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Jess the sheep dog at 15 weeks

Jess at 15 weeks

Well Jess is continuing to grow at a pace and weighing in at 9.6 kgs, she is pretty much toilet trained and is becoming less of a full time job and more an integral part of the family. Socialising now is the priority as she is a bit limited with the current COVID situation, so, plenty of walks and chances to meet other people and dogs. She seems to love people as long as they are not to “in her face” she then tends to keep her distance for a while until she builds up courage. Dogs however are a bit more scary and she’d run a mile if she wasn’t on a lead so the more chances to meet them the better. Yesterday, she met a tiny puppy about the same age as her and was scared to death at first but a bit of perseverance and she soon overcame any fear and was rough and tumbling and realising what good fun it was.

Sheep dog puppy walking sheep up path

Now over to her main purpose in life, being a sheepdog! Over the last couple of weeks she has been to see the sheep at feeding time and is developing a mild interest so it’s important to keep nurturing it steadily. Today we needed to move the sheep to pastures new as we have recently wormed them and they need fresh grass so it seemed an opportune time to let Jess get a little more involved. All dogs are different and as a trainer I need to recognise what sort of temperament she has and how will she work sheep, some won’t develop a desire to work for many months, others dive straight in and attack ( this is the wolf ancestry hunt and kill instinct that ultimately drives them all to work).

sheep dog puppy observing sheep with head it's head in a bucket

Jess seems to be in the middle somewhere with quite an interest but a bit wary so it’s vital she doesn’t get put off by an angry sheep as this could affect her for life. Many pups don’t do anything at first particularly if the sheep aren’t worried by the dogs’ presence and don’t move away, the pup just ends up confused and unsure what to do. What we need is moving sheep to bring out the chasing instinct and this change of pasture seemed ideal. Starting with the lambs who have been grazing off the Hidden Meadow (our piece of chalk downland) I let them go past her and proceeded to follow them with Jess on an extendable lead, the video was taken by Rachael our shepherdess and you can clearly see Jess getting very excited, nipping at their heels and even showing a desire to want to go round them and head them off. These moments are without doubt my favourite part of training a working collie as you get that flood of relief that your new acquisition has something in her that we can work with.

For now that is about as far as I will go with her, just regular visits to see the sheep to build up a real burning desire to herd them, we’ll wait until she is big enough and fast enough to out run them before we start the serious business of training to commands etc. She will however be getting home schooling on the basics, walking steady, stopping, lying down etc. and of course coming back to me which seems to be our biggest challenge at the moment!

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd at COAM


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Accompanied Walks

A Dose of Vitamin Green – Accompanied Walks at COAM

This autumn lots of over 65s have joined us for an Accompanied Walk. When asked, “On a scale of 1 to 5, did you feel that your mood was happier after the walk than before the walk?”, every single one replied 5 out of 5!

If you have not yet heard about our Accompanied `Walks programme, here is a quick explanation….

The team at Chiltern Open Air Museum recognised that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, difficulties for those members of the elderly community who were already experiencing social isolation, have been exacerbated. To promote and support the health and wellbeing of this sector of our community, we invited individuals and some couples (and some dogs!) to the museum for an accompanied walk with a friendly and knowledgeable COAM volunteer. Walkers were encouraged to invite along a carer or friend for both support and to increase access to the programme. Throughout the experience, Government guidelines on social distancing were followed.

Accompanied Walks

This project, funded by the Sherling Trust, gave visitors the opportunity to enjoy an hour’s walk around the museum and learn about our 37 heritage buildings, gardens, park and woodland. Before heading back home, walkers were offered a cuppa and snack.

In advance of their visit, I asked each walker a few nosey questions so that I could gauge their level of mobility and gain an idea of some of their interests. Armed with this information, I was then able to match the walker to one of the fabulous accompanying COAM volunteers. So, along with the benefits of being out and about in the great outdoors in a beautiful, safe and supported environment, walkers also benefited from lively and engaging conversation.

