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.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Crap Job

On site we've got some composting toilets. However another massive container full of crap is full (probably half a ton). We're trying to construct a new one now that makes it easier to empty and use the compost by using wheelie bins. We're pretty much there now but there's still the problem of how to move this massive box of poo from the site of the new compost toilet. If you know of anyone who wants lots of poo send them down my way.

I seem to be slicing up and stinging every part of my hand. While sawing wood for the new toilet it slipped and I have a gouge missing in my thumb. Every so often it weeps more blood, nice.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Chop chop chop

It's been a few days since my last post so I'll try and remember what I've been up to.

On Thursday we spent a few hours in the tool shed being taught how to care for your tools. It was a great day, and Stu who came in to teach us is incredible. He's full of knowledge. We sharpened lots of tools from knives and chisels to spades and drill bits. It really showed us how wasteful we are as a nation, throwing away drill bits cos we think they're rubbish when it takes 5 seconds to sharpen it so it does the job properly again. I now need to get into a good habit of looking after tools properly and passing on the knowledge I gained onto others.

That evening I worked with the kids again who were camping on site. It was a lovely evening. We went badger watching. Unfortunately we saw none, the kids were too noisy and kept shining their torches into the badger holes. I think it's amazing though that all it took was for one kid to say 'I saw three badgers' for then everyone to claim they saw badgers. The amazing thing is these kids will probably go home saying they saw them and will always believe they saw them too! We made pizzas with the kids in the clay oven and I taught them a few things you can do in the dark. I wish I could have been working with those kids all week. Anna and Beth who run the activity days want to get me on board with planning the Forest Schools for September.

On Friday we went to Labrador Bay, an RSPB nature reserve. We were doing some habitat management to help the Cirl Bunting bird population. We pulled out two tractor trailers full of ragwort. Cirl Bunting like areas of varied lengths of meadows. By removing the ragwort, which is poisonous to mammals, they can get some Dartmoor ponies to graze the land allowing for more variety in grasses for the cirl bunting.

I was up until about 4 last night. We went out for a ska and reggae night in Totnes. Was a fantastic night and when we got back Rich and I could hear music I the distance so trekked across farms fields and down country lanes but never found where it was coming from.

I killed my first chicken today. It was the younger cockerel. Hopefully the mornings will be quieter. I was told that one of the most humane ways is an axe to the neck. It does the job quickly and guarantees that it's actually dead instead of just paralyzing it. It's nuts how much it runs, jumps and flaps about without a head. last for a good minute or so. It's going to be dinner tonight Yum yum.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Walk and Talk and....

I went on another walk and talk today to help out with the tea making for the W.I (you'd think they could do it themselves, lazy). I had everything set out for them by the river and joined them on their walk, but the weather was against us. Tea and coffees were relocated to the house so I had to set everything out again and making the teas and coffees. (I know it doesn't sound much but the house staff aren't the most helpful). We carried on with the walk which another Steve leads and has done all the research for and got the funding to provide these free walks. Unfortunately he did slip up a little in front of a large group of old women. He was discussing one of the previous owners of the Sharpham Estate, Philemon Pownoll, and talked about how he captained a ship, HMS Favourite, and commandeered a Spanish treasure ship during the 7 years war. Instead of saying 'He searched her contents' he said something else unrepeatable. How he got away with it, I don't know but I struggled to hold in the laughing.

I'm really hoping I get to work with the kids tomorrow. Apparently they were all upset I wasn't there today. They kept asking 'Where's Super Steve!!' Tomorrow night they're all camping so I'm probably going to join them.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Summer Explorers

It stared off wet, drizzly, cold, windy but today has turned into a perfect day. The sun is shining and everyone is happy, especially me. I've been working for Anna and Beth today with their 'Summer Explorers' club. Pretty much playing with fire, cooking and games in the woods with kids. I'm hoping to work with them for the rest of the week, if the project leader lets me. It was great to see all of these kids who weren't scared about trying new things or getting dirty. We learnt how to pick stinging nettle leaves and prepare them to eat without hurting yourself. (I'm a novice so I sting got stung a couple of times). But these kids didn't cry when they got stung. Apparently the sting from the nettles releases endorphin's into your body so actually makes you feel happier. Beth rubs herself in stinging nettles every morning but I think that's a little far for me.

I'm probably going to pop down to the local pub for a few drinks while reading my book tonight. Try some local cider!

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Back in April I was camping in South Devon and went for a kayaking trip along the river Dart (the river that runs around the Sharpham Estate). When hiring the kayaks we were told that some seals had been spotted just up the river. After about 4 hours of search we saw nothing. However, today I decided to go for a bit of a wonder along the river, and within minutes of me being by the river a little nose popped out of the water. Not for long though. It took me a while to realise what it was but I decided to chill out by the river for the next few hours and happily watch as this seal kept bobbing up and down in the water.

