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.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wild and free!

“All good things are wild and free” – Henry David Thoreau. A quote I took to heart when I look back on my 30 Days Wild Challenge and discover that many of my challenges made the most of the simple pleasures in life that we take for granted every day.

In June, The Wildlife Trust challenged everyone to do one thing every day, for the entire month, that brought a little bit of nature into their lives. I began on the 1st June by creating my first ever hanging basket, to adorn the outside of the FSC staff cottage. The basket was already there, along with half a bag of compost, and I had listened in to a free “How to create the perfect hanging basket” talk at my local garden centre the month before. So, with a newly purchased liner and an inexpensive tray selection of flowers, I set to after work to make my masterpiece. I found it fairly easy to cut the liner and poke the small plants through (wrapping newspaper around the stems to help ease them through and protect them from damage), arranging them nicely and as my mum would say, balanced. Now came the watering. Well, as anyone who has ever watched the council watering hanging baskets around the country knows, water goes in the top and pours out the bottom. In my case, I poured water into the top of the basket, which was above eye level, for a minute or two before realising that not of drop of it was escaping out of the bottom. Concerned, I unclipped the basket and realised to my horror that I had flooded the plants! I tipped out the excess and prayed that my basket of flowers would still be alive the next morning. I am glad to say that it was none the worse for wear for its short time as a pond and is still blooming over a month later.

The hanging basket blooming at the end of June.
Newly planted hanging basket on the 1st June.
The flower hidden in the Ironbridge.
My role as an FSC Tutor gave me lots of opportunities to welcome nature into my life each day and the challenges allowed me to focus on all the little things that make Preston Montford and Shropshire great! I spent a day looking up at the sky, discovering that we have multiple House Martins nests in the eaves of our buildings – the chicks started to fledge at the beginning of this week – and that broadleaf trees really are very pretty when you stand underneath them and look up. I spent one lunchtime on the lawn behind Darwin brushing up on my grassland identification skills with a selection of FSC Field Guides…Did you know that there are three different types of Buttercup? I spent many other lunchtimes munching my sandwiches with groups in areas of outstanding natural beauty. I searched out the flower hidden in the Ironbridge and created my own Green Art flower out of fallen willow leaves. I was lucky enough to unearth a newt whilst practicing my fire lighting skills ready for a KS2 group that I was down to teach. Whilst teaching A Level Biology at the middle pond of the Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (W.E.T.) System I was upstaged by a mass of tiny cute frogs…cue all of us trying to rescue them from the path and put them into the undergrowth next to the pond – Biology in action! 

Bushcraft skills.

Identifying buttercups and other grassland species.
Not all of my wildlife experiences fell into my lap, or surrounded my feet. On a couple of occasions I took my 30 Days Wild challenge out into the night to see what I could discover. Another tutor and I set up our camera trap to see if we could capture a video of a badger. It was very exciting heading out to collect the camera the next morning, however, our mood soon turned to disappointment when we realised that the camera hadn’t even recorded us setting up the trap…complete fail! Badgers were not going to be my forte in June, as later in the month, whilst trying to find a suitable spot to sit and watch a badger sett, my friends spotted the black and white mammal whilst I was being attacked by a swarm of flies! However, I found my wild calling in life when I sat in on the Identification of Bats course at FSC Preston Montford and participated in a dusk survey. We’d had limited success detecting bats around the centre and it was time for me to leave to carry out my night duties. As I was walking back to the centre alone my bat detector emitted the clicks of a pipistrelle bat. I turned my eyes skywards to see several black silhouettes swooping and diving in a clearing in the trees. I was mesmerised and had chills all over, I knew that I was witnessing a magical event right on my doorstep.

One Shropshire location that repeatedly provided inspiration for my wild challenges was the wild ridge of The Stiperstones. I walked a route across the majority of the ridge approximately six times during the entire month with KS2/KS3 groups. Navigating the way in glorious sunshine and in wet misty drizzle! We admired the beautiful patchwork landscape, listened to the sounds of nature, completed the walking tradition of placing a rock on a stone pile known as a cairn, lay down in the Whinberry (Bilberry) for a well earned rest – I recommended it, it’s a very comfy experience - and shared the folktale of Wild Eric and Godda. 
One of my favourite moments...me surrounded by misty drizzle at St Mitchell's Fold Stone Circle, near The Stiperstones.

