About Me

I've been working with kids ever since I left Uni. My goal is to become a teacher one day but not quite yet. I feel I have a lot to learn and the outdoors is the environment to learn from. Many people have become detached from nature and the outdoors and I want to immerse myself into nature to learn from it and then pass on what I've learnt to others.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Knowing me, knowing canoe.

I feel I'm slacking on the whole blogging front but I have my excuses which are mainly that the only place I can update it is in the office but after spending a day working in the office I never fancy going back there. Even now I feel under pressure to do some work but that's not gonna happen.

There's not a huge amount to catch up on as I took a week off to meet up with friends in different places to celebrate my birthday. However the things I have go up to were pretty amazing. I went on a canoe trip down the river Dart Tuesday before last. We too the Ecominds group with us and had 2 ten man canoes; that size probably makes them dragon boats. I was bowsmanso was controlling the speed of the ship, yes ship because I made everyone work like machines. We flew past the other canoe even though we gave them a head start each time. It was a great trip. We stopped for ice cream in Stoke Gabriel then carried on down the river to a bank where we could light a fire and get a BBQ going. Whilst sitting there we had a visit from Mr Seal who kindly escorted us when we paddled back up stream.

Most of the rest of last week revolved around the Apple Day fun run, publicising it and going over small details. Who knows if it'll be a success!

We had a funny group come a visit on Friday. It was the Environment Agency and they wanted a day of wild foods and cooking. However, due to stupid risk assessments that they made, they had to delay the visit by 2 hours so they could sit through a 2 hour power point presentation about safety in the outdoors! Not only that, they were also not allowed to eat any of the wild food we pointed out to them and ate ourselves!!! Not even blackberries which they all probably eat when they go into the 'Dangerous Outdoors'. This world has gone absolutely mad. Someone needs to be burnt at the stake for coming up with this stupid notion of risk assessments. I'm pretty certain that they never saved anyones life. All the do is protect people from being sued by idiots who think they can get money for nothing. Those idiots should also be burnt at the stake. (We used to do it to witches so I think it's only fair).

Had another great Forest School on Saturday. We helped the kids water proof their canvas bags they made the week before. I also taught them some fire lighting and let them all have a go. And as always there were lots of games. Looking forward to tomorrows Forest School as I'm taking all the kids on an Earthwalk, hope to great success.

I would have attached some photos of the estate through all the incredible mists we've been having in the mornings but have brought the wrong memory device with me. Oh well next time.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Badgers, Hungarians and kids

Wow another weeks has gone passed. Going to have to think very hard to remember what I've been up to over the last week.

Tuesday we spent the day preparing for the Hungarian invasion.  I moved into my new yurt with new carpet (it still has the new carpet smell). It's very cosy and I have a proper bed too. The Hungarians arrived very late that evening which was celebrated with a lovely whisky.

On Wednesday and Thursday we carried on with the yurt build (it seems to be taking forever but it's only done in small bits at a time). When I build my own yurt to live in I think I'd try and build the whole thing in a week. Do I have any volunteers to help me?

On Friday I work with a primary school. It put some faith back into me becoming a teachers as it showed me that there are some teachers out there who do give a damn about the kids and created an imaginative day full of mystery and adventure for them.

Saturday was the first official Forest School. It was a magical day with the kids engaging in many different activities with older kids helping younger and everyone having fun. It made my cheeks hurt as I was smiling so much.

Today we went to an old ladies house to begin evicting some badgers from her garden. They're beginning to tunnel under her house and have made holes all over the place. It's not believed to be a main badger sett but more of a holiday home or love shack. We've put up some one way gates around the fences so they can leave the garden but can't come back but they will probably just dig holes to get back in. The next step is badger proof fencing.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Yurts, Clay, Bats and Old Bats

The yurt build is on going and I think we're gonna be cracking on with it on our own over the next week or so instead of teaching groups how to do it. I'll keep you up dated with its progress.

