The Wild Escape
Join us on The Wild Escape, a major new project led by Art Fund and supported by English Heritage, celebrating UK wildlife and creativity.
“At English Heritage, we aim to bring history to life and fire the imagination, but we also take our responsibility to the future of our sites very seriously. This fantastic project combines these two passions, and is the perfect example of how historic artefacts can inspire and motivate people of all ages. Our charity has more than 400 sites up and down the country, ranging from prehistoric monuments through to castles and abbeys, and we are very proud to be welcoming children to them with special activities and resources, encouraging them to think creatively about the challenges our natural environment faces.”
Kate Mavor, Chief Executive English Heritage
How to get involved
As part of The Wild Escape, your pupils can create their own animal escape story or artwork, join in and:
- Visit one of our sites for free to provide your pupils with the inspiration they need to get started.
- Use our free resource (below) introducing pupils to the animals in our collections, before imagining that they have escaped into the wild! Following their journey, they’ll learn more about our man-made gardens and historical places’ surroundings, as well as the animals you might encounter there today. They will discover how outdoor spaces and biodiversity were thought about in the past and how we’re currently caring for the animals and plants at our sites. Our resource is full of information and activities to help you make the most of National Curriculum Science, Art and History links across our sites and collections.
Animals in the Archives
People have lived alongside animals for centuries and we can still find evidence of them at our historic places today. English Heritage looks after collections dating from prehistory up to the 20th century, including evidence of animals, animals on display, animals in art and animals as symbols.
Kick off your Wild Escape by asking students to imagine what might happen if one of the animals in the images below escaped from our collection. How would they move? What kind of environment would they look for? You might like to split your class into small groups and give each group a different animal to discover before bringing the class together to share their findings.
Click on the images to learn more about some of objects in our collections and the animals they depict.
Natural History and Biodiversity Then
Natural history has interested people for centuries but they have often studied it and thought about it differently to how we would today. Similarly, although it might seem like we’ve only recently started talking about biodiversity and the importance of outdoor spaces, many people connected to our historic places have reflected on and studied these ideas over the centuries, often in their own gardens.
Click on the images below to explore some well-known and not so well-known stories of gardening, scientific discovery and social reform linked to our historic places. Invite students to consider these stories and weigh up the contributions that these people and places have made to our understanding of the natural world today. You could run a debate or encourage more research to explore these ideas further.
Biodiversity and Sustainability Now
Our historic places are home to a variety of wildlife and offer many opportunities to explore the natural environment, biodiversity and sustainability.
We care for our historic outdoor spaces by balancing the preservation of historical buildings with the needs of important species of plants, mammals and invertebrates. We’ve reintroduced species in some places and carefully monitor the conditions at our sites to ensure that vital habitats can thrive.
Scroll through and click on the images below to learn more about how we encourage biodiversity and sustainability at our historic places today. Invite students to think about they can support biodiversity in their own lives. This could include participating in citizen science projects like the Big Butterfly Count or introducing flowering plants into their gardens at home or at school to support pollinators.
Spotting Plants and Wildlife
Artists and writers have been inspired by the natural world for centuries. They’ve captured a range of natural subjects from vast landscapes to floral arrangements and animal portraits.
Encourage students to take on the role of an artist or writer on the lookout for inspiration and use our spotter sheets to identify plants and wildlife at our historic places, around your school or within your local area.
How many different animals and plants can they see? Remember to stay quiet and give wildlife space so that you don’t disturb them.
Understanding Nature and the Environment
The environments around our historic places have changed, sometimes dramatically, over time. Changes in fashion and the uses of outdoor spaces have all contributed to how these have been altered. By studying the environment around us we can better understand these changes and the impact of other factors such as climate change.
Use the activities below to help students better understand your local environment and the landscapes around our historic places. Students may wish to incorporate some of their findings from these activities into their final artwork or piece of creative writing to highlight how environments have changed over time.
Changing Landscapes (KS1-KS2)- Audley End Outdoor Learning Kit
Use primary and secondary sources to discover how the landscape at Audley End House changed over time.
Crazy Categories (KS1-KS3) - Osborne Outdoor Explorers Kit
Reflect on the biodiversity that you and your class have observed at a historic environment like Osborne on the Isle of Wight. Consider how scientists have categorised the plants and animals they have discovered.
Climate Data (KS1-KS3) - Osborne Outdoor Explorers Kit
Use our Climate Data activity to inspire students' study of the environmental conditions at one of our historic places, around their school or at home.
Creating Art from Nature
We want to challenge students to use what they've learned about the natural environment and the animals in our collections to inspire their own Wild Escape artworks or creative writing.
We’ve brought together some information and activities below to help students get started with their artistic creations. Identify patterns in nature and encourage students to develop their own using repetition, reflection and rotation. Focus on flowers, build on their sketching skills and find out more about the links between still life painting and Victorian taxidermy displays.
Inspire students to develop their own story or artwork featuring an animal that has escaped from our collections into a world with better biodiversity. You could use our hints and tips further down the page to help you.
Garden Geometry (KS1-KS3) - Walmer Castle Outdoor Learning Kit
Encourage students to experiment with geometry to create patterns inspired by the natural world.
Flora Study Guide (KS2-KS4+) - Audley End Outdoor Learning Kit
Ask students to take a closer look at the flora around an English Heritage site, at school or at home and use their observations to inspire floral artworks.
Natural History and Art
Share the link between natural history and art in the past and challenge your class to create a nature tableau featuring their favourite animals.
Hints for Developing Creative Writing and Visual Art
- Challenge students to write down as many adjectives as they can think of to describe a specific plant or animal in one minute. Then ask them to share their ideas with a partner to help develop their vocabulary.
- Sit students down in an outdoor space at an English Heritage site or at school. Get them to close their eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Ask them to note down what they can hear and how they would describe the sounds using onomatopoeia.
- Remind students that all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning of students’ stories could describe how an animal has escaped from our collections. The middle could include any problems they have on their journey and the end could reveal the environment that they end up in.
- Introduce students to different media (like watercolours, pens, pencils and collage) and encourage them to experiment. They could divide a piece of A4 paper into quarters and try a different medium in each to compare them. Which do they think would work best for their final artwork?
- Set students a challenge to create quick sketches of small details found on a plant or animal in two minutes. This will help them focus on key features and hone their observation skills.
- When students are sketching an animal, remind them to draw what they can see, not just what they think they can see! Prompt them to pay close attention to the shape of its features and all the different the colours they observe.