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Whittle by whittle: learning new skills on the Woodland Artisan evening course

Guest Blog by Chris Goodman Whittling. Something I associate with boy scouts and times gone by. I worry it’s not fashionable in our age of ‘smart’ or ‘i’ everything and wonder what people make of it. But whittling (or call it carving, wood working or whatever) is something that absorbs me in the moment, an activity that calms me, motivates me and fills my home with creations I’ve made for myself. And what better time of year than now to sit by the fire, work away on some fun projects and make some Christmas pressies for others (or yourself!) And so over the last 4 weeks we’ve steadily progressed our knowledge of carving techniques and how to keep our knives sharp to make a wand, spreading knife, decorative mushrooms and finally, to finish off before Christmas, some snow people. It’s been a really enjoyable way to spend my Monday evenings through December – getting to know some interesting people and seeing them go home with their own creations and increasing capability to take their new knowledge and apply it to

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Sharing the OWL project with Scourie School

Since March this year the OWL project staff team has been working with Scourie Primary School pupils and teachers to assist with their expanding outdoor learning plans. When we were first asked to visit Scourie school the whole school and nursery had embarked upon a weekly morning outdoor session. The school was extremely lucky to have been offered the use of a small, local woodland for their outdoor space – it’s a beautiful mixed woodland within walking distance, just perfect for everyone. The staff had been learning a lot about how to run outdoor sessions and were very keen for new ideas that can be used to deliver the curriculum outdoors. We first focussed on maths as this is traditionally seen as a subject that needs to be taught in a classroom using textbooks and jotters. The maths mud kitchen is a great way to engage with maths in a practical sense but with the fun of getting muddy and creative – weighing and measuring amounts, adding and subtracting, estimating, counting. One of the subjects that the staff were keen

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Wooden Tom’s Spoon Carving Photos

On the 10th of October, Wooden Tom returned to hold another popular spoon carving course. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there myself (Missed another spoon carving session! One day I will get to have a go!), but Tom sent us these lovely pictures that I would like to share with you all. Enjoy.

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Going Wild in the Woods

Last week our 7 day Woodland Activity Leader Training came to an end. This is a little sum up of the week! What are the benefits of outdoor education?: exercise, resilience, learning coping strategies, risk awareness, sustainability, build immune system, develop skills such as problem solving, confidence, suits different learning styles, love and respect for natural world, knowledge, personal development, social, motor skills, coordination, stress reduction, balance, wonder and imagination, awaken the senses, wider context understanding, fresh air, muscle development, help sleep, reduce depression, reduce anxiety, economic benefits (free learning, reduce pollution and better education) and most importantly its FUN!!! What are the worlds needs for it: biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change, loss of natural spaces, fragmentation of habitats, natural resource depletions, increase in loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress – ‘epidemic’, disconnection to environment, diabetes, obesity and an increase in health issues. And there are many more for both! Outdoor learning’s value is constantly growing and is supported by many government bodies, charities and legislation, giving children every chance to experience their environment and love it while learning. Many have heard

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Heath or Mire? Bog or Swamp? Using Vegetation classifications with AFC

Last weekend I was lucky enough to join the Assynt Field Club (AFC) on their Training course on NVC Heaths and Mires identification, the funding of which was awarded in CALL’s Community Grant Scheme this year. It allowed AFC to bring in experts in the field Alison and Ben Averis to teach a training course to learn how to classify our heaths and bogs in order to look at how best to manage them or to evaluate their condition. NVC stands for National Vegetation Classification, developed in the 1980’s, and is the standard way to class vegetation types in Britain. It breaks down into many vegetation types, this course looking at heaths and mires only. There are 38 mire communities and 22 heath communities to decide on from the species of vegetation found in an area and their dominance. On day 1 we spent our time near Glencanisp Lodge, walking up the hill behind the walker’s carpark. Looking at the flora, lichens and liverworts we learned how to identify key species to help with classifications. This meant we could decide

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Woodland Activity Leader Training Oppertunity

