A few months back, I was lucky enough to be awarded a bursary by The Stalking Directory, in order to do the DSC1. The date was set, and I booked a week off work, to ensure that I would be there (I'm a long distance truck driver, so I can't just take the odd day off here or there). Unfortunately, due to a lack of numbers, that particular course was cancelled; I spoke to John at Greenlee, and he very kindly offered to let me attend the next course, as part of the bursary scheme, even though strictly speaking, the course wasn't being run by BASC.
I had the books, and spent as much time as I could, reading, re-reading, and trying to memorise everything in them – this turned out to be a mistake (at least for me), but more on that later.
So, another week booked off, and the day turned up; cold wet and miserable and I set off on the four hour drive to Hexham. The directions that were provided, were brief, but absolutely spot on, and there were no problems at all with them – the traffic around Sunderland was a completely different matter!
When I got to the final part of the journey, the directions warned that the last mile and a bit were probably better in a 4wd, than in a normal car, and they were not wrong; I don't think that my Peugeot 806 enjoyed the last bit too much!
The directions also warned where mobile phone signal would be lost, and again, they were spot on.
After 'driving' just over a mile along a rough track, I arrived at Greenlee, with ten minutes to spare before the course started.
It has to be said, that looking at the place on Google Earth doesn't do the place any justice at all! The nearest neighbours, from what I can make out, are over a mile away, and the place is very definitely on the far side of remote – I would love to live somewhere like that, but my wife wouldn't!
Quick introductions, and a coffee, then straight into the work. John is an easy going friendly bloke, who wants people to enjoy the course (and pass it), and although much of the stuff involved a slide show, he managed to make it interesting, and enjoyable.
We carried on until around 1800 (from 1300) and then knocked off for the night, ready to restart at 0900 the next morning.
The next morning I decided to leave my car at the bottom car park, and walk up the track (muddy, rocky, full of puddles, and a few streams running over it). By the time I had gotten half way there, I was knackered, but fortunately the local shepherd arrived with his tractor, and offered me a lift to the top. The trailer on the back contained a large lamb, who turned out to be called Rufus; he was a nice sheep, but the friendship was doomed to be short-lived!
About ten minutes after we arrived at the top, Rufus breathed his last breath.
John and PatrickT had been given the opportunity to give a demonstration of gralloching, and inspection using a live(?) animal, which has to better than just watching a DVD; it was certainly interesting, and allowed us to see real examples of parasites, and possible illnesses.
The rest of the day continued with lessons in the classroom, with slides, coffee breaks, and a bit of banter – and thankfully the heating was on! Lunch was provided by Johns wife, and she did an excellent job of it.
Again, we continued until around 1800, ready for a 9.00am start the next morning.
The morning started bright and (an hour) earlier, due to the clocks changing faster than my body clock!
The morning was to consist of the tests, and had me flapping a bit (well quite a lot really)! I don't handle tests well, no matter how much, or how well I may have prepared. The range test went well, as did the simulated stalk/safety test, but then the multi choice tests came up, as well as the deer identification tests, which I really didn't enjoy at all! This is where I realised the mistake I had made with the reading, re-reading, and memorising – I had that much stuff floating about in my head, that I was having issues seperating one bit of information from another, and it was causing me some massive confidence problems.
John had told me over the phone, a few weeks earlier, to take it easy, and not to get too bogged down in details – in retrospect, very good advice, that others may want to heed, as I should have!
Despite my panicking, and the long drive, it really was an excellent weekend, and pass or fail, I feel that I have learned a lot.
I had never met John or Patrick prior to this, and they both turned out to be good blokes, who wanted us to pass the course – they didn't even seem to get too upset when other people cracked the jokes, even though Patrick insisted that the jokes were HIS job!
I would just like to say a massive thank-you to everyone that helped me to make the most of this opportunity, so thank-you to -
JAYBE and the Admin of The Stalking Directory for awarding me the bursary in the first place,
Moray Outfitting, for the Z-Aim sling, which they donated as part of the bursary scheme,
Mauser 243 who donated a rifle-scope,
John Snowden (Greenlee) & Mrs. Snowden
If I have forgotten anyone, please do not be offended, it's not done on purpose!