The following post was written by Woodlore Aspirant Instructor Sarah Day.
Our wonderful waterways are now being accessed and enjoyed by more people than ever. The rivers teem with canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders, as well as the traditional rowers and anglers. Most are aware to some degree of the risks of sharp (often man-made) debris in the river, fallen trees, and the hazard of the water itself – even that of Weil’s disease – but many are unfamiliar with the harm that their own actions can cause to the ecosystem and how they can avoid doing so.
I was paddling recently in the River Stour in Suffolk, near Langham. My partner spotted a jawbone (probably from a cow) on the river bed of the shallow section and picked it out to show me. It wasn’t the worn teeth and odd hole through the side that I noticed first though – it was the tiny, striped mollusc shell clinging to the bone.
The zebra mussell found by Sarah
I recognised it from the warning poster I’d seen at Alton Water the week before. It was almost certainly a zebra mussel; an invasive species of freshwater mussel, native to Russia, that probably came here originally in the ballast water of ships. It is small but prolific, and can totally clog up water treatment plants, kill native swan mussels, and cause lake beaches to become virtually unusable due to the swathes of sharp shell fragments. Continue reading →
Ray Mears has been confirmed as the Saturday night speaker at this year’s Keswick Mountain Festival, where he will be giving two talks from the revered Theatre By The Lake.
From their 400-seat Main House, Ray will be sharing tales from his time spent surviving, and observing wildlife in some of the most beautiful and challenging wilderness areas of the world. These talks will take place at 17:15 and 20:15 on Saturday 16th May 2015. For more information, or to book your ticket, please click here.
It’s all too easy to slip into hibernation mode at this time of year, especially if you’re fortunate enough to have a decent log fire roaring away at home. But we shouldn’t forget the unique experiences that winter camping has to offer us all, as fellow Woodlorean Garry Dutfield shows us here.
Garry recently spent three days hiking and lightweight camping in the snow-covered hills of the Lake District, pitching his Hilleberg Akto Tent in a superbly picturesque spot beside Grisedale Tarn. Continue reading →
In the heart of winter, it can seem that the long, dark nights are closing in around us. But the forest, seemingly asleep, is already making preparations for the most spectacular of its annual displays. The days are already starting to draw out again as we are blessed with crisp mornings, and soon we will feel the excitement of change in the air. Look closely and you will see that buds of many trees are already formed, holding close their furled treasure; spring is waiting.
The magic of the British woodlands in spring is the wonder of transformation and new life. The leaner times of winter are washed away in a flood of colour, scent and sound. Once again we can rest in coppices bathed in the deep perfume of ramsons; walk beneath the cathedral bowers of the beech, fresh in the succulence of their new leaves; drift slowly to sleep, lulled by the heady perfume of bluebells, and wake to the serenade of birdsong. These are the experiences that form our year and bring renewed vigour to our love of the forest. There is an irrepressible thrill, a deep connection with the life of these very special places, which wakes the soul and sets our pace into the coming year.
As the sun’s weak rays start to muster their strength and bring warmth to our forest home, the plants that surround us respond with generosity. The sap will rise in the birch, giving us a short-lived opportunity to enjoy this invigorating draft. The willow will loosen its bark, allowing us to harvest the fibres needed for cordage at this time of year, and many other plants will provide their fresh, young leaves, ready for salads: a welcome repast which speaks of the freshness of the season.
Ray’s latest series comes to a close this week, with the sixth and final episode of Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears hitting our screens at 7:30 PM on Tuesday 30th December, on ITV1.
In this episode, Ray journeys to the magnificent Isle of Skye in search of Britain’s rarest bird of prey, the spectacular sea eagle. Yet, it is a golden eagle he spots overhead which truly inspires him. He says: “I could watch that bird all day. It’s so majestic, and it makes our puny efforts at moving through this landscape seem completely ridiculous. It’s wonderful. You know, native people all over the world considered eagles to have a special affinity with the creator because they flew so high – I think they’re right.”
The fourth episode of Ray’s latest series hits our screens next week, with Ray travelling to Galloway in southwestern Scotland. To see it first, tune in at 7:30 PM on Tuesday 11th November, on ITV1. For viewers in Wales, the episode will be first shown at 1:00 PM on Sunday 16th November.
The following post was written by Woodlore Senior Assistant, Mark Booton:
If you were to ask me what my favourite month is, I’d answer October without hesitation. The reason for this could be one of a number of things: It was the month I met my wife – we always go away for an October half term break – and I also look forward to the Woodlore end of season staff barbecue. These, though, aren’t the real reasons. I love October for one above all others – foraging.
I simply love to forage for wild fungi, and October never lets you down. September can be amazing, but it is a fickle month on the foraging calendar. It blows hot and cold. A late autumn and September can produce little. November can be good, but the enjoyment is always slightly tarnished because all too soon it will be over. October is the month.
Ray’s latest series, Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears, hits the halfway point next week with its third episode, airing at 7:30 PM on Tuesday 28th October, on ITV1. For viewers in Wales, episode 3 will be aired at 12:10 PM on Sunday 2nd November.
In episode three, Ray visits Snowdonia and discovers how, in the rugged landscapes around Britain’s highest mountain, there are forms of wildlife which survive against all the odds, and can only be found in this very special part of Wales.
In one segment, mammal traps are laid overnight to see how much wildlife is roaming on a particularly tightly-cropped hillside, and Ray is surprised at the results:
“Putting those traps down has completely transformed my understanding of this landscape – I would never have thought there could be so many small mammals in ground that’s so heavily grazed; it makes you think again, and that’s the beauty of that kind of research.”
The following post was written by Woodlore Senior Assistant Ross Burt:
During the year and especially the winter months I produce my artwork to sell; I call this my ‘Bush Art’. During a Fundamental Bushcraft course on which Tom and I were working, a large beech tree fell and landed on a yew tree. One of the limbs that was smashed off was used by us to produce some coasters.
Some time later, I was sitting in a wood and it suddenly occurred to me that coasters usually come in a pack of six, now we have six species of deer in the UK! I popped out and used some beautiful oak for the ones shown below.