We couldn’t agree more with the findings of Walking for Heath’s Walking Works report which includes the following findings:

“Walking is the most likely way all adults can achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.”
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

“Being physically active is particularly beneficial for the mental health of older people, improving cognitive functioning, memory, attention and processing speed, reducing symptoms of dementia, improving mood and satisfaction with life, and decreasing feelings of loneliness.”
The British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health

Feedback from both the walkers and volunteers involved in the Accompanied Walks programme at COAM has been unanimously positive.

“I accompanied my mother who was a little unsure about going on the walk but she really enjoyed it. We had lovely weather, our volunteer was helpful, kind and very informative. Everyone we met in the walk was kind too. We both really appreciated the opportunity given.” Accompanied Walker

“The whole experience was quite refreshing and in these ‘troubled times’ a little bit of normality…the wonders of being out with nature, good for body and soul!” Accompanied Walker

We hope to offer Accompanied Walks again next year, so if you are interested, 65 years or older and in need a change of scene, for 2021, please email outreach@coam.org.uk supplying your name and telephone number.

Jaqui Gellman
Outreach at COAM


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Figgy Pudding Recipe

Figgy Pudding Recipe

At our Traditional Christmas event in 2019, one of our costumed volunteers, Jenny made figgy pudding in our Haddenham cottage. Visitors were able to see the pudding being made in the Victorian kitchen and were able to help out with the stirring. Several people have asked for the recipe so here it is:

Figgy Puddling

Ingredients

2 cooking apples
1lb dried figs
1 medium carrot
8 ozs butter
4 ozs soft brown sugar
6ozs wholemeal breadcrumbs
4 ozs wholemeal flour
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of black treacle
mixed spice

Method

  • Peel and core apples,cut into pieces.
  • Put figs, apple and carrot through a fine mincer.
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add breadcrumbs, flour,spice,minced fruit, lemon rind,juice ,treacle and eggs. Mix well , add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff.
  • Put mixture into a 2pint greased pudding basin or 2 x 1 pint greased pudding basins.
  • Cover with greased parchment/ greaseproof paper and muslin cloth.
  • Place into a saucepan with boiling water halfway up the basin.
  • Cover and steam for 5 hours, add more boiling water from time to time.

Enjoy making and please share the results of your baking with us on our Facebook page.


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Jess the sheep dog at 13 weeks

Well it’s been almost three weeks now and Jess is growing fast, she has gained 1.6 kgs and is noticeably bigger. Dogs are like children but the whole growing and learning thing is accelerated so that a few days can see a dramatic change in behaviour and attitude. She is now allowed out for walks having had her vaccinations so we are learning to walk to heel and getting used to traffic and strange people, she has a bit of a fascination with cars going past so I have to keep a tight hand on the lead and try and distract her as they whiz past. At home we are getting her used to living with a family and knowing her boundaries, plenty of trips to the lawn are paying off as the little accidents lessen off and she is starting to go to the door when the urge is there.

Jess the sheep dog puppy meets the sheep

 

A few days ago I took her to meet some of the museum staff and to have her first look at sheep. She was well accepted by all so I’m sure she will become a special volunteer in everyone’s hearts. It does somewhat depend on how she turns out as a sheepdog, some of which will be down to my training. Rachael (COAM’s Farm Assistant) and I took her to the sheep for a first look and she wasn’t too keen but they are pretty big. Regular visits will eventually bring out an interest and sometime in the next few months I will let her have a free run to encourage her to herd them we hope.

For now it’s just enjoying her young days being cuddled and played with to hopefully make a friendly happy dog!

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd

Other blog posts by Steve

The circle of life
Jess the sheep dog


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Jess the Sheepdog

A new volunteer for COAM

So a mild enquiry about sheepdog pups that might be available after Christmas resulted in me being told that an old friend of mine who is a top sheepdog trials man might have some puppies, he lived in Sussex so not too far. I called and had a chat telling him I wanted a pup after Christmas if possible. Unfortunately he didn’t have anything currently although he knew of a pup at a neighbours and his dog was the father. I expressed mild interest and asked for some details and pictures to be e-mailed to me.

