Last night I accompanied some local Scouts on an night hike. It was raining, at times quite hard, and these young people had, to their credit, chosen to spend their Friday evening walking around the local area – getting outdoors rather than staying in. The annual district event took a route of about least 3 hours and included footpaths - across-country tracks – as well as some road-crossings. Each scout team of 4 had to be fully equipped and was assigned an adult ‘shadow’ to ensure their safety.
The team I was asked to shadow, whilst relatively inexperienced in hiking, had a very positive ‘go-ahead’ attitude but rather than push themselves to ’win’ the route and tasks therein, were interesting in ‘taking in’ the event.
Rather than push the group to ‘go faster’ or similar, I was very happy to oblige… and this approach had interesting results.
Night-time vision is very diferent from day-time and I – wearing glasses which fogged up with the rain and sweat – relied on the Scouts’ powers of observation to reinforce my own.
At one point, as we shone torchlights to light the path ahead, one boy shouted ‘stop’ .. ‘look out’! He had caught in the light, a lovely little frog sitting in the middle of the footpath. The frog, were summised, was likely to have been making its way from one of the very muddy and wet footpath, to the other and was transfixed by the glare of the torchlight.
As we got closer and closer to where we could have actually reached out and touched it – but we did not want to scare it further and do it any harm – it still remained there, totally motionless. Such a very small, fragile creature could very easily be squashed under one of one huge, chunky hiking boots.
We stayed for a few minutes to view the frog, taking some ’mental’ measurements and some pictures, to remember it – especially how small it seamed in the scheme of things – and just how fragile.
What struck me was just how caring the Scouts were; how inquisitive they were about why it was there, what kind it was and what might happen to it. In short, how vulnerable this representative creature was and how with one move we could show how much or little we care our natural world. And, without the observation of one astute Scout, we might have missed this chance encounter altogether!
This was a personal encounter, which could not have been had in front of the tv screen. It was a memory to cherish.
http://www.arc-trust.org/Our current activities include managing eighty nature reserves, working with schools, researching and monitoring species’ populations in the wild, and working with other wildlife organisations, and the public, to influence wildlife legislation relating to amphibians and reptiles.
http://www.froglife.org/ Works with volunteers, ecologists, government departments and the public to conserve the native amphibians and reptiles of Britain and Ireland.