About Me

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Shrewsbury, Shropshire, United Kingdom
FSC Preston Montford has been an outdoor classroom since 1957 and is a Field Studies Council centre. We deliver curriculum related outdoor education by the experts; from pre-school to Masters level; for infants, school students, undergraduates and enquiring adults with an interest in the natural world. Courses for schools and individuals. A venue for others to use; with bed space for 130, catering facilities and 7 fully equipped teaching and meeting spaces.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What is a hedge?


Many of us walk or drive past hedges every day but seldom stop to appreciate their place in the landscape and the environment.  As part of the Growing Confidence (GC) project a group of young people spent a day focussing on hedges - exploring their importance as boundaries, shelters, habitats and food source for insects, birds, animals and people. They also learnt about their conservation and management and had a good as some practical tasks too

Hedges are a mini wood and can contain many different species of trees and shrubs.  If left unmanaged over time a hedge will become a line of trees.  Learning about the different species in a hedge is a challenge in winter when there are no leaves to give helpful clues as to the identity of the tree or shrub. With the expert help of John Handley the group learnt how to use the key in the FSC Guide to the identification of deciduous broad-leaved trees and shrubs in winter to identify twigs from hedges in the Preston Montford estate.
 



The group braved the cold and helped reinstate a boundary hedge at FSC Preston Montford learning how to plant the young hedge whips of hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, hazel and oak. 



Next was learning how to master the craft of hedgelaying using traditional billhooks. Ian Cheeseborough made it look so easy but the young people discovered it wasn’t quite as simple as it looked. Recently coppiced willow rods were stuck in the ground as practice stems so that everyone could learn how to pleach, make the angled cut, which enables the pleacher, cut stem, to be bent over - layed.



Once this technique was mastered then it was time to lay a section of hazel hedge.


Fiona summed the day up in one sentence ‘I really enjoyed learning how to pleach and using a key to identify winter twigs.’

About Growing Confidence 
Growing Confidence (GC) is a five year project giving young people the opportunity to discover more about wildlife and wild places and have fun learning skills in their local environment.
FSC Preston Montford is working together with Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Fordhall Community Land Initiative and The Plunkett Foundation to offer a wide range of inspiring opportunities for young people aged 11-25.

At FSC Preston Montford we are offering a varied programme of day and residential events and courses to support young people’s interest in the natural world and to help develop their knowledge and skills.

Our next GC event at FSC Preston Monford is Can you spot spring? on 18 March~you can find out more about it and the events offered by all project partners at

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reading and Raising!

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light - Vera Nazarian

Books - layers and layers of ink covered paper, glued or sewn together along one edge, bound by covers. Enjoyed, read and re-read or forgotten and dust covered. Here at FSC Preston Montford we are fortunate to have a library that is used frequently and well looked after. Particularly in recent months, as Suki (a former staff member) has kindly dedicated much of her time to smartening our shelves up. Thinning out books that are no longer of use to the centre and ordering the remaining volumes into the Dewey Decimal system. It is now as easy as ABC, or should that be 1.2.3, to find a book on a particular topic. So satisfying!


















However, we now found ourselves having to contend with a library floor covered with culled books. Not an organisation to happily waste anything, we arranged them into boxes and displayed them at several course events. Hoping that they would be reused and reloved, whilst also raising some money for the FSC Kids Fund. I am pleased to say that through our guests' and visitors' generosity we raised approximately £160!


The FSC Kids Fund provides financial support for groups of disadvantaged young people who would like to visit one of our centres for a Field Studies Council experience. Thank you to everyone who found a book that they wanted to read and donated. You have helped to open a door for a young person so that they may grow and gain environmental knowledge by experiencing the outdoors first-hand.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Wild, Wet and Windy!