My old dog Ted was a rough coated, tri colour male dog and that is what we intended to get again as we liked that look, the puppy being offered was a Black and White, short coated bitch! Surely this would not be for us? The picture arrived, not the most appealing picture, they obviously weren’t into marketing!! She did however appear to be nicely marked.

Having established that she did indeed have two eyes I responded that we would like to see some more and a video if possible, inwardly I was not convinced. However when the better pictures arrived we were warming and had pretty much made up our minds to pay them a visit for a proper look, a visit to Sussex was quite appealing, it was a bit of a shock to find out that my old friend had moved to Devon when his neighbour sent the address of their farm!! So were we to go all that way just to see a puppy that was not what we intended to get and at least 3 months too soon. Suffice it to say it didn’t take long to have made arrangements to drive down and see her, stay overnight in a delightful little B&B called the Old Bakehouse in Chulmleigh Devon, go back and collect her the following morning and wend our way back home.

Our trip down was excellent and we arrived early afternoon to be greeted by the owner who led us to a farm pen, opened the door and out ran the sweetest little dog you could imagine, scooped up immediately by my wife Sue who exclaimed “we’re having her” My chances of a good deal had just gone down the drain! Our fate was sealed and after a very pleasant evening in Chulmleigh we found, ourselves back at the farm the following morning collecting our new charge. Money’s changed hands, papers sorted, a supply of her current puppy food obtained, popped in her travelling crate and on our way back home we went. Well talk about a change, our adorable soft little pup turned into a screaming howling wolf cub as she experienced car travel for the first time, we knew what to expect but with a 3-4 hour trip ahead it didn’t bode well. Fortunately after about half an hour she was a little sick, made some mess from a couple of other orifices and then settled down. The rest of the journey was quiet and Jess as she was now called was settling in to life with us.

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd

Other blog posts by Steve

The circle of life
Jess the sheep dog at 13 weeks


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Christmas Gift Guide

Our museum shop is packed full of lots of goodies that make would make great stocking fillers for kids this Christmas so we’ve put together a gift guide. Every purchase made in our shop helps to support the Museum.

Wooden Keyring

Wooden Wildlife Keyrings £3.50

Christmas Stamp

Wooden Christmas Stamps £2.50

Christmas YoYo

Wooden Christmas YoYo £2.50

Wooden Wildlife Bookmarks

Wooden Wildlife Bookmarks £3.50

Wild Weather Book

The Wild Weather Book £10.99
Loads of things to do outdoors in rain, wind and snow – great for every child’s imagination!

Viking Pin Badge

Viking Pin Badge £2.50

Medieval Bracelet

Medieval Bracelet £2.25

History Transfers

History Transfers £2.75

Necklaces

Nature’s Gift Necklaces £3.25

Bracelet

Nature’s Gift Bracelets £3.25

Mega Bug Viewer

Mega Bug Viewers £6.50

Sticky Slug

Sticky Slugs £2.00

Diablo

Diablo £10.95

Juggling Balls

Juggling Balls £5.95

Pretty purse

Pretty Purse £3.00

Geode Pieces

Geode Pieces £1.60

Tin YoYo

Tin YoYo £2.70

Wooden knitting doll

Wooden Knitting Doll £5.95

Wooden Loom

Wooden Bead Bracelet Loom £10.95

Wooden Bead Bracelet Loom

Wooden Wool Loom £8.50

Colourful Windmill

Colourful Windmill £3.50

Magnets

Bag of Magnets £2.50

The Museum shop is open Saturdays and Sundays 10am – 5pm until 6th December (excluding Saturday 7th November when the site will be closed for filming).