My first harvest of french beans!
Since moving into the FSC staff cottage I have discovered an enjoyment for gardening that I never knew existed. I hated being taken round garden centres as a child! I decided to embrace the FSC value of sustainability and have a go at creating a vegetable patch. With the help of a responsible adult, my dad, I straightened the original wood around an existing mini ‘allotment’. Then set to the tiring, but rewarding task, of double digging the entire patch. Recycling an old rabbit run to protect my veggies from Peter and his friends, I planted or sowed seeds of a few of my staple vegetables – onions, parsnips, radishes and dwarf French beans. To finish off, I covered the run in netting to protect from areal predators and encircled it with organic slug gel. Satisfied that my young food plants/seeds were safe from being eaten by anything other than me or my housemates, I then stood back to admire my hard work. I am happy to inform you that on irregular inspection I have only had to evict one slug and that everything seems to be growing well, especially my beans!

It was difficult thinking of a challenge to end my 30 Days Wild, particularly as I only realised that it was the last day at 5:30pm! Therefore I decided to be true to my roots as a Biologist and, grabbing an open-framed quadrat, went out to ‘randomly sample’ Fran’s Meadow. This essentially involved playing outside with a camera and appreciating the beauty of what was a three minute walk away from my desk. It was both a relief to finish the 30 Days Wild, it was indeed a challenge to find something different in the natural world to photography each day, and a great sadness to finish the 30 Days Wild, as I knew that the little things in life would begin again to pass me by in my hectic life. I am endeavouring to not let the latter happen, taking time to notice and connect with my outdoor surroundings. Even if it is just looking up from my desk occasionally to soak in the greenery of the common reed dominating Darwin pond. I encourage you to take time to do the same, who knows what you may discover in doing so #StayWild.

Nymph to dragonfly adult, hanging out in Darwin pond.

By Charlotte Timerick (Tutor)

For more information about the courses offered at FSC Preston Montford please go to http://www.field-studies-council.org/centres/prestonmontford.aspx, alternatively please contact us on enquiries.pm@field-studies-council.org or telephone us on 01743 852040.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Going batty at FSC Preston Montford

After attending a four day bat identification course at FSC Preston Montford, during which the class identified a Pipistrelle roost on site, I offered to monitor the roost for the purposes of the National Bat Monitoring Programme run by the Bat Conservation Trust.

Bat detector, taken by Charlotte Timerick
Thus on the second weekend in June, I sat outside the roost and settled down to begin counting bats. I was accompanied by Charlotte Timerick, a Tutor at FSC Preston Montford, and Lisa Worledge, the leader of the course. Ten minutes after sunset, our first bat emerged; a lone Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) dropped out of the building and flew off without producing a call. Five minutes later, a second bat followed the first, and that was the last of them. Lisa explained that the small number of bats meant that it was probably lone males or non-breeding females in the roost at this time.

Our second visit took place two weekends later. This time we had lost Lisa but gained two new volunteers, therefore enabling us to spread out and cover more possible exit points to the roost. After a quick search of window ledges, which revealed evidence of bat droppings, we settled down facing two sections of the building. Five minutes after sunset, our first bat emerged from close to the previously identified exit point. This was the only bat to emerge from this side of the building. Five minutes later, two Pipistrelles emerged together from the second section of the building, proving that our identification of other exit points had been successful. These were the last bats to emerge from this roost. 

We will return again next year, to see whether the use of the roost remains limited to lone individuals or becomes much busier.

By Sam Devine-Turner

National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP)

Bat numbers in the UK have declined dramatically over the last century. The NBMP aims to monitor the numbers of bats and help work towards establishing a stable population. To find out how you can participate in the programme or to find out more about these amazing flying mammals, please click on the following link: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/nbmp.html.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wildlife enthusiast Ellie shares her Growing Confidence Project experiences

As the Growing Confidence project gathers momentum more and more young people are getting involved and enjoying the diverse range of opportunities which are being offered.  Wildlife enthusiast and photographer Ellie Forrester has been coming along on our Growing Confidence project day events at FSC Preston Montford to build her knowledge and skills before she starts a degree in wildlife conservation and ecology this autumn.

