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.

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