Anyone have any tips on how to train a seal?

Friday, 12 August 2011


It's coming to the end of the first week (I have to work tonight and tomorrow morning), and I'm shattered. Today has been hard work. Spent the morning using hedge trimmers to cut brambles, nettles and grass to make path ways to tree saplings. We have a ground of monks coming in next week to look after the trees by putting mulch around the bases. Hedge trimmers get very heavy after using them for about 3 hours and lugging them up and down hills and over gates.

After the hard graft in the fields I went up to work on a small farm for adults with learning difficulties. It's a fantastic scheme to get these people into the outdoors, growing their own veg and looking after the live stock. They're a pleasure to work along side too. They give great banter and always wanting to chat. I'll be working with them every week hopefully. One of them you can't say the words overalls or bus as he'll get over excited!!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

51 Jars of jam sitting on the wall

This morning I spent 4 hours making blackberry and apple jam and plum jam from the fruits gathered when we went foraging the other day. 51 jars of lovely scrummy jam. 12Kg of sugar though!!!! I didn't think it'd take that much at all. The afternoon was spent talking over projects for the next few weeks, not particularly interesting though so wont go into that.

Had a bit of fun chasing chickens after work. Someone hadn't closed the gate properly so we had chickens all over the camp. Didn't take too long but it was a bit of fun. I even pushed one off a fence. Felt kinda bad as she was clearly happy minding her own business when along came me knocking her off the fence into the enclosure. Chickens have wings for eating and not for flying.

Heading into Totnes this evening to visit a pub. 3 mile walk though next to a river. Should make the walk back entertaining.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Can't have asked for a nicer day

Today's been perfect. I worked with some volunteers from a mental health care home building a large compost site today. The guys were great and could have such a laugh with them. I was gutted when I had to leave that little project to go on a 'walk and talk around Sharpham House and some of the grounds. I was tagged on to a group of old people who'd booked to go on this talk so I can learn some of the history too. The history of Sharpham is amazing and the guide was brilliant. Even the old people were great to chat to. They organise trips like this every week and also go on 5 mile hikes on the last Friday of every month. I met some amazing people today and loved every story they told me.
I cooked my first meal for the group today, lasagna. And I've not cooked in about 2 years. Everyone seemed to really like it and I was well chuffed. I'm feeling so happy inside at the mo.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I miss Croydon so much

Despite all the crap which is going on around the country at he moment, I'm having a great time down here. I spent the day today on a Mental Health First Aid course down in Plymouth today. Was a very interesting course which taught me a huge amount. (I missed the first day but will still get a certificate to say I did it!!).

My arm and knuckles have swollen up quite badly from the stupid horse fly bites. Instead of separate knuckles I have one single one. My elbow stretches from half way up my forearm to about 5cm above the elbow. I'm looking around this hippy town for a magic potion to make it feel better. I do feel like I'm walking round with Quasimodo on my hand.

Tomorrow I'll be working with a volunteer group to build a giant compost bin. Should be fun meeting some of the volunteers.

The scenery here is stunning. When I get round to taking lots of photos I'll up load them so you can see how stunning it is. I've seen a deer, lots of buzzards and swallows, loads of bats (some very rare but the Sharpham Estate pretty much has all the native species). Can't wait to go exploring to find plenty more. The mornings are still very light so will hopefully do some running in the mornings which should get me round the site.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Home Sweet Home

For those of you that don't know, this is a yurt!. My bunk is the top one. I've had my first night in it and was surprisingly comfortable. Despite being woken at 4,5 and 6 by the rooster. I'm hoping to get my hands round it's neck fairly soon.
Just finished my first day at work. Spent the morning in the allotment doing some weeding, then went fruit picking for jam making on Thursday. (I'll save a jar for those that want to try it). We then spent a few hours with a hedge trimmer and a strimmer to try and cut a path way to get to some trees. I've been stung by stinging nettles, cut up by brambles and bitten by bloody horse flies. I suppose I'll just have to get used to it.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The night before

I'm all packed and ready to head down to Devon tomorrow morning. Looking forward to the exciting opportunities I'll be experiencing. I have a lovely new sleeping bag courtesy of the staff at Moor House School (Many thanks!!). I don't know if I'll have internet access while I'm down there but will try and update this blog as much as possible, so this could be my one and only post!!

If you'd like to see where I'm working take at look at the website. Sharpham Trust. You can also take a look at some photos of my accommodation Pictures.