Minibeasts, bugs and a giant African snail attracted swarms of families to a fun-filled sustainable event this weekend.
Children got their hands dirty as the two-day Big Green Leaf event at Milton Keynes’ MK1 Shopping Park hit full swing.
Colourful characters including Bugella Burrows and Walter Droplet hosted a wide range of interactive sustainability and eco-friendly activities to encourage youngsters to help look after the environment.
From beneath a giant inflatable leaf canopy, Slimon the real giant African snail and his friend, Oozmelda the millipede were joined by other creepy crawlies in a bid to get kids more involved in looking after and learning about insects.
It was also a momentous occasion for Wolverton Community Orchard, who scooped the Big Green Leaf Community Award after shoppers used special tokens to vote for the local community group they felt most deserving of a £1,000 funding boost.
Founder of Wolverton Community Orchard, Yvonne Galuszka said: “It’s been such a pleasure being invited to The Big Green Leaf at MK1.
“The event was lovely for families and the community as a whole. We really didn’t expect to win but we already know what we’re going to spend our grant on.
“We are currently making our community garden accessible for the disabled and will be creating a pathway around our raised beds. “We will also be purchasing a new shed for all of the communal equipment.”
Other green community groups who were in the running after showcasing their work at the event were Cycle Saviours and MK Dons Sports and Education Trust.
Milton Keynes council leader Councillor Peter Marland was on hand to launch the event which kicked off on Friday.
And Peter Tew, his partner Kimberly Goldsmith and their sons Oliver, seven and Brandon, two from Milton Keynes, were among hundreds of families who got stuck in with the fun interactive activities.
Mr Marland said: “I am pleased that MK1 Shopping Park have used this fantastic sustainable event to educate local families about conservation and biodiversity in a fun and familiar environment.
“It’s been great to see so many people getting involved in all the activities and taking an interest in green issues.”
Speaking from the event, Mr Tew said: “The boys have been having a great time enjoying all of the activities. Oliver took part in a litter challenge and even won a prize.
“The boys have been making bug hotels and learning all about the insects in the garden.
“It’s made them look at insects differently as they’ve learnt that each one serves a different purpose and does something for nature.”
He added: “The entertainers and characters are also really good at explaining to children how important it is to look after the environment.”
During the weekend, youngsters made a splash while taking part in activities run by water lover and avid gardener, Walter Droplet.
A particular hit was the water butt challenge where children were transformed into clouds and tasked with the mission of “raining down into the H2O handling machine” until they gathered enough to water the garden and feed the insects.
Professional composter, Wormarie Compostulaire taught youngsters about food waste and recycling, and Litter Bug relived the moment he got his comeuppance for constantly dropping his rubbish on the floor.
Jo Francis, Head of Retail Property Management for the Regional Portfolio at The Crown Estate, which owns MK1 Shopping Park, said the event has been a “huge success” and added: “Underneath the Big Green Leaf at MK1 Shopping Park went down a storm and it was lovely to see so many families getting involved in all the fun-filled environmental activities.
“The characters and creepy crawlies were a big hit amongst the children who learned all about the environment and how we can all adopt a greener or more sustainable approach in our day to day living.
“It was also popular on social media with shoppers using #BigGreenLeaf on Twitter or posting free photographs of themselves with their favourite bugs on Facebook.
“Our congratulations go to Wolverton Community Orchard who deservedly won The Big Green Leaf Community Award with a £1,000 boost which will help them continue to achieve their green goals.
“Overall, the event was a huge success and we hope families can go away and enforce some of what they have learned about making the world more eco-friendly.”