After the huge success of last year’s event, the Foxlake Outdoor Festival returns bigger and better for 2017. Head along the East Lothian coast to the beautiful surroundings of Foxlake Adventures, Dunbar, in May for an exhilarating weekend offering a world of adventures for all the family.
Following the massive success of this event in 2016, when the first ever Foxlake Outdoor Festival sold out weeks in advance, Foxlake Adventures in partnership with East Lothian Council, have decided to extend the festival to a full weekend across the 20 and 21 May 2017, offering families and individuals the opportunity to get outdoors and begin their own adventure in East Lothian. There will be tickets available for each day, weekend tickets and once again children’s tickets will be absolutely free. Tickets will start at £17 for an adult day entry and £30 for a weekend ticket, but if you purchase prior to the end of February, you will receive an early bird offer of £14 for an adult day entry and £25 for a weekend ticket. Again children’s tickets will all be free!
Many of the hugely popular elements of last year’s event will return in 2017, including the Industry Wake Parks who will once again run an Industry Pro Wakeboard Tour Event. Bringing some of the most talented wake boarders from around the world to compete, this is a further growth of Scotland’s biggest wakeboard event. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy and watch the thrills of professional wakeboarding.
Also returning is the Decades Music Stage, featuring everyone’s favourite tribute bands, celebrating the last 60 years of music, something for everyone. There will be a talented line-up of East Lothian’s finest local musicians, and joining them this year will be the Comedy Stage, with a selection of Britain’s finest comedians guaranteeing laughs throughout the weekend. To keep the children entertained we will be bringing back our popular Kids’ Zone with the inflatable village filled with every bouncy castle imaginable, they can also take on the challenge of the climbing wall and even get their faces painted.
The weekend is all about getting the family active outdoors, so you will have the chance to try out some of East Lothian’s outdoor adventures for yourself. Try out the Foxfall Course, the UK’s only rope course constructed over water, or get on your wet suit and give wakeboarding a try, or if you prefer to stay dry, hop on and master a segway!
The programme continues to expand and we will be adding activities throughout February to offer the most thrilling world of adventures at the Foxlake Outdoor Festival in May 2017.
Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council’s spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism said: “Foxlake Adventures is Scotland’s first cable wakeboarding park along with the UK’s only ropes course constructed over water. Foxlake is located in the heart of East Lothian 25 miles east of Edinburgh, nestled in beautiful woodland on the edge of the John Muir Way. The festival is not only committed to enjoying and celebrating our fabulous landscape but we also want to protect it. So, there will be a shuttle bus service from Dunbar Train Station throughout the weekend, giving the opportunity for all of our visitors to use the excellent rail links from Edinburgh and the North of England and leave the car at home. We guarantee an exhilarating day for all the family – thrills for adults and children alike!”
About: Foxlake Adventures
Foxlake Adventures is Scotland’s first cable wakeboarding park along with the UK’s only ropes course constructed over water.
About: East Lothian Council
East Lothian’s Economic Development Strategy works with the local tourism industry to position the county as Scotland’s leading coastal, leisure and food & drink destination.
With just over one week to go until the start of Gardening Scotland – the country’s Outdoor Living Show – the event’s organisers are reminding people that the show is more than just a fantastic day out for gardeners.
This year’s event, which takes place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, promises to be an action-packed day out for everyone, whether you are interested in food, cookery or music, as well as gardening.
Foodies will take inspiration from the event’s Cookery Theatre, which will play host to a range of well-known chefs such as Wendy Barrie from the Scottish Food Guide and Neil Forbes from Café St Honoré. Visitors will get expert tips for delicious and inspiring recipes using the very best Scottish produce. The Living Garden exhibition will also demonstrate how you can grow your own delicious produce, from herbs to fruit and vegetables, for your own kitchen.
Music lovers are in for a real variety show during the three day event with a host of live performances from Scottish and international artists. Glasgow trio The Ragtime Dolls will entertain visitors with songs inspired by the 1940s group The Andrews Sisters, while the Dojo Performers promise to provide both a visual and audio spectacle for children and adults alike.
Outdoors enthusiasts will be kept entertained as they travel through the show gardens and floral hall by Beverley Smith on Alto Saxophone and Chris Reynolds on Trumpet. As well as performing on the event’s band stand, the Vibe will be popping up around the showground keeping visitors entertained with spontaneous performances.
Musical hits from The Barrowband will enthral gardeners and foodies alike. This band’s mission is to change the eating habits of a nation whilst singing and playing the finest set of fruit and veg songs on Earth and beyond. They will be holding interactive performances in the Big Back Garden and will be featured in the bandstand – a guaranteed hit for the children to encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables.
Martin Dare, event organiser, said:
“There will be something for everyone at this year’s Gardening Scotland. People love their gardens for all sorts of reasons, whether that’s for flowers, enjoying food or having an outdoor space to have fun in and enjoy time with friends.
