Championships set to conker the rest

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SATURDAY’S Scottish Conker Championships could be more hotly contested than ever following the cancellation of the sport’s world championship south of the border, writes Sally Gillespie.

The popular event is organised by Borders Forest Trust (BFT) and is part of the annual Tweed Valley Forest Festival which starts on Saturday for eight days.

“We are hoping for fine autumn weather and a good turnout. The championships always attract a good crowd from across the Borders, but this year we are anticipating competitors from further afield following the sad cancellation of the World Conker Championships earlier this month due to high winds,” said Lisa Brydon, BFT’s community woodland officer.

New events at the festival this year include bushcraft and wildlife walks at Kailzie Gardens, the Big Draw on Sunday – part of a national campaign to encourage more people to draw and paint – and bushcraft for kids.

The festival is also running alongside the first international chutney festival at Neidpath Castle on Saturday and the Peebles Food Festival this weekend.

There will be ghost walks at Traquair and Bowhill Houses, and Hallowe’en events at Wooplaw community wood and at Traquair. Another highlight is the two-day Wood Market on the Green this weekend when purchasers can buy wood products direct from makers.

Modern forestry will be showcased on Tuesday when a conservation ranger will take people to see tree felling and harvest machinery at work in Traquair Forest. The same day there will be a presentation on the book Woodlanders, which celebrates an emerging woodland culture, telling the stories of people – many of them local – whose lives have been enriched by wood.

On Wednesday there is a free outing to see heritage trees in the Kailzie and Fairnilee Estates, while near Selkirk there is a free guided walk around the trees of Philiphaugh Estate.

Thursday afternoon brings a guided walk at Kailzie estate, while on Friday people have the chance to learn to leaf print in Innerleithen.

A gentle three-hour guided bike ride takes place at Glentress on Saturday morning while children are offered the opportunity to learn bushcraft and play outdoors at Kailzie Gardens. A bushcraft walk on Sunday at Kailzie will let hikers learn how ancestors 6,000 years ago lived and learn bushcraft and nature awareness skills, such as building shelters, fire by friction, foraging, tracking and fox walking.

For more information see www.forest-festival.com or contact festival organiser Chris Sawers on 07801 308991.