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The Circle of Life

The problem with dogs is that they don’t last long enough, it is said that one man year equals seven dog years, whatever the answer I know that every fourteen or so years I have to say goodbye to one of my closest friends. A month ago I said goodbye to fifteen year old Ted, when finally his body said I’ve had enough. So it was with a heavy heart that we took that all too familiar trip to the vet and saw him drift away peacefully. He was a great sheepdog, naturally gifted with genetic material passed down over decades, and highly trained over years to do a job that cannot be done by any other animal or machine. He served the museum well herding and holding the sheep for various tasks and thrilled the visitors with his skills in our working displays, he even pitched in with a spot of acting when the film crews were around, most famously in Downton Abbey when they filmed in the farmyard in series two.

Sheepdog, Ted at Chiltern Open Air MuseumChiltern Open Air Museum proudly owns one of the few flocks of Oxford Down Sheep in the country, a breed established around 1830 in the south of England originally in the Oxfordshire area. My job at the museum is volunteer shepherd, something I’ve done here for 23 years and it’s because there’s a saying “there’s no good shepherd without a good dog” that I find myself about to embark on the long struggle towards the perfectly trained sheepdog once again.

Don’t think for one minute I don’t enjoy it, there are few thing’s I like more than the early stages of sheepdog training, trying to assess the latent potential, working out the best way to overcome the problems etc. All dogs are different, like children, and need a slightly different approach, although you can generally categorise them and use tried and trusted methods for each. So, I can’t wait until my new charge is about six month old and I can begin to introduce her to the flock.

So who is she? Well ‘she’ arrived several months too early! As a family we planned to wait until the new year before taking the plunge but a chance conversation with an old friend uncovered a single pup left from a litter from good working dog stock, the sire has competed in the English National Sheepdog Trials. Quickly we organised a trip with an overnight stay in the West Country and collected our new charge, many names were bandied about but ultimately it was Jess that was chosen. So I know how my spare time will be taken up next summer and you maybe lucky to catch a training session at the museum sometime (the early ones can be a bit over enthusiastic).

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd
Chiltern Open Air Museum

 


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The Charcoal Kiln

Next to the Bodger’s Area in our woodland is a charcoal kiln that is used to make charcoal that is sold in our shop. The Estate Team fired up the kiln in August and document the process for us to share with you all.

We started off by making bridges of wood across the bottom of the kiln. This ensures there is good air flow. Then we place the not quite charcoaled wood from the previous burn onto the bridge.

On top goes some smaller bits of chopped wood and dry brash.

Then you can begin to fill the kiln with chopped, dry wood.

Once the kiln has been filled the lid is replaced and some longer lengths of wood are used to prop the lid open to encourage air flow.
The kiln is lit by using a pole, a rag and some paraffin.

The kiln soon begins to smoke

At first, the smoke is thick

For the first hour or so the kiln will continue to be smoky.

After an hour, the wood propping the lid open are removed as the kiln becomes fully lit. We now have to work quickly to pack and keep in the heat.

This is done by using soil or in this case old turves to pack in around the base of the kiln and also around the lid, ensuring the vents are kept open.

Now we wait until the smoke becomes clear and this tells us we can shut down the kiln. There are four chimney’s and each one will need closing down separately depending on wind direction and air flow.

It is now approximately a 12 hour wait until we can shut the kiln down so I’m busy working on a hurdle.

It is important to ensure heat is not allowed to escape as much as possible so we try and fill any gaps with soil.

It’s always exciting taking the lid off after two days of cooling to see how the charcoal has turned out.

The charcoal is then emptied and put in bags.

When we can’t reach the rest, we tip the kiln on it’s side.

There will always be tiny bits of charcoal we can’t bag up with the rest. But it doesn’t go to waste. It can be used as bio char, a soil improver for the garden.

The charcoal all bagged and ready to be sold in our shop.


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We need your support

We would usually open every year daily between the end of March and October. However the Covid-19 emergency means we haven’t yet had the chance to open our doors to the public in 2020.

As an independent museum and charity, we receive no government or local authority funding and have now lost all our regular income from tickets, Annual Passes, events, weddings, school visits, filming and our shop and café. This represents around 80% of our total income.

