Outdoor Learning at Grangemouth High

May 28, 2013
by Mr Tait

Canoeing on the Canal

After a busy day climbing with S1s, at Loch Ard, we were out paddling with the after school canoe club. Some Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award Core Paddling Framework skills were covered. Team building too.

View from the Coach’s canoe.

Getting blown home

Snacking at 6’ish, learners had missed their tea, so topping up the energy levels here.
Snack Time

The wind helping blow us back on the return journey, back along the canal towards Linlithgow.

Paddling Home

An S1 scrambling up the slabby routes at Aberfoyle this morning. The groups Mountain Biked around Loch Ard and Climbed and Abseiled. Good on Mrs C for biking in a skirt and heels – she forgot kit – using an Instructor’s Waterproof trousers to keep her clothes clean. Evaluation forms were positive, next trip is later in the week.

S1 Climbing and Biking OE Day

May 25, 2013
by Mr Tait

Annual Activity Day- Canoe Camping

We headed out for our Annual Activity day, we were going to camp on Eilean Gorm on Loch Ard but the Island had two groups of adults there, so we switched to a planned alternative on the shoreline. Last year, we had 25degs weather and camped on the island. The group had two paddlers and girls who had camped out last year and the rest were new to camping and canoeing.

Tempests and Spectres - survived 67mph gusts undamaged

A good effort to canoe across the loch and were setup and enjoying the BBQ. The girls were scared of nearby highland cows, but they are vegetarians (no, not the girls, the cows !). That night after midnight the winds -not forecast at 6pm when we left school – came and they were constantly gusting at 45mph, one gust at the nearest Metoffice weather station, about 15miles away, recorded 67mph. As we had good quality Mountain rated tents – used up in the hills by the school DofE groups – all was well. The tents are 3 yrs old but still perfect condition, they are made by VANGO.  Although the S3’s tent was flapping most of the night, so not much sleep for them. The S1 pupils slept through, good for them as they had never camped before. They had onesies and fleece sleeping bag liners, so were warm through the cold night.

Loch Ard Canoe Camp Breakfast

The morning dawned sunny, lots of dawn chorus. The pupils were told the night before they could get up whenever they wanted, as long as they got up before 10am. The S1s enjoying hot porridge and cooking sausages for breakfast.

Group Trangias

Group cooking area, Army Tarp used as a windbreak.

Tarp Windbreak - survived 67mph gusts undamaged

We packed up, did a quick litter check – leave no trace – and headed home, hot weather across the loch and brown faces back at the beach. Last, but not least, a compulsory Ice Cream stop in Aberfoyle.

End of the Trip

May 15, 2013
by Mr Tait

At last, the Sun !

For the last two years we have been out canoeing/kayaking on Tuesday nights, from March. This year we only started last night,  the 14th of May.

But, it was worth the wait as the sun was lovely and warm and the wind dropped nicely. I was at a Literacy conference all day in Falkirk and kept looking out the window at the gusty winds thinking, “oh no another cancelled night”.

We launched at Woodcockdale near Linlithgow and headed into the wind to Muiravonside Aquaduct. Kim is in her own Kayak, she was keen to get her own after getting the buzz for it last September. She has progressed from going in a zig zag squigly line in September, to learning to Eskimo roll in a pool over the winter.

Last week I shot away after the bell to loch Ard, for a lovely sunset paddle, in a sea kayak. Warmest evening of the year I think.

April 25, 2013
by Mr Tait

Canoe Expedition Training

Today the class were out re-visiting Canoe Journey skills, in preparation for a planned overnight trip on Loch Ard in May. Rafting up and sailing are classic traditional canoe journeying skills. If it’s windy and a group is struggling to paddle into the wind and keep the canoe under control, another canoe can be rafted on to it to help in keeping them straight.

A quick revision of paddle stroke skills.

Canoeing tandem sets up a group for team work and developing communication skills.

The group canoed into the wind on the journey out. This picture shows the group having a snack/drink break.

Setting up the Bothy bag as a sail, to be blown home.

Typically, when we turned back to use the wind to power us home, the wind dropped ! At least the sun then came out and we chilled out cruising home at walking pace, for no effort.

We always stop and set a challenge, this was a ‘leap of faith’.

