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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Wild, Wet and Windy!

In the British Isles we often talk at great length about this subject – scorching, frosty, dreich/dreary, clear, gusty and, my personal favourite, mizzle (misty drizzle, if you did not know). What am I talking about? It is our weather!
This November has played host to some fairly intense weather in Shropshire and here at FSC Preston Montford it has not gone unnoticed. On Thursday 17th November, members of the education team witnessed high winds violently encouraging our beautiful fiery beech tree to relinquish its leaves; casting them high into the air and causing them to fly horizontally past the Education Office. Needless to say, the beech is sadly looking barer now and Ian Cheeseborough has been having a busy time raking up all the fallout from our estate trees. A heartfelt thank you goes out to St. Peters, Wem, who persevered round multiple blocked roads to reach us for their KS2 Darwin Taster stay. We had a lovely couple of days exploring the grounds in what turned into rather fine autumnal weather.
Our beautiful fiery beech tree before the high winds.
In addition, between 9am on Monday 21st November and 9am on Tuesday 22nd November we saw a record being broken at FSC Preston Montford for our wettest November day on record! A grand total of 37mm of rain fell in the 24 hour period – a whole 1.2mm more than our previous record on Sunday 5th November 2000, according to figures kindly provided by David Morgan (Education Technology Officer). 
We were joined on this record breaking day by Wheelers Lane, Birmingham; again visiting for a KS2 Darwin Taster stay; who braved the continuous rainfall to participate in orienteering and mammal hotels outside. As ever, FSC Preston Montford Tutors were adept at adapting the programme to ensure a memorable stay, including lighting a virtual bonfire in the classroom to end the day on a warming note.
Like all FSC Centres, FSC Preston Montford has a MET Weather Station that feeds into the national observation records. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

D of E Volunteering at Preston Montford

The D of E (or Duke of Edinburgh) Award is a nationwide award scheme for young people from 14-21. It involves 4 sections: Physical, Skills, Volunteering and Expedition. 3 of which can be done here at Preston Montford. I chose to do my skills section.

The skills section involves learning about a non-sporting hobby and the skills it involves. I have been learning about the different techniques that are used in conservation.

I started on the 4th October making a woodlouse house. I was joined by Iain and Ruaridh had to collect moldy/old wood to attract the woodlice to a box where they can be caught and counted as part of mark release recapture which can give conservationists an idea of how many woodlice there are in a certain area.

On the 29th October I had a go at coppicing. Me, Ruaridh and Angela had to cut hazel trees down to their stumps so that they could regrow in different directions to create habitats for the smaller animals on the ground level rather than growing into a big tree. We had to use: loppers, secateurs and pruning saws to cut the branches depending on their size. We then put the branches to one side to be used around the centre. Some were used for firewood whereas some were used for other things.

On the 5th November, I was reusing the wood from the coppicing. We used billhooks to strip off some of the smaller branches off the bigger branches and put the smaller pieces to the side for firewood. We then used the bigger branches to finish weaving a fence to cover some containers near the front of the centre. It was a great use of the wood from the coppicing the week before and it was great to see the fence grow as more wood was added.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How much wildlife can you spot? GC @ FSC Preston Montford

The Growing Confidence (GC) Project got off to a good start at FSC Preston Montford on Sunday 23 October when we spent the day working with experts seeing how much wildlife we could spot on the estate.  We were lucky to have experts Ian Cheeseborough and John Handley with us to help us understand more about the plants, insects and habitats on the Preston Montford estate. Rich Burkmar joined us in the afternoon bringing his knowledge about Spiders and Harvestmen.
 How much wildlife can you spot was our first event as part of the five year project that which aims to give young people the opportunity to discover more about wildlife and wild places and learn skills in their local environment. During the day a number of experts shared their knowledge with us helping us to understand - more about plants and habitats, the difference between social bees and solitary bees and how use a toothbrush to entice a Laceweaver – Amaurobius sp. out of its web.

The vibration of a battery operated toothbrush on the lacy lines of the web fools the spider and it dashes out to catch its prey.
Despite the distinctly autumnal weather we were surprised at how many invertebrates we found when ‘beating the bushes’. Looking under the amphibian mats we spotted two Smooth Newts Lissortriton vulgaris, and the Devils Coach Horse Beetle Ocypus olens which adopts a scorpion like pose.  A sleepy Tree bumblebee Bombus hypnorum was found on the side of a log. We now know which grass has purple striped pyjama bottoms – Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus.

The day gave us all a chance to take time to stop and observe – making us aware how much wildlife surrounds us and just how much there is to discover and find out about. 

 About GC 

FSC Preston Montford is working in partnership with the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Fordhall Community Land Initiative and the Plunkett Foundation.  Here at FSC Preston Montford we will be running day and residential courses so that 15-24 year olds will be able to work with experts to learn more about the wildlife of Shropshire and develop specialist skills and knowledge.

Find out more about GC and our future evetns at www.field-studies-council.org/gc

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reflections on a GAP year at Preston Montford

A GAP year at Preston Montford - by Peter Griffiths

Originally I found out about FSC through my head of Geography at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, who strongly recommended trying to get a job at PM for someone having a gap year prior to studying geography or any environmental science at University (like myself)… so I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to gain experience in the sector that I intend to work in after I finish my studies, and even more so to have been given that opportunity at a field centre as special as PM.

I started working here on September 29th, as a Supporting Education Assistant, and have gained a range of different skills and experience having worked in Housekeeping, Maintenance, and primarily in Education.
Running the shop for a big portion of my time here has given me experience in enterprise, which I would have never expected, as well as other more environmental and education-based responsibilities I’ve had such as data collection through met readings, Moth trapping, Butterfly transects etc. I have also had opportunities to assist teaching groups on and off site, which I have found very enjoyable and beneficial. Furthermore, at the end of my time here I feel I have grown as a person in a number of ways and have gained invaluable experience and knowledge on how to conduct myself in the work place. For example, I can confidently say that I show a lot more forward thinking qualities such as not necessarily needing to be asked to do something when it needs doing and generally being able to be relied upon to get jobs done, and these are qualities that I hope I can take forward to later life and future jobs.
As well as gaining experience and knowledge through jobs on centre, through the responsibilities I’ve been given, and the infectious enthusiasm from staff at PM my interest in the environment and wildlife around me has grown vastly. Having lived in the countryside all my life I have grown to take a lot of it for granted in everyday life, but through working here it has taught me to appreciate it more and look at things differently. Moreover on centre I have built my own bird box that I installed within the grounds (please don’t ever cut down the tree that it’s on!), and a very flimsy looking bird feeder, which surprisingly enough does seem to do the job! Additionally, a couple of weeks ago FSC funded me, as well as Staci and Kirsty, to attend a beginner’s Moth ID course with Dave Grundy, which was a very enjoyable and informative weekend and such a unique opportunity that I would never have expected to get during my year here. Furthermore, I find myself at home or on walks in my spare time stopping and trying to identify things such as moths, or listening out for birdsongs with a lot more interest than I would have in the past, and these are certainly not interests I would have developed as much (or at all!) if I hadn’t got a job at PM, so I really am grateful for this. 
Throughout my time working here I have been made to feel extremely welcome and at home by all staff, and have made many friends in these nine months. Moreover, as I come to the end of my final week, as well as feeling excited for my month of Interrailing and starting University in September, I also do feel sad to be leaving my job here, which is most definitely not something I’ve felt when finishing at any previous jobs that I’ve had!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of the staff at PM for making my time working here so enjoyable, I couldn’t have asked for a better year of work experience!