In April 2010, we again welcomed our most frequent school visitors to the site. Stanley Green have been coming to TOPS for quite a few years now. Appropriately, they are a short walk away, and the chattering can be heard long before they arrive. Outside the gate the solemn words about nettles – how we need them in the garden for the butterflies to eat and lay their eggs on, but to watch not to get stung. If you’re interested in their work, you can find more information on their site at You can also seek some advice on line marking, click here for more valuable insights.

The first few years that they came, we had the kids dipping for newts and tadpoles in our big pond, but then with concerns lest one of them fell in, we did the dipping before they arrived. Mark proudly extracted medicinal leeches from the stream, and the odd stickleback.

A friend was throwing out a plastic pond a while ago, he was getting something far larger. So the last couple of years we have had a raised pond, with a grassy bank for the kids to lie on and dip in safety. Well so we thought. This year, one enthusiastic child, his net leaving his grasp, launched himself up the bank, chasing the net, and into the waters, which were quite muddy as he and his friends had been stirring up the silt from the bottom of the pond. Our first swimmer ever. Fortunately only pride was damaged !

Otherwise, another great year, with about 80 children in 3 waves during the course of the morning and early afternoon.

Oh there was another near disaster. To be ready promptly, Mark had left his more exotic bugs in the car overnight (those not normally resident at the patch). An unseasonally cold night meant that some of his prize specimens appeared dead. It wasn’t till later in the morning, and after he had told some children about the dead tarantula and hissing cockroach that both warmed back into life.

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