April 18, 2013
by Mr Tait

Haining Wood – Tracking and Observation

Today we walked – in the very heavy wind – around Haining Wood, Manuel Castle and Muiravonside Farm. Naomi went from being scared of touching any animals, to holding Goose Eggs !

Some pupils are still a wee bit wary, but the Farm Worker is very good at cajoling and encouraging at getting them to handle the animals. Paul strokes a very small chicken.

Hamish the Clydesdale is a bit of a fun horse, but he can chew hats and even pinch headphones !
Here we are tracking a fox, looking for skulls or bones. The aim of Tracking and Observation walks, is to get the learners to slow right down, be silent, look around the forrest when walking through, observe any sign eg scat, poo, tree damage, browsing evidence, footprints. We need to do some plaster casting next time.
Heavy rain the day before had softened the verges and a bin lorry got stuck – oops –  luckily a monster recovery truck had arrived.

March 23, 2013
by Mr Tait

Out of the Cold, Cold Hoolie Winds….

To avoid the Hoolies I went up Dollar Glen towards the imposing Castle Campbell. Some nice trail sweets on the way, frozen Birch sap sweets.

Birch Sap Sweets

The path weaves it’s way along through old growth Deciduous forest and along the gorge and over wooden bridges, with continued interest.

Dollar Glen

Dollar Glen

Eventually you pop out across from the Castle.
Some walkers passed me, coming down early out of the wind, they had been snow shoeing – or trying to – up on Earl’s Seat Hill.

Castle Campbell

Saw lots of Ransoms on areas out of the wind. The common name of these is Wild Garlic. In May and June, the smell of Garlic is pungent when walking through them.


February 19, 2013
by Mr Tait

Falkirk Wheel and Antonines Wall

Today we had a walk around the Falkirk Wheel and on to Antonine’s Wall. The path is easy going and as we had a mix up getting boots and waterproofs, it was ideal as a last minute choice. All the local walks we have done, and are doing, have been checked out for Risks and Timings, to fit in with the timetable.

The scale of the Roman Wall is difficult to show in photos, it’s pretty massive when you actually walk along the top. We were lucky when one of the class said they heard a Woodpecker, we stopped and listened carefully, trying to plot where it was. We never saw it but heard it drilling away, magical. The old mature Acorns and Oaks may be prime territory for the wee headbangers……

Reading the interpretation boards, trying to visualise a few hundred scary Picts running up the wall towards us……

The class checking out the Roman and Picts sides of the Ancient wall.

February 14, 2013
by Mr Tait

Bushcraft & Forrest School skills

Today we were out at Muiravonside Country Park, learning responsible firelighting and cooking in the countryside. A lot of what we did is from the Forest School Curriculum, condensed into shorter sessions. Patrick was responsible, safe, sensible and concentrated well whilst supervising the fire. We left ‘No Trace’ of where we had been. We used Kelly Kettles, which have a chimney effect and boil a pint of water in 4-5mins, they use small wooden sticks, pine needles cones etc. We could not find Scots Pines needles, which are very tasty when steeped, for Tea they have more vitamin C than oranges.

We also built some survival shelters, which was done in teams. Shelter building involves thinking about Numeracy – triangulation and the structural stability. We ran out of time and the class have asked to do more Bushcraft/Forest School sessions.

January 31, 2013
by Mr Tait

Mud Glorius Mud !

Today we were out at Blackness Castle and foreshore. Very windy and wet weather so we parked ten minutes walk away in case the weather got worse – it improved as forecast. A this time of year, we tend to only pick the route and venue on the day of the class, this allows for a better route with the prevailing weather. Today’s venue was relatively sheltered being East facing and sheltered from the westerlies.

The tide was out, the reason we visited today, and the class enjoyed traversing the shore, explore the rock pools and looking for shrimps and crabs. The class learnt how the tide moves in and out with the Moon and Sun. Lots of small shrimps about but no crabs. One of the class lost her socks when a shoe came off in the mud !

There is a huge number of oyster shells on this shoreline, no whole oysters though. Some of the shells are palm size.

Exploring the rock pools, these are just outside the Blackness castle walls. It was a sea port for Linlithgow Palace and the palace was halfway between Stirling and Edinburgh castles.

Large volumes of sea shells here two, Longshore drift depositing them in a  particular part of the bay.

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