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Children go wild for new nature centre

County councillor Liz Fairhurst trys out the new Naturalist Garden at Staunton Country Park with Connor Challenor (10,left) and Olivia Middleton (11,right) from nearby Front Lawn Junior School. Picture: Steve Reid (123881-768)

Published in the Portsmouth News on Thursday 29th November 2012

THE exciting adventure of a nature-lover 200 years ago has inspired the creation of a wildlife oasis in Leigh Park.

In the early 19th century Sir George Staunton travelled to China and brought back many of the weird and wonderful plants he found to his huge estate near Havant.

Now around £45,000 has been spent on creating a naturalist’s study with an accompanying wildlife garden at Staunton Country Park.

With pictures of Sir George, Beatrix Potter and Charles Darwin on the walls, it is a cosy area, full of artefacts, bones, plant and animal charts and maps.

Outside is an area of different habitats to attract fauna from bats to butterflies, including a pond, bird feeders, decaying tree trunks and a turfed roof.

There’s even bits of old tennis balls for small mammals to nest in.

The garden features a hide to spy on bird and mammal visitors.

The project has transformed the old entrance area to Staunton and was made possible by funding from Hampshire County Council.

Kerry Bailey, Staunton’s education officer, said: ‘It’s quite quirky and it’s got a historical feel which fits into George Staunton, who himself was an amazing naturalist by the time he was 11, travelling the world and finding new species of plant.

‘We want people to add to the study if they find stuff on nature walks at Staunton.’

Ms Bailey said the garden is already teeming with life and more animals will come.

She laughed: ‘You’ve have never seen a pond with so many newts!’

First to be let loose on The Naturalist’s Garden were Year 5 and 6 pupils from Front Lawn Junior School, which is near the country park.

They tried out pond dipping and finding creepy crawlies.

The area will be used by local schools, as well as visitors to the country park.

It will also become a permanent outdoor classroom for pupils at Front Lawn.

Karen Russell, a teacher at Front Lawn, said: ‘It’s an amazing opportunity for all the children at Front Lawn.’

Chardnay Davies, nine, from Leigh Park, said: ‘I like it. My favourite part was making the bird feeders.’

Chenise Chiverton, also nine, from Bedhampton, added: ‘It’s fun because I like getting messy.’

Liz Fairhurst, county councillor for Leigh Park, said: ‘Young people from our area will have a chance to get to know more about this wonderful environment we enjoy.’

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