We at CALL are delighted to announce that we have placed available for the residents of Coigach and Assynt to join us in bringing a new training course to the area. Wild things!, from Findhorn (https://wild-things.org.uk/), have agreed to come over to our beautiful part of the world to deliver their Woodland Activity Leader Training (WALT) programme. So, what is this course all about? Let’s hear from Wild Things! “If you are interested in enhancing your skills to lead groups in a woodland environment, training to become a Woodland Activity Leader will provide you with the learning and knowledge you require. Woodland Activity Leader Training is an accredited outdoor learning course and an alternative to forest school training. The General Teaching Council of Scotland has accredited Woodland Activity Leader Training with professional recognition. Teachers from across Scotland attending our Woodland Activity Leader Training can apply for GTCS professional recognition, towards their continued professional development, upon successful completion of the course. Accredited as a Level 2 Award, Woodland Activity Leader Training is a practical training course, filled with inspirational ideas and activities, that will provide you

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Woodland Artisan: Cup Carving in June

Guest Blog: Chris Goodman, Assynt Woods I’m having to restrain myself. My cup’s been sitting in a bag with some wood shavings for 5 days now, slowly drying, and I just want to get it out and admire it. Then fill it with gin and tonic or maybe coffee (if it’s a bit early in the day) and use it. But it needs another week or so to dry slowly so that it doesn’t crack and split which it might do if I stick it by the stove or in the sun to speed up the drying process. And having spent 5hrs carving it I really don’t want it to split. Wooden Tom is a good friend as well as a bit of an inspiration for me. A wood carver based in Aviemore, Tom makes a living making wooden spoons, cups, birch bark pots and more as well as sharing his knowledge, passion and tools with others keen to have a go. Cups seem to be his forte though and he’s brought a selection of his own with him including

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Willow Cord: Woodland Artisan Course

Guest blog by Chris Goodman, Course Leader I use timber from trees all the time, whether it’s for building and diy jobs, making spoons or as firewood – it’s an incredible material which lends itself to all sorts of uses. But recently I’m becoming more and more interested in how we can use some of the other parts of trees and I’m increasingly aware that there’s a whole heap of uses for a tree’s protective outer layer – it’s bark. Today we were using the bark from willow to make cord – a tough string or thin rope. During the Spring and Summer when the sap is rising the bark will peel off the stem of willow very readily to provide long fibrous material. Boiled with some ash from the fire for an hour the resulting brown strips of willow have good properties of strength and flexibility. The strips can then be twisted and woven or plaited into cord which is surprisingly strong. And once you’ve made some cord there’s a whole new world of opportunity for what to use

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The Amazing Things About Trees

Guest blog by Chris Goodman, Course Leader Trees never cease to amaze me, the other week a friend told me that one of the drugs used for fighting cancer comes from Yew trees. I also recently read that patients in hospital recover faster from surgery or illness if they’re surrounded by plants and have trees outside their window to look at while another study found that spending time in healthy woodlands is beneficial to our mental health. Sipping on some Birch sap fresh from the tree I’m pondering the claimed health benefits of drinking this. Although about 98% water there are apparently lots of vitamins and nutrients in it including potassium, manganese, thiamine and calcium as well as that hint of sweetness. It tastes pretty much like water but the freshest water you’ve ever tasted! If you believe the hype then it’s helping cleanse my system with every mouthful. Having shed their leaves and drained as much water from their bodies as they could in the Autumn to protect themselves from Winter winds and freezing temperatures, Birch trees are now

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Volunteer Training at Achlochan

This week we ran a 2-day course for the Achlochan Project volunteers to get trained in using brush-cutters and strimmers. This course was LANTRA accredited and covered maintaining the machines as well as safe usage. All the trainees passed and now are qualified to use strimmers and brush-cutters to help maintain the Achlochan site. Although the weather was brisk, we had a great time and managed to clear a whole field of reeds between us! It was amazing how much ground we could cover in the time. Photos of progress and after below! This training was funded through the Achlochan Project. This project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, EB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Pilgrim Trust, Robert Kiln Charitable Trust plus individual and community donors.

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