Craft Education & Practice in Bulgaria
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Craft Education & Practice in Bulgaria

It was interesting to hear that despite training opportunities there is not much uptake by young people to follow a career path in crafts. Many leave rural areas and head to the larger towns and cities for employment. Indeed some villages we drove through had an abundance of derelict houses and one we were told had 300 homes occupied out of a total of 1000. So what can be done to encourage young people into a career path within crafts? The model of an apprenticeship whereby the individual receives training through a dual system is an approach which works well. This involves a combination of theoretic training in an educational establishment combined with practical training in a crafts enterprise. Over the last few years Historic Environment Scotland has directed funding into apprenticship schemes in a number of its directorates. In the area of conservation there are paid apprenticeships in tradition crafts such as stonemasonary, joinerary, plumbing and painting. Individuals receive a wage and are guarrenteed employment after successful completion of the training. Indeed apprenticeship schemes across Scotland in all areas of work are on the rise.

Connecting people with cultural and natural heritage in Bulgaria, and lessons for Scotland
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Connecting people with cultural and natural heritage in Bulgaria, and lessons for Scotland

The Association was set up after our host Velis and her co-worker Iva were touring the villages of the Plateau more than a decade ago and looking into ways they could help the region develop for the benefit of the residents. They discovered people in neighbouring villages with similar interests but no communication between them, a lack of accommodation for visitors, and rich cultural and natural heritage – worth sharing – that had been ignored, mistreated or neglected. Relying on the memories and experiences of local people, they found and cleared up some of these sites, installing interpretation and path networks, and advertised them in tourist guides. Visitor numbers went from 15,000 per year to more than 250,000 in only a few years

Study Visit to Bulgaria & the Devetaki Plateau
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Study Visit to Bulgaria & the Devetaki Plateau

Infrastructure improvements are generally costly, but DTA has made significant inroads into connecting the villages to twenty-first century Bulgaria and the rest of the world by the installation of publicly available internet facilities in each of the community centres. Residents, with suitable training, are thus able to read news, contact relatives, order goods and otherwise develop and maintain contacts with other parts of Bulgaria and the wider world. DTA has also initiated language classes, a project which has many potential benefits in the wider tourism strategy for the area.

Summary Report for NET 5 2019
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Summary Report for NET 5 2019

2019 has been another great year for the NET Programme. Our hosts have delivered a wide range of innovative and well-crafted courses in nature conservation and cultural heritage management, and the NET participants have created an excellent and diverse range of reports from films encouraging agroforesty in Scotland, outreach activities based on Slovak cave houses, […]

Film: Dehesa – A Spanish Agroforestry Farming System & Implications for Scotland
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Film: Dehesa – A Spanish Agroforestry Farming System & Implications for Scotland

There are very few contemporary examples of agroforestry in Scotland today, so to help land managers visualise what this system could look like and how it might work on your farm, we have made a short film about a living, working agroforestry farm in the south of Spain. The system is called Dehesa, and although the climate is different, the Dehesa has many parallels with marginal land in the Scottish uplands.

Inspiring Identity: how heritage connects community in Southern Slovakia – Lišov Múzeum
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Inspiring Identity: how heritage connects community in Southern Slovakia – Lišov Múzeum

The museum champions the lifestyles of people in the years current and previous, and the skills and knowledge linked to this are being upheld, celebrated and rejuvenated. Lišov Múzeum is less a museum about archaeology and artefacts and more a museum about a way of life, and a community. It feels like it preserves less of a specific time period, but looks towards history as more of an template for our modern world, assessing what we can learn from the past to improve what we do today, which on a much broader scale allows us to asses our own identities in the process.

Glimpses of Thracian Landscapes
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Glimpses of Thracian Landscapes

At the cultural centre, we chat with the ladies, who welcome us with evident pride, about the people and stories of Gorsko Slivovo. The gallery space provides powerful juxtaposition: on one wall, dark eyes stare, four mothers dressed in black, four sons sacrificed, partisan scenes of resistance and death. A shrine remembers oppressions past, Soviet, Ottoman, Roman; on the other wall, paintings of traditional dress, costumes of colour and hope, the shepherds practical garb, lively animals and fertile fields. The promise of bounty and celebration of a community, who knew it is only the land, which has always been there, and through commitment sustains them. Like some ongoing conversation across the gallery, these faces of Bulgaria continue to speak.

Wetland & Coastal Management in the Odra Delta – a model for Mersehead?
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Wetland & Coastal Management in the Odra Delta – a model for Mersehead?

It was a great opportunity to be able to spend a week looking at the various types of parks and reserves in the Odra Delta and seeing the benefits and challenges of each. I think we were all blown away by how rich and diverse the wildlife and landscapes are, not just within the protected areas, but in the general landscape of the region as a whole.

The main issues facing protected areas and wildlife in general in Poland seems to be a familiar one, lack of funding, staffing and awareness, which is all too familiar a problem in the UK as well. Due to Poland’s history, many people do not feel a connection to the land and so one of the results is that volunteering is nearly non-existant, which is a shame as this could be a rich source of help that is currently unavailable. It will also be interesting to see how the reserves will cope with climate change; increased pressure from predation and invasive species is tied in to this (as seen at Ujscie Warty NP) and subsequently pressure on staff time and funding for projects to deal with this. Hopefully the diversity of the landscapes means that they are slightly more resilient than they are here in the UK and that people can be inspired to protect the amazing wildlife and landscape that they currently have.

Woodland Regeneration & Grazing in South West Norway
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Woodland Regeneration & Grazing in South West Norway

It was amazing to explore the regenerating forests in SW Norway and to understand better how native forests can develop with a lower browsing pressure.

Deer management practices differ between Norway and Scotland, with carcass weights used to determine deer quotas in Norway, indicating the overall health of the population and helping to balance its impacts on woodland regeneration.

Cultural and social factors have influenced the woodland regeneration we saw, from the abandonment of farms over the 20th Century to the different attitudes to hunting, foraging and land-use in Norway.

The diversity of species and structure in the Norwegian forest sets an example for us to aspire to in Scotland, and we need to consider how to integrate a rebounding forest within Scotland’s cultural and social setting.

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