“Winter” Skills Weekend

On Friday 24th February 11 East Lothian Staff gathered at the Outdoor Learning Service Base to get kitted up and head off to Cromdale for some CPD. The aim: to venture up into the Cairngorms for a weekend of winter skills (or as it turned out a general search of any snow!).

We were very spoilt with great accommodation and an excellent chef (in Steff) for the weekend, just not quite so lucky with the weather (or rather the needed winter conditions!). Despite the more spring like weather crampoms and ice axes were packed with gear and off we set. Even though the snow was quickly thawing spirits were not melted! We were ready for action…

From Winter Skills 2012

(Click on the photo above to view a slide show of all the pictures from the whole weekend!)

In a desperate search to find the magical white stuff difficult terrain was undertaken in order to reach the peaks (and hopefully some snow).

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

It did appear at first that it may be in vain! It certainly didn’t look (or feel) like winter weather…

From Winter Skills 2012

Steve was determined to find some snow and using some transceivers we managed to track him down along with some snow!

From Winter Skills 2012

We quickly got the ice axes out and had a go at negotiating our way across the snow (y patches).

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

There was one particular request which had been made (aside from having muffins to eat at the end of the day and not dying!). Although conditions were not ideal we managed to give Steve his wish…he was finally able to put on and use his crampons…

From Winter Skills 2012

In case you were wondering the other requests were met too with everyone returning to the centre to the sights and smell of freshly baked muffins!

Day 2 turned out to be an even milder day! This did not prevent getting back out and finding more snow to play in. We were even able to find enough to make bucket seats (just!)

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

Some great technique work was taught and was able to be put into practice (before running out of snow entirely in some situations!).

From Winter Skills 2012
From Winter Skills 2012

This is just a brief overview of the weekend. Others on the course said it was ‘thoroughly enjoyable’ and a ‘great experience.’ They also noted that they ‘really enjoyed company and getting up to date with skills and equipment.’ ‘Given the conditions (lack of snow) the course was delivered superbly’. ‘It was pitched just right’ and enabled people to feel they ‘could ask questions and that everyone’s needs were catered for’.

Despite the lack of winter like conditions there is at least one brave person who has said they ‘definitely want to come on it again if it’s run next year’. So we hope to see you all (plus more!) next year. Until then we will keep you posted about your suggestions to go to the Alps or invest in snow making machines to take up next time!

Up for some fun in the Dark?

We still have 3 places left on the rescheduled ‘Night Navigation’ Course which we are now running next week – Tuesday 6th March. Aims of the session are to introduce the techniques and practice the skills required to navigate effectively in the hills with the ‘lights out’.

Meeting in Haddington at 6pm and going up into the Lammermuirs; hopefully back by 8:30 – but all will depend on finding our way back to the vehicles.

Please contact Andy aduff@eastlothian.gov.uk if you’d like to attend.

Good Practice Gathering in Outdoor Learning 17th March 2012

Our Outdoor learning colleagues in Midlothian are hosting a fantastic opportunity to share practice in Outdoor Learning on the 17th march 2012. They have invited participants from East Lothian to join the event.

The Good Practice Gathering in Outdoor Learning takes place at Beeslack CHS and offers workshops, market place and an ‘expert’ panel. Participants will leave with fresh ideas, many resources and access to a support network.

If you have an interest in developing and delivering outdoor learning within your school or community , this is a great opportunity to hear from a range of professional practitioners and share good practice in developing approaches to outdoor Learning and CfE outcomes.

A superb CPD opportunity for teachers and pre school staff  in East Lothian. For more details and to book on on this valuable event check out the web-link below. You can also get in touch with Bill Stephen at East Lothian Outdoor Learning for more information. (0131 653 5217, wstephen@eastlothian.gov.uk

Mildothian Good Practice in Outdoor Learning Event

Ross High Pupils Reaching High Places

As part of their John Muir Award pupils from Ross High ventured out of school and into the woods.  Here, with the help of the Rangers and Outdoor Learning service, they aimed to discover more about the benefits of the woodlands for themselves as well as the wildlife.  Taking on various challenges they perfected their animal climbing skills (which will be explored later…)

The woods were not a new discovery of a wild place for the group.  On a previous visit to the area they had selected and cut down sections of trees to begin laying down a new path to make area more accessible for everyone.  


 Revisiting this area again they were able to see how their work had been continued.  In further exploring the woods it was obvious that not everybody is as careful and considerate of the woodlands as one would hope or expect.  To help conserve the area and make the woods safer to enjoy for themselves and others (human and wildlife) a quick sweep and litter pick of the woodland floor was done.  There was plenty to be found…


 Having helped make the area cleaner and safe for everyone the pupils had a go at completing some woodland challenges.  The first was to try and get between two large oak trees by balancing on a single line!  Here were some of the different ways.  Everyone managed to get across but maybe not quite as fast or graceful as a squirrel would have!


Next the pupils tried their hand at climbing up trees (well a cable ladder attached up a tree!)  


It was a lot harder than it looked!  Most pupils, however, were able to get all the way to the top and this gave them a chance to see things from and in a different way.

Finally there was a chance to have a go at ‘flying’!

As humans it is great to think about and admire lots of different things.  The pupils decided there were lots of abilities different animals had that they would quite like – including to fly like a bird and have the speed of a cheetah.

Overall it was great to explore more of this woodland area, discover different ways of enjoying it by thinking about how different animals climb around and use the woods, and to make it a cleaner place for everyone to enjoy.  Hopefully you have enjoyed reading about and sharing in this experience and maybe you will get a chance to go down to the woods today (or sometime soon)…


Ice Station Soutra

Is it all Fun?

Eight hardy pupils from Musselburgh Grammar requested the help of the Outdoor Learning Service to assist in their travels to explore some of our diverse countryside on Thursday. They wanted to explore close up the beautiful Soutra Gorge.

Knowing the current temperatures the group spent quite some time in preparation before venturing out. This included: longjohn wetsuits; wetsuit socks; walking boots; pile jackets; windproof layers; harnessess; helmets; high energy food; spare clothing and equipment. The pupils were looking at Heath and Wellbeing outcomes for themselves. The pictures below link very well to the highlighted statements taken from HWB experiences and outcomes.

I can expect my learning environment to support me to:
experience personal achievement and build my resilience and confidence
participate in a wide range of activities which promote a healthy lifestyle
assess and manage risk and understand the impact of risk-taking behaviour


All the pupils showed strength of chracter and amazing resilience in coping with extremely challenging conditions – abseiling into the gorge; scrambling along the river bed; climbing up the side of an ice covered waterfall.

Through careful reviewing and reflection with the group this resilience will be able to be translated into other aspects of the pupils’ lives. Education Scotland describes it better than I below.

The development of resilience or coping skills is particularly important to young people as increasing numbers are struggling through school and life with social and emotional needs that greatly challenge schools and welfare agencies. A resilient child can resist adversity, cope with uncertainty and recover more successfully from traumatic events or episodes.

Don Ledingham recently spoke about resilience in his blog – pointing out that we are particularly well suited to delivering this through the flexibilty of Curriculum of Excellence.

To answer the question at the top of the page – no it wasn’t fun for everybody all the time – however with reflection all pupils could see the strength and value of what they had done and achieved. Some of their reflection – words taken from the pupils themselves: scared; happy; cold; icy; slippery; tired; effort; overcoming fears; challenging; hardwork; teamwork; great exercise.

Well done all.