“That’s why Gardening Scotland has it all covered. Our band stand will provide a great source of entertainment throughout the three day event for children and families alike, and once again we guarantee that foodies will have a day filled with gastronomic delights with our jam packed Cookery Theatre agenda and Living Garden exhibition.
“With just over a week to go we are counting down the days and look forward to seeing you there!”
On Thursday 21st January, a minibus took us to Dalkeith Country Park. I’d never been to the park before so was really looking forward to getting to know the site. After lunch and introductions, we were tasked with identifying some of the trees on the site – not an easy thing to do at this time of year. With the help of a Woodland Trust guide to leaves and twigs, my group successfully identified the trees as elder, ash, sycamore and beech.
Abby, our guide showed us how to make a fire with a flint and steel firestarter, petroleum jelly and dry twigs. We began by clearing leaves away so any wee creatures could escape. While the fire was getting going and giving us a much-needed heat, we began practising some knots. I can now do a figure of 8 knot – yey!
We are committed to a “leave no trace” ethos so once the fire was extinguished we dispersed the ash and twigs throughout the woodland and no one would ever know we had been there.
On Thursday 28th January, high winds forced us to change our plans for more tree identification and sycamore removal in Dalkeith Country Park. Undeterred, we walked the short distance to the Fisherrow Centre where we tried willow leaving.
We had a go making small, simple shapes, stars and fish. Some of the group added textiles to their designs to great effect. I’d like to try this again and perhaps make something on a larger scale like an obelisk style plant support.
We also found out more about the John Muir Award (participation in the programme can lead to a Level One award) and the John Muir Trust.
We later took a walk along the promenade which forms part of the John Muir Way. It was blustery but a nice way to end to the day.
Two new folk joined the group today so we did an ice-breaking exercise that helped to remember everyone’s names.
After a short introduction to tool use and safety, we set about cutting down some self-seeded sycamore trees. I’ve used a bow saw many times but learned how to use it properly today! Start by making a guide groove then slowly move the bow saw along the entire length of its blade (I’m guilty of using only the middle section of the blade and using it too quickly so it sticks). Other tool tips included: don’t attempt to use loppers on anything bigger than your thumb.
One of the group knows quite a lot about knots and showed us the Wagonman’s Hitch. I found it quite tricky but hopefully, with practice, I’ll improve. Our knot tying was put to the test as we used some of the wood to build makeshift benches.
I was surprised at the difference in the site in only two weeks. It was milder, there were snowdrops appearing at the entrance to the park and there was lots of birdsong. Oh, and we saw a buzzard.
We were glad of our tarpaulin shelter today as the heavens opened quite soon after we arrived on site.
Abbey talked about Imbolc, one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. I really like learning about celebrations and the similarities/crossover between religion, pagan customs and folklore (If you do too, I recommend Festivals and Celebrations by Rowland Purton). She showed us how to make a St Brigid’s cross (which reminded me of the Hindu swastika).
We made a ‘God’s eye’ or Ojo de Dios, a traditional Mexican craft made with crossed twigs and yarn. It’s really easy and can be mastered in seconds.
A craft everyone seemed to enjoy was making a ‘Green Man’, a traditional symbol of fertility. We used air drying clay to form the features and embellished with ferns and moss.
(Tip: The Borders Scrapstore at the Fisherrow Centre is great for sourcing low cost craft items).
We were then joined by a Tai Chi instructor who showed us some basic warm up and stretching exercises. It was a really pleasant way to end the day.
We visited John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar and we got a bit of a surprise…someone in the group was the 150,000th visitor to the museum so it was all a bit exciting and we enjoyed our ‘celebrity’ treatment. The group was presented with a copy of a John Muir graphic novel. (You can download a pdf version here).
The museum, which is on three floors, tells the story of his strict upbringing and his love of the natural world; his subsequent move to America and the founding of Yosemite national park; and his legacy. After a look round the museum, we headed down towards the harbour where we saw some seals.
On the return journey, we glimpsed a group of seven deer in a field where there are plans to build 1,450 homes. I wonder what John Muir would have made of the Save Goshen Green Belt campaign?
The group were scheduled to try Shelter Building this week with Ruth, but unfortunately I couldn’t join them. It’s worth noting that the group is very flexible and if you are having a bad day or can’t attend for whatever reason, that is totally fine. Additionally, if you need some quiet time or don’t want to participate in a particular task, that’s okay too.
Some days I have to force myself to get out and do stuff but I have never regretted enjoying the fresh air.
Dalkeith Country Park is a huge site and our ‘base camp’ is in a small secluded spot near the King’s Gate. We rarely venture beyond this section of the park but today, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went for a walk further afield. I think we took the King’s Gate and North Woods route as shown on this pdf.
As we walked by the Dean Burn, I kept looking for a kingfisher but to no avail. Further along the path, while taking time to look at the horses, we spotted two deer running around the edge of the field. Others in the group tried photographing water beetles in the puddles.