I had a great afternoon sitting in the quarry on Thursday, the outdoor education area, with Anna and her kids. We made things out of the clay soil and planted some nice plants in the 'wild garden' (a small contradiction planting plants to make it wild I know). I then went from there over to Paignton to do a bat survey. It was along a country track with a few caravan parks in the area and there's a new build project going on along one side. The survey was to see how this may affect the ease of access for a roost of Greater Horseshoe Bats (one of Britians rarest bats) to their feeding grounds. We were stationed along the road at openings in the trees or on junctions to track when, how many and where the bats came from and went to. a great experience which we should be doing again in the next few weeks before it gets too cold for the bats (and me).

On Friday I worked with a local primary school who came to Sharpham. We were a bit rushed as the school phoned in the morning to change what activities they wanted to do (why do teachers think this is acceptable?). I did some pond and stream dipping and also told them all about meanders in rivers and different features of the rivers. I love teaching kids as they're so inquisitive. But I'd prefer it if the teachers stayed somewhere else and just drank tea. The teachers were moaning all the time about how far we were walking. They were rushing everything along because they were getting hungry and were always shouting at the kids. At no point did they think about the students! I really want to become a teacher (I'm currently applying) but working with teachers always puts me off because I don't want to become one of them!

Despite all that I still want to be a teacher and again really enjoyed working with the Forest School on Saturday. 4 hours playing with kids, educating them, letting them climb trees and have sticks and also showing them cool stuff and doing story telling is my perfect day. Looking forward to doing it again this weekend. I'll go into more detail about that then.

Moved a yurt today and you can follow they steps in the photos below. I'm also upgrading my yurt to a bigger one and will put photos up when I move in tomorrow.

Ground sheet with wood on covered by tarp as it rained this morning

Everything that you need to build the frame

Door with the trellis folded out

roof poles and wheel going up


Poles tied to trellis

Our new living room

Bottom canvas going on

Finished with fire going

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Yurt Build

It's been another week since the last post. Lots has happened but I'll try and condense it instead of rabble on for ages.

So last Thursday we went back to finish off the Somerset Space Walk. Had lots of really positive comments about the work we'd been doing from passers by which was great.

On Friday we had quite a nice relaxing day. We walked along the river to do a bird survey. It was great learning about the different types of low tide river birds. Next to each Other I think I can identify the difference between herring, black headed, less black backed and greater black backed gulls. On there own I think I could get it right 50% of the time.

Over the weekend we camped out by the river. The moon was bright, we had half a lamb cooking on a fire and the beers were great. Best way to spend a weekend. I was disappointed that the hurricane never came though.

I had a fantastic day on Monday learning lots of green wood working skills in each step of building a yurt. We were on a course led by Rich who builds yurts and he's got such a wealth of knowledge. I learnt all the steps from sawing, drilling, rasping, steam bending, trellising, draw knifing, copper nail hammering (don't know the technical name for that one). It was such a satisfying day which led nicely onto leading a group of volunteers and passing on those skills the following day. We'll be working on it again tomorrow. I can't wait.

Today was mainly spent in the office planning the Fun Run. The ideas have pretty much been finalised and it's just a case of advertising it all now.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Somerset Space Walk

Wow, a week's flown passed since my last post. and I can't believe there's just over 4 weeks left for me here (could be 5). I'll start by briefly mentioning the end of last week. Thursday we stayed around camp, chopping wood for the next few months, making a second coop for the chickens as there are too many at the mo. There's another way that we're going to deal with that one which should be rather tasty. We also finished off the compost toilet, so now we don't have to walk 10mins to go for a poo!

Friday we went over to Paignton to see the state of a mini nature reserve the project set up last year. It was the first time back as they wanted to give the reserve time to settle and do it's own thing. It was a lovely spot of nature in an otherwise tacky town. It's a wetland reserve so there were lots of reeds, bull rush and willow. We spent the morning clearing the paths which had become over grown. We'll be going back over the next few weeks to cut back on certain species like the bull rush and a purple flowering plant (don't know it's name). It's made me think very differently about what 'conservation' is. The name 'conservation' suggests quite simply that it's conserving something. So as humans we're going round and 'conserving' areas to keep them as they are to conserve the species there. However, I believe we're intervening too much these days. As humans we're deciding what we would like there and think should be there instead of nature doing what it does best and surviving on its own. There are areas such as heathland, grassland, moorlands.... which we have decided should remain as they are. However the natural cycle of things would mean that they change. Areas of woodland would get blown down or catch alight to clear and area which would then turn into heathland or grassland then the woodland would slowly encroach again and grow for many years until it falls again. If humans hand't started destroying the natural landscape and instead lived alongside nature and it's cycles then we wouldn't be trying to conserve these small habitats, as if they were stuck in a zoo or museum. Instead we'd be looking at how amazing it was that these areas are constantly changing and nature is always adapting.

