Saturday, 27 September 2014

Volly Jolly

If you follow my blog from time to time, you will know that I am a volunteer for the East Lothian Council Conservation team - see my previous post
Today the Countryside Officer and his team provided a wonderful day of countryside related entertainment, as thank you to the volunteers who have contributed this year, in one form or another.  We gathered in the Scout Hut in Longniddry!
 The ice breaker!
 A game of conkers!!!  Great fun!
My conker remained unbeaten, I am pleased to say!  Apart from providing some fun the Council wanted to offer us the chance to get to know a bit about some of the natural history, and different aspects of the countryside, their Ranger service is involved with.  We could choose a taster session on 'What's that feather?', 'Butterflies and bumblebees', 'Breaking the law in the countryside', Rocks - the stones and landforms of East Lothian', 'An introduction to bushcraft and green woodworking' and lastly 'Tracks and trails'.  I chose to learn more about feathers, the law in the countryside, and bushcraft and green woodworking.
 This is the wing of a shelduck,
and the little barbs, which look like teeth running along the outer edges of the wing feathers of a tawny owl, are the reason why an owl flies almost silently.  They reduce the wing's resistance to the air as it flexes up and down in flight!  Immaculate design.
The next session I chose was to learn more about the laws relevant to the countryside, i.e. rights of access, poaching, illegal traps and snares, bait digging and shellfish collection on the beaches, etc.  It's a very long list.  But I was particularly interested in finding out exactly where I can walk with the dog, bearing in mind the turbulent relationship I have with the local gamekeeper.

After lunch we walked through to the woods on the Gosford Estate, the seat of the Earl's of Wemyss and March.  This is one of two or three very grand entrances into the estate.
Firstly we did a spot of green woodworking.  I learnt how to safely split a log in half, using a wooden mallet and a small axe!  
And then I stripped the bark off, using a rather lethal implement, which I can't remember the name of.
Those doing the 'Tracks and trails' through the woods had a few props who gathered together at the end, waiting for the sessions to finish.  Messrs Badger, Fox and Otter waited patiently by the path.  They were completely unperturbed by a passing big black dog.  I don't think the same could be said for the dog!  He was more than a little puzzled when none of the creatures moved a muscle as he gave them each a curious sniff.
The last activity of the day was to build a debris shelter.  That was good fun. 
Here's the front door.  No-one in my group was inclined to try the shelter for size, so I crawled inside and can confirm it was a cosy little spot for one, although probably not very watertight!
It was a great day.  I think I could now give my grandsons a good run for their money when it comes to playing conkers and building dens.  But then I spent most of my childhood building dens.

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