After the walk some of the group produced some environmental art. One of the participants told us about male bowerbirds who create elaborate structures and decorate it with brightly coloured objects such as shells, leaves, flowers and even discarded plastic such as bottle tops in an attempt to attract a mate. There isn’t ta lot of colour in the woods at the moment – certainly not as much as in the rainforest (and thankfully no litter) – but we made our own little structure as an homage to these clever Papuan birds.
As we packed up our kit and headed back to the minibus, one of the group commented that now we’re familiar with the site, when we leave it, it feels like we’re leaving home. I knew exactly what they meant.
Today’s leader from Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust was Esperanza who, after introductions, talked us through the day’s conservation task: ivy removal. When left untouched, ivy can strangle a tree. However, ivy also offers roosting places for birds, animals and insects so it’s not as straightforward as just tearing it off. (The RHS offers some advice as to when to leave it and when to control it here).
The technique we used was to cut a large section of the root of the ivy from near the base of the tree. This would eventually kill the ivy but not disrupt any wildlife meantime.
Some of the ivy roots were massive, much to large for either secateurs or loppers so we used the bow saw (we learned there are two types of bow saw blades: peg tooth for dead wood, and raker for green wood).
Of all the trees in the patch of woodland we were working in,we observed that only the larch was densely covered. We learned that larch, although coniferous (it has cones) it is a deciduous tree, losing its leaves in the winter.
It was quite physical work so we were glad to take a break for a cuppa – and we learned how to use a storm kettle.
Today was the long-awaited trip to Redhall Walled Garden – an 18th century garden within a 6 acre estate which today is managed by SAMH, Scotland’s national mental health charity. SAMH offers training in horticulture, conservation, maintenance skills, ITC/admin and life skills for people with mental health problems.
We were shown around by two trainees and learned a bit about the history of the garden (it’s original purpose was to supply produce for Redhall House). It’s difficult to do justice to the garden in a blog, even with photographs – you really should visit. There are areas for calm reflection as well as wild areas where nature flourishes. There are gorgeous drystane walling and formal flower beds. There were unexpected artworks and whimsical touches.
Redhall Walled Garden is open to the public Monday to Friday 9am-3.30pm and on open days throughout the year (see below).
We left this special place feeling very uplifted and vowing to return. We walked down to the Water of Leith walkway passing a stone grotto, the domed interior of which was decorated with shells. You can read more about this sandstone shelter and the geology of the area here (pdf)
We followed the path round to the tow path where Lochrin Belle (a vessel operated by social enterprise Re-Union Canal Boats) was waiting.
We took turns at the tiller and enjoyed sitting back in the sun and enjoying the view from the Union Canal. We disembarked at Lochrin Basin and walked the short journey to where our minibus was waiting.
Saturday 9th July 2-16 – Razzmatazz, Redhall Walled Garden
Back in Dalkeith Country Park, the weather was kind to us while we tried our hand at willow weaving. Willow is a very pliable material (the whips we used had been soaked in advance) but there are limits to how much you can bend it without it breaking. I found it quite tricky so had some help from Ruth. Once the shape and central supporting ‘spine’ was created, I used thinner pieces of willow to weave in and out of the three main stems. Once I got into a pattern, it was very relaxing weaving in and out while buzzards flew overhead and the now dry leaves in the woodland rustled in the breeze.
In the second half of our session, we were joined by Angela Fallon, a Master Grade, T’ai Chi Ch’uan teacher (who we met previously in Week Four). Angela showed us the first five sequences of the Lee style form: Gather Celestial Energy; Play the Guitar and – aptly for today’s session – Fair Lady Weaving.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking round some of the estate with Espy testing our knowledge of various trees. I learned a curious fact about holly – while a young tree has almost exclusively prickly leaves, higher up the tree you will find much simpler, rounder leaves. The reason for this is that it takes a lot of energy to produce the protective spiky leaves and, as there are no tall creatures, the holly produces round leaves at higher levels.
There isn’t much colour in the woods yet but signs of spring are emerging: primroses, flowering currant and wild garlic in abundance.
The leaves of wild garlic are delicious and can be used in salads, baked or chopped and made into pesto. If you think that sounds adventurous…Espy shared her recipe for cough medicine: elderflower berries & onions! (I googled it, it’s called chutney 😉).
We were joined by Elaine, CHANGES CHP Co-ordinator for our final trip to Dalkeith Country Park where our conservation task was to remove some sycamore seedlings, chop the branches into small pieces and stack them at the base of a tree to form a habitat pile.
After this we had to clear the site of all traces of our activity so we dismantled the shelter and the benches and took down the artwork, said goodbye to what has been our camp for the past twelve weeks and went for a walk.
We had time to explore the exterior of St Mary’s Church and a nearby community garden. The community garden is a project by Midlothian Growing Together and was a lovely space with lots of quirky features and upcycled planters.
We were collected, as we have been every week by Graham of Soave Minibuses and headed back to Musselburgh.
I’ve enjoyed the Branching Out programme enormously and would recommend it as a way of escaping life’s stresses.
Or, in John Muir’s words:
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.