Review of Johnny Magory Autumn Winter Explorer Day.
“A bit of rain never harmed anyone.”
Now there’s something I’ve heard a thousand times before and again some Johnny Magory Little Explorer’s tested the theory and proved it correct!
It’s becoming a trend now that our Outdoor Explorer Days are hosted in the best of the Irish weather but that’s just fine by us! Rain means puddles and muck and that means fun!
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing after all!
So enough about the weather, here’s what happened on the day.
Donadea Forest Park.
We met at 2pm in the car-park of Donadea Forest Park, Donadea, Co. Kildare. Donadea Forest Park is situated in northwest Kildare and comprises of approximately 243 hectares of mixed woodland. It is part of the old Aylmer family estate, a real gem in Ireland’s Ancient East’s crown.
Tizzy (our 1972 VW Kombi) brought us all there (after a little coaxing involving jump leads!) and she provided shelter for our team of wonderful volunteers; namely our daughter Lily-Marie, her two friends Charleigh and Lauren, our son Eibhean and my mam Angela.
I gave a brief introduction to everyone then off we set.
I have a tree identifier which I bought from The Tree Council of Ireland that I pass around to the children to have turns using while we’re walking around. They have produced a simple tree identification card for anyone wanting to identify our native trees. Leaves and twigs from 24 common Irish tree and shrub species are included in the pocket card kit. Perfect for all ages and ideal for woodland outings for individuals or families, each page provides a description of the tree or shrub, its leaf, flower and fruit. You can buy your own here . It’s a brilliant little thing for encouraging children to connect with nature and stir up some curiosity.
A Little Spooky.
As it is still the Halloween season as the kids are still on midterm, a quick trip into Saint Peter’s Church to see the tombs of the Alymer family was in order! You can read the full fascinating history of this church here.
The Magical Wild.
We walked up the the giant beech trees close to the 9/11 Memorials, rolled out a picnic blanket and settled underneath them to read the first book with the trees somewhat shielding us from the rain. Johnny Magory in the Magical Wild went down well and the last page as always was read aloud by a wonderful little explorer on the walk. I tell every child before I read the book that they need to try remember the names of the animals that are on the last page. I always draw particular attention to the corncrake picture as it’s a bird that most of them aren’t familiar with and ask them to try their best to remember it’s name when I finish the story. Alas, nobody remembered the corncrake but they did get everyone else.
Can you name Johnny’s friends?
I love talking about each animal in the “Can you name Johnny’s friends” section, it’s a great opportunity to encourage a love of animals, especially the endangered ones. When we discuss the frog, I get the children to do some frog hops to warm up and get the juices flowing again (and because they are loads of fun!)
We trekked on by the pet cemetery, the boat house and alongside the lake, pulling into a clearing under the evergreens near the infamous “Doodie Tree” . Here we read the second story Johnny Magory and the Game of Rounders. Every explorer present knew what turf was so it saved me explaining! Again at the end of the book we went through Johnny’s friends. Nobody was able to remember the poor Grouse and Hen Harrier but top marks for all the other animals. We did a few more frog hops then went on our merry way once more.
Wild Water Race.
Looping around the lake and then taking a right to visit the “Dungeon” (aka old food store/ ice house). We jumped in puddles and skipped along under the most spectacular autumnal colours of the trees. Johnny Magory and the Wild Water Race was read just beside it under the giant beech trees again. I love telling the children that Kim Shaw did the most amazing job illustrating this book. Kim drew in my granddad Paddy and my daughter Lily-Marie as Lily-May, from photo’s I sent her. Dusty the barge horse is my old horse Dusty and Ruairi the dog is based on our old dog Gary. I especially love this book for this reason.
Forest Fleadh Cheoil.
The cold was beginning to make its presence known at this stage. We marched on back towards the lake before taking a right and then a left over the little bridge to settle at our final stop under yet another giant beech tree. It was under this particular tree I sat and wrote Johnny Magory and the Forest Fleadh Cheoil on the 8th April 2019 after dropping my youngest daughter to school. There’s definitely magic under those branches because that day, I wrote the entire story in 10 minutes! It just came flying out.
So reading the book for the first time had to be done under that tree to say thanks! It was obvious it was my first time reading it to a group. I didn’t know all the words off by heart and I was half way through when I remembered to ask the children to find a robin on each page (oops!). But it went down well. The children really engaged with the illustrations by Don Conroy and enjoyed the story (huge sigh of relief!)
I rolled up the now filthy picnic blanket for the last time and we made our way under all the beautiful colours back to the cafe before saying goodbye and a silent prayer that Tizzy would start (she did!) and leaving the park.
Go raibh maith agat.
Thank you so much to those who decided to make the most of the Irish weather and get outside exploring. We raised €50 for CMRF Crumlin as well which is super.
Stay tuned for our Spring 2020 Outdoor Explorer Walk.
P.S remember to use the Irish Animal Directory here on the website when your doing the “Johnny Magory’s Friends” section at the end of each book. It’s full of fun facts for your Little Explorer.