The start of this week we traveled over to Somerset for the night to work on revamping the 'Somerset Space Walk'. It's quite an amazing thing to see and experience. It's a to scale of the solar system, the Sun in the middle about 2.5m diameter, the first planet, Mercury, about 100m up the canal and about the size of a ball bearing, then the final planet, Pluto, 11km away. It's hard to get your head around how empty space actually is. On the same scale as the space walk, if you put the next closest star in you'd be putting a football 2/3's of the way round the world! If you try and replicate a scale model of the solar system on a piece of A4 paper it'd be blank, even the sun would be too small to show up. Lots of the plinths that the planets stand on have been vandalised so we have been repainting them and cleaning them up a bit. We have also redesigned the sun to make it look more fiery. It's not quite finished yet but we may go up at some point next week to do the last bits and pieces.

I've added a few photos, of the last few weeks, below.

Camp: My yurt has it's door open. Chickens in the back ground
Platform where we eat our meals

View from the gardens looking down the River Dart valley

Sharpham House and Vineyard

Vineyard: It's English wine and really tasty :-/

Night Sky from camp. you can see Cassiopeia in this picture

View down the River Dart to Totnes from the estate

Sharpham House on a rare sunny day

Evening view to Totnes


Cow on field (losing inspiration for captions now)

Dartmoor ponies on the Estate, one's called Rusty. Can you guess which one?

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Early mornings!!

I've had a very busy start to the week.

On Tuesday we left camp at 7am to catch the train to Exeter to meet a man with a dog. Luckily we knew the dog which came bounding over to us. So we assumed we could get in a car with the man with the dog. (By the way my arse hurts today!!). This man, Simon, took up to some woodlands, (this story is sounding very odd now). Oh, the part I forgot to mention is that we were off to check dormouse boxes. 50 in total. All apart from one were occupied by birds nests or nothing at all. The one that was occupied was one of the best things I've ever seen. The lid was opened slowly and suddenly a baby dormouse, probably adolescent, leaped from it onto the floor but immediately started climbing the tree back to the nest. Inside the nest was the mum and 4 young. They're the cutest thing I've ever seen; much bigger than I thought they'd be. It made my day seeing them and I hope the species increases as they're currently on the endangered list.

Today we set off at 7 again but this time to go to Taunton. We were publicising the Somerset Space Walk relaunch day. The space walk runs along the canal between Taunton and Bridgewater with a scaled model of the solar system, size of planets and distances. We were putting up flyers at either end and cycling the 22km route. Would have helped if we'd followed the canal and not the river :-D. We went across farmers fields, which were very bumpy, hence the soar arse. We managed to find the canal again after knocking on a friendly old mans house. It's quite an impressive thing to see and should look even better once we've touched it up a bit next week.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Apple day fun run

One of the projects I'm working on while I'm here is to organise a fun run to co-inside with the Sharpham Apple Day where the public can bring their apples from the garden and bring them to Sharpham where they can help press them into apple juice to take home. (And leave for a couple of weeks to get cider!). The fun run will encourage to people to ditch their cars and walk along the footpath along the river with their apples. Then they can get to the start of the race where they can try and run as many apples along a 2.5km route into Sharpham. I've spent the day with Emily walking around town trying to get sponsorship from local businesses to go to charity. It's amazing how difficult it is to get any money out of any one. Hopefully it'll all work out in the end. If anything I've made an amazing poster which will be going up all around town!

It rained pretty much all of yesterday and the insides of the yurt are pretty damp. However, the plus side is I managed to light a fire in the wood burning stove which kept going all night! Toastie warm.