The River of Life: Family fun in the sun

Winding its way downstream from East Dartmoor, the River Bovey and all the life within it flows through Parke, where this week’s River of Life picnic was held. Glorious sunshine welcomed families who strolled in to join Moor than meets the eye and Woodland Trust rangers. Greeted by more of the team from Natural England and the National Trust, adults and children alike were drawn into a plethora of activities. One group headed off river dipping, where Fred from the National Trust showed everyone how to get up close to the wildlife in the river. Though some didn’t quite take on his waist-high wading style, they still got a chance to get close to bullhead fish, trout, and mayfly and dragonfly larvae.


Meanwhile, another group played ecogames with Moor than meets the eye’s Andy. Finding out all about how seeds catch the wind and spread far and wide, the youngest of the group got themselves into teams for a sycamore seed relay race; spinning around while running forward. It was dizzying just watching them!

After all that activity, everyone found a shady spot, where their eagerly awaited picnic lunches were gobbled down. Meanwhile, mums, dads, grandparents and friends chatted about finding time to enjoy the beauty of being outdoors with their families. As more passers-by began to drop in, Natural England volunteers settled them in with badge-making, where children drew their favourite river and Dartmoor inspired designs. Then they rummaged around to find suitable adornments to headdresses, which some put a lot of love and time into. These were two beautiful examples from the day:

headress combined

Many shared their love of trees by contributing to the Woodland Trust’s Charter for Trees. They shared their tree passions and stories with Jane, whether it was because trees reminded them of the first time they climbed one, or whether it was because trees gave them oxygen, shade or they just loved a good tree hug. Most drew on pendants made from a cross-section of a tree branch – a great addition to the badges and headdresses they could keep to remember their day.


As people started to warm up in the heat of the day, Fred took another party down to the river, where many a bare foot was dipped into the reinvigorating sparkling waters. And just when we needed a sit down in the shade, Andy shared stories of adventures and wild creatures in the woods.


One mother who accidentally stumbled across the picnic said it had been “a fabulous, unexpected, serendipitous visit.”  The fresh air, water, sunshine and food made sure that the life in and around the river left us all feeling energised.

Find out about similar events coming up here.

Words and images by Emma Fancett

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