In the British Isles we often talk at great length about this subject – scorching, frosty, dreich/dreary, clear, gusty and, my personal favourite, mizzle (misty drizzle, if you did not know). What am I talking about? It is our weather!
This November has played host to some fairly intense weather in Shropshire and here at FSC Preston Montford it has not gone unnoticed. On Thursday 17th November, members of the education team witnessed high winds violently encouraging our beautiful fiery beech tree to relinquish its leaves; casting them high into the air and causing them to fly horizontally past the Education Office. Needless to say, the beech is sadly looking barer now and Ian Cheeseborough has been having a busy time raking up all the fallout from our estate trees. A heartfelt thank you goes out to St. Peters, Wem, who persevered round multiple blocked roads to reach us for their KS2 Darwin Taster stay. We had a lovely couple of days exploring the grounds in what turned into rather fine autumnal weather.
Our beautiful fiery beech tree before the high winds.
In addition, between 9am on Monday 21st November and 9am on Tuesday 22nd November we saw a record being broken at FSC Preston Montford for our wettest November day on record! A grand total of 37mm of rain fell in the 24 hour period – a whole 1.2mm more than our previous record on Sunday 5th November 2000, according to figures kindly provided by David Morgan (Education Technology Officer). 
We were joined on this record breaking day by Wheelers Lane, Birmingham; again visiting for a KS2 Darwin Taster stay; who braved the continuous rainfall to participate in orienteering and mammal hotels outside. As ever, FSC Preston Montford Tutors were adept at adapting the programme to ensure a memorable stay, including lighting a virtual bonfire in the classroom to end the day on a warming note.
Like all FSC Centres, FSC Preston Montford has a MET Weather Station that feeds into the national observation records. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

D of E Volunteering at Preston Montford



The D of E (or Duke of Edinburgh) Award is a nationwide award scheme for young people from 14-21. It involves 4 sections: Physical, Skills, Volunteering and Expedition. 3 of which can be done here at Preston Montford. I chose to do my skills section.

The skills section involves learning about a non-sporting hobby and the skills it involves. I have been learning about the different techniques that are used in conservation.


I started on the 4th October making a woodlouse house. I was joined by Iain and Ruaridh had to collect moldy/old wood to attract the woodlice to a box where they can be caught and counted as part of mark release recapture which can give conservationists an idea of how many woodlice there are in a certain area.

On the 29th October I had a go at coppicing. Me, Ruaridh and Angela had to cut hazel trees down to their stumps so that they could regrow in different directions to create habitats for the smaller animals on the ground level rather than growing into a big tree. We had to use: loppers, secateurs and pruning saws to cut the branches depending on their size. We then put the branches to one side to be used around the centre. Some were used for firewood whereas some were used for other things.

On the 5th November, I was reusing the wood from the coppicing. We used billhooks to strip off some of the smaller branches off the bigger branches and put the smaller pieces to the side for firewood. We then used the bigger branches to finish weaving a fence to cover some containers near the front of the centre. It was a great use of the wood from the coppicing the week before and it was great to see the fence grow as more wood was added.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How much wildlife can you spot? GC @ FSC Preston Montford


The Growing Confidence (GC) Project got off to a good start at FSC Preston Montford on Sunday 23 October when we spent the day working with experts seeing how much wildlife we could spot on the estate.  We were lucky to have experts Ian Cheeseborough and John Handley with us to help us understand more about the plants, insects and habitats on the Preston Montford estate. Rich Burkmar joined us in the afternoon bringing his knowledge about Spiders and Harvestmen.
 How much wildlife can you spot was our first event as part of the five year project that which aims to give young people the opportunity to discover more about wildlife and wild places and learn skills in their local environment. During the day a number of experts shared their knowledge with us helping us to understand - more about plants and habitats, the difference between social bees and solitary bees and how use a toothbrush to entice a Laceweaver – Amaurobius sp. out of its web.
 




The vibration of a battery operated toothbrush on the lacy lines of the web fools the spider and it dashes out to catch its prey.
  
 
Despite the distinctly autumnal weather we were surprised at how many invertebrates we found when ‘beating the bushes’. Looking under the amphibian mats we spotted two Smooth Newts Lissortriton vulgaris, and the Devils Coach Horse Beetle Ocypus olens which adopts a scorpion like pose.  A sleepy Tree bumblebee Bombus hypnorum was found on the side of a log. We now know which grass has purple striped pyjama bottoms – Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus.
 



The day gave us all a chance to take time to stop and observe – making us aware how much wildlife surrounds us and just how much there is to discover and find out about. 

 About GC 


FSC Preston Montford is working in partnership with the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Fordhall Community Land Initiative and the Plunkett Foundation.  Here at FSC Preston Montford we will be running day and residential courses so that 15-24 year olds will be able to work with experts to learn more about the wildlife of Shropshire and develop specialist skills and knowledge.



Find out more about GC and our future evetns at www.field-studies-council.org/gc