Shelter Building is one of our most popular activities, for schools, ranger led sessions and members of the public taking full advantage of our designated area. At the back of Waterside you will find Hawthorn Woods which is full of logs to build shelters with. Shelters are always present in this area of woods and some of them can be very impressive with benches inside them, fake fires outside them, and decorations of all kinds.
When shelter building with schools, we encourage camouflaging them in order to hide themselves as if they were in the wild. I am always impressed with the scale and variety of shelters children can build in just a short amount of time. On Thursday, we had children from New Oscott Primary School build some fantastic shelters including this one which I thought was very creative as they built the whole shelter around a single tree as their base.
Being named Hawthorn Woods, as you would expect Hawthorn is the main tree which is found there. When I think of hawthorns, I tend to think of hedges but these trees are very spindly, tall hawthorns with their canopy being restricted to the top of the tree. As they have grown this way, the thorny branches are far out of reach of the children, and this area makes a perfect spot for shelter building. Each tree can support up to 300 species of invertebrates, and the flowers can provide nectar and pollen for bees. The berries, or haws, that are found on these trees are eaten by many species of bird and small mammals, and can be used to make jellies and wines. Normally thought of as a thorny hedge, the hawthorns found at Conkers really make you think twice about the trees we see around us.