This loss of income is incredibly worrying. We have some reserves that will keep the basic essentials of the museum ticking over for a few months. However the reserves we have built up over several years mean we’re not necessarily eligible to apply for many of the Covid-19 grants available to museum and heritage charities. While it is good news that we have these reserve funds to keep us secure for a while, the real danger from the loss of income due to the forced closure is that we may not have the opportunity to generate enough income over the 2020 season to survive through the winter 2020-21 closure. Even if the government relaxes the rules allowing us to open in the summer, it is likely there will be restrictions on activities and visitor numbers for a further period which will inevitably limit our ability to recover the lost income.

The management team have reduced outgoings as much as possible and the majority of staff are now on the Government backed Furlough Scheme. Nevertheless a number of essential staff are needed to keep the museum going, to ensure the 45 acre site is secure, maintain the building collection, and feed, water and care for the livestock of goats, cows, chickens and a flock of sheep now increased by around 16 lambs in the last month.

Our beautiful site is a popular place for wellbeing, learning and calm and our museum, like many, is therefore appealing to the community, heritage enthusiasts and supporters for help. We’re asking people to pledge their support by buying an open ticket to visit the museum when it re-opens, to buy an Annual or Lifetime Pass, make a donation or sign up to be a volunteer.


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Echoed Locations- Recording the Sounds of the Chilterns

Help record the sounds of the Chilterns

Noise. Something which is all around us and we mostly tune into either when it is an annoying sound (someone else’s music on the train, fighter jets overhead, rush hour traffic) or when we want to tune out of the environment around us (by plugging into a podcast or our favourite music). But what about all the noise we are not listening to, but which could have huge benefits for our mental health and wellbeing? This is where Echoed Locations comes in- a project aiming to create the first ever sonic map of the Chilterns.

Chilterns Conservation Board Echoed Locations

Initiated by the Chilterns Conservation Board as part of the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership, the project aims to create a sonic map of the Chilterns, which can be used as a resource for years to come. The project has designed sound recording workshops- available to local schools and community groups- which focus first on attentive listening, before moving on to practical and accessible sound recording techniques. The project aims to encourage residents, visitors and especially young people to contribute to the sonic map- but it isn’t just natural sounds that can be submitted.

You could record any of the following (and probably plenty we haven’t thought of) as part of the project:

  • Bird song in your local park
  • Rush hour traffic in Wycombe
  • Reading a poem
  • Singing a song
  • Interviewing your friend, or family member about what makes the Chilterns special to them
  • Rain on a windowpane
  • The babble of a little stream as it passes through a park
  • The chatter of children as they walk to school

When you read this list, hopefully you are thinking about just how many seemingly ordinary sounds like these are what make the Chilterns a unique and special place to live. Echoed Locations was developed because soundscapes (the overall sound ‘picture’ of a place) are unique and important and inform how we feel about a place. When you step off the bus as you arrive home, it is not just the smell of your neighbours’ garden or the sight of your front gate that makes you feel at home- it is likely also the steady hum of a radio nearby, your mother’s voice calling you inside, far away traffic rumbling by. It is only when these sounds are lost from our day-to-day lives do, we really begin to listen- for example, when you arrive in a wood where no birds are singing- it feels odd and we notice the absence of a familiar sound.

As the world around us changes, with increased urbanisation, big industrial projects and climate change, now is the perfect opportunity to record the soundscape of the Chilterns, as a legacy for generations to come. Soundscape recordings are increasingly being used by scientists around the world to monitor the health and biodiversity of natural environments, and this alone is a great reason to get outside and start contributing to this first ever sonic map of the Chilterns.

We want to stress, that no prior knowledge of sound recording is required to get involved! You can read a short ‘Sound Recording Top Tips’ document, as well as submit recordings and access our sonic map on the Chiltern Conservation Board’s website

So please submit your recordings (old or new) which represent sounds across the Chilterns that mean something to you and make this beautiful region feel like home. Recordings should be a minimum of 30 seconds long, and no longer than 10 minutes in total.

If you are interested in having a sound recording workshop held at your school or community group, please get in touch with Elizabeth Buckley on lbuckley@chilternsaonb.org .


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