Ellie took the opportunity to share her enthusiasm and her experiences in an article which has been published in the latest edition of New Nature magazine. You can read the full article here http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/15ec9b_2c848d655ae84435a58675de85cb0d52.pdf

 About the Growing Confidence Project
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.

This summer we have a programme of residentials for 16-24 year olds as part of the Growing Confidence Project you can find out more at www.field-studies-council.org/gc

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fundraising Run for FSC Kids Fund

Education team members Angela, Kirsty and Iain are raising much needed funds for the FSC Kids Fund by running 10K on 11th June at Coed Llandegla. They hope to raise £540 to give 30 young people the opportunity to visit FSC Preston Montford for a transformative learning experience. 

FSC Kids Fund provides financial support for groups of disadvantaged young people who would like to visit one of our centres for an FSC experience. Past Kids Fund beneficiaries are young people in foster care, those who are not in mainstream education, young people who are living a women’s refuge and children from primary schools who have little or no access to green space let alone the countryside. For more information: http://www.field-studies-council.org/about/fsc-kids-fund.aspx

15 kids from Westminster School came on a 4 night residential course at FSC Preston Montford in 2016 and had an inspiring time, especially mammal trapping, pictured. Westminster School said “The pupils have been truly inspired from the amazing experience. Our plans for the near future include: developing an outdoor learning classroom; having a ‘bird box’ enterprise scheme; conservation work at the local nature reserve and more visits to Preston Montford.’ 

Angela said “how rewarding it was to see the young people develop in their confidence and team working skills and to leave enthused to improve their school environment back at Westminster. It would be great to offer the same experience to more.”

If you would like to donate towards the team, you can do so online using:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Preston Montford's Energy

As part of the Field Studies Council, we here at FSC Preston Montford make a concerted effort to reduce our carbon emissions – with the charity as a whole aiming to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% per learner between 2011 and 2020. 

Over the past year we’ve made a number of changes to further reduce our emissions. Our Wenlock accommodation building was refurbished in the summer of 2016 - what better time to connect this and the Darwin building to our Biomass Boiler?! We now have 95% of our estate heated by the boiler, which burns carbon neutral wood chips and has eliminated our need for LPG (Liquid Propane Gas), as the remaining 5% is heated by electric heating. 

Our Biomass Boiler House

We’ve continued to replace lightbulbs with LED and energy saving bulbs, and our kitchen now uses a low energy electric oven and stove, contributing to a 25.3% reduction in annual electricity use since 2012.

New LED Lighting in our Dining Room

Most taps and showers on site are now water saving ‘push’ operated varieties, this stops taps being left running longer than necessary and has also aided a dramatic reduction in water usage over the past 12 months. 

In order to perform our fieldwork with groups we have a small fleet of 3 minibuses, which during 2016 travelled slightly more (2.7%) miles than the previous year, however this is outbalanced by a large decrease in the number of coaches the centre hired for use by larger groups – so overall our carbon emissions from transport will have reduced. More groups are choosing to stay on site, making the most of our fantastic estate, so we hope to see this trend continue. 

FSC Preston Montford

Along with other FSC centres we don’t just take steps to reduce our impact on the environment but we also share what we do with everyone who visits Preston Montford with the hope that they will do their bit when they return home.

Many small changes can go a long way, with our small changes meaning we use 29% less carbon per year than in 2012. To see how much carbon you use at home, you can fill out this easy questionnaire online: http://www.carbonindependent.org/

Written by Ruaridh Maxwell, Education Assistant at FSC Preston Montford.

FSC achieved the Carbon Trust standard in 2015 which not only recognises the work that has been done to reduce carbon emissions but is also a commitment to making future reductions.  You can read more about our commitment to the environment including the FSC Carbon Management plan at http://www.field-studies-council.org/about/environment.aspx