ditcham, at Coulters Dean, the path turned off the South Downs Way and past a field and grassy bank which was dotted with huge mounds of yellow meadow ant nests. Each one will house between 8,000 and 40,000 ants, feeding their larvae on the roots of Downland plants such as wild thyme. From here the track wound uphill through beech woodland, carpeted with wild garlic, the smell of which became obvious as it was crushed beneath our feet.

On the open grassland of Ditcham Park, skylarks were singing, hovering effortlessly, high above the ground, then parachuting down onto the fields, before ascending again. A lone red admiral butterfly flew past – most red admirals are migratory but a few like this one, will have hibernated and emerged into the early spring warmth in search of nectar. In the more open landscape around Chalton, buzzards and a lone red kite flew overhead, watching as we re-entered the Queen Elizabeth Park and after three hours made our way past yew and pine trees down to the finish.

Walking from Syria to Steep to support refugees

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Perspectives, Geography and Politics

On Tuesday 8 March, the Bedales community will be off timetable for our termly community day – this term being Powell Day. It feels particularly important that we spend this day as a community after the tribulations of recent years – coming together to raise awareness and vital funds for those that continue to need support.

We are very excited to give you more information about our collective initiative to walk, as a school, the distance from Northern Syria to Steep in a single day (roughly 4500km). In tutor and year groups, Bedales students and staff will be walking a 10km route around Queen Elizabeth Country Park to raise sponsorship for the Rural Refugee Network, our charity partner. We are encouraging all tutor groups to raise at least £250 in sponsorship but encouraging some healthy competition by awarding prizes to both the tutor group and year group that raise the most in sponsorship!

Students will be able to give family and friends a URL allowing you to donate directly to their team via Give Penny, our chosen fundraising platform. We really hope you will be able to contribute to this worthwhile cause where both you and the students will be able to see exactly where these vital funds go. We would also be delighted if parents would like to participate on the walk itself.

I am also delighted that Gulwali Passarlay, a dear friend of the school who delivered the Global Awareness Lecture in 2017 will be joining us for the day to speak to the students and join us on the walk. Gulwali’s story is inspiring. It includes a 12-month odyssey across Europe to escape war-torn Afghanistan, arrival in the UK and graduation from one of the UK’s top universities. Gulwali Passarlay is a speaker, activist and former refugee who arrived in Britain in 2007, aged just 12, after being separated from his brother during his travels. His best-selling book, The Lightless Sky, is an account of his lone travels as a child including a 50-hour sea crossing in cramped quarters with more than 100 other refugees. At the time of the lecture, I said: “Gulwali’s resilience, determination and humour is a lesson to us all. He has faced unimaginable hardship and had his childhood taken away. Despite this, he bears no grudges, and has instead dedicated his life to raising awareness and improving the lives of millions of people around the world.” I think this message remains important as we look forward to 8 March – and I have certainly quoted the above when students have been a little reluctant about walking 10km!