We hold regular events to say thank you to our volunteers for their amazing contributions throughout the year, and this one was certainly special. On Saturday 16 September, the team headed into the woods, where we learned about trees, foraging and wooden carving.

Ricefield volunteer Joey Humble has shared his experience (as well as his impressive knowledge of plant names!):

On a grey and windy Sunday morning a group of somewhat eager volunteers assembled under the gaze of the stone lions of Glasgow’s George square, and wondered what activities would they perform today? Teaching children how to make paper lanterns? Or perhaps demonstrating calligraphy to Glasweigians? Au contraire, for once, they were to be treated to a day of relaxation and countryside leisure as a reward for a year’s work promoting Chinese culture.

We started the day out by taking a minibus north to Cashel woodland forest located near Loch Lomond. There we met with our woodland guide, Paul from Green Aspirations Scotland, who led us through the forest and identified many different plants, trees and fungi. We explored a patch of silver birch trees and discovered the bright red fly agaric mushroom which is apparently psychedelic. We walked along the enchanting woodland path past holly and brooms bushes and our guide presented us with wood sorrel which is an edible herb with a refreshing flavour. We then peered up to an ancient and mighty oak tree so large and towering that its branches were bent and broken due to their weight, and looking down we found little oak seedlings daring to display their lobed leaves above the moist fertile earth. Our guide was very enthusiastic to find a hazel tree, which has been used for various crafts for thousands of years in the UK. We passed through a small private orchard with short waist-height apple trees holding surprisingly large bright red apples, which we learned are called ‘Bloody Ploughman’ apples. Later while marching through the woodland we found a ferny glade, there stood a gnarled leafless tree heavy with lichen and mosses, which our guide told us was a crabapple tree. On closer inspection this dead looking old tree bore several tiny green apples which tasted sour.

After an enjoying morning walk in the forest we ate pizzas in Balmaha’s Oak Tree restaurant and took photos by Loch Lomond with the ducks and boats in view. In the afternoon we went to Tir Na Nog, single file we followed a meandering path past a tepee and an old manor house and through a forest decorated with hanging wooden spoons of all sorts of sizes and intricate styles. We assembled inside a large wooden cabin with open walls giving views of the woodland on all sides and a cast-iron kettle heating on a wooden fire. We diligently carved spoons from chunks of aspen wood using axes, saws, knives and gougers; all the tools were readily available on a large table and we were given detailed instructions and assistance (thankfully there was a first kit on hand).

We learned so much about the forest and wood craft on this special day. A wonderful time was had by all.

With thanks to Green Aspirations Scotland for hosting us, and the Forestry Commission for their funding support.