Emily Bryson ELT

Month: July 2021

The refuge of redwoods

I’d like to share my obsession with tall trees with you. Beware! I caught this from a friend at college and have since passed it on to others. Most of my adventures don’t feel complete unless I’ve hugged one. There are over 4000 recorded around Scotland and stumbling upon one adds a hint of magic to my outdoors escapades. I have ran, walked, cycled and paddleboarded just to marvel at them.

Running to a Redwood in Rouken Glen Park.

People often ask ‘Why Redwoods?’ And I’ve thought long and hard. I love all trees. They are each diverse and unique. Scots Pines can be delightfully buckled or juxtaposed by their straight and serious neighbours. Beech tree foliage is so impenetrable that they dominate and create fairy forests wherever they grow. Acer Griseum and Silver Birch have the most delicate, intriguing bark. Yews have an eery mysticism. But there’s still something about redwoods.

It could be that Redwoods are superlative trees. Some are over 3000 years old, making them the oldest on the planet. They are the tallest and biggest. They can grow to 100m in height, and some are so wide you can drive through them. They are the best trees in the world for carbon offsetting because they soak up so much C02. They are also the cuddliest and safest trees, with their super spongy, fire-proof, bark. And, of course, they provide excellent refuge from the rain.

A Giant Redwood at Nethy Bridge.

But, I think perhaps what I love most about them is that, like my students, they are New Scots. Giant and Coast Redwoods are originally from the west coast of America while Dawn redwoods hail from China. They are endangered in their home countries, but have found sanctuary here in Scotland.

The ex-situ trees found in arboretums, country parks and gardens across Scotland help protect the worldwide population. If a catastrophe happened in the Sierra Nevada, for example, there would still be trees flourishing here in Scotland.

Paddleboarding to the Redwoods at Inchmaholme Priory, Lake of Menteith.

Of course, some redwoods are in danger in Scotland too. Much like people from refugee backgrounds, ex-situ trees aren’t always offered the protection they deserve. When a Quarry application went through at Gillies hill, the Tree Protection Order was refused due to their ‘non-native’ status. This, despite the trees having root systems dating back to 1860.

Much like humans, there is an eternal debate as to when ‘ex-situ’ becomes ‘native’. The oldest Scottish redwoods settled here 170 years ago so arguably they are Scots rather than New Scots. Though personally I prefer to think of everyone and everything as citizens of the world.

So, what I’ve come to realise, is that part of my fascination with redwoods stems from my advocacy for New Scots. Everyone and every tree is welcome and enriching. And I’ll stand by them just as I’ll stand up for refugee rights.

If you’d like to know more about redwoods in Scotland, here are some of my blog posts:



My Glasgow Running Routes Redwood Running Route


Are there any redwoods near you? Do you have a favourite tree? What causes do you advocate for?

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ESOL for Employability: support organisations every practitioner should know about

I recently delivered a webinar for National Geographic Learning on Embedding Employability and Life Skills into the ESOL Curriculum. Along with all the engaging ways the Voices coursebook series embeds employability (watch this space for another post), I shared some of the wonderful projects from across Europe that support ESOL learners’ employability and life skills. Here they are:

Bridges Programmes

This organisation is near to my heart as I have worked so closely with them over the years. The ESOL for Vocational Purposes courses which I developed for City of Glasgow College have mostly been in collaboration with Bridges. This well-oiled machine supports anyone living in Glasgow whose first language is not English by delivering training and arranging volunteer or work placements. This image is of my learners on a construction site visit. https://www.bridgesprogrammes.org.uk/

Heart and Parcel

Two friends in Manchester set up this organisation because they believed food brings people together. ESOL learners can sign up to their free online English classes and learn to cook at the same time. They also run cookalong classes to teach people how to cook dishes from around the world. https://heartandparcel.org/

Bread and Roses

I found out about this organisation while hillwalking in the Cairngorms with a friend. Their friend was up from London and told me about the amazing subscription floristry project she ran. Bread and Roses run floristy training programmes for women from refugee backgrounds to help them improve their language and work skills. Genius. https://www.wearebreadandroses.com/


East London Advanced Technology Training (ELATT) run pretty much every vocational skills course you can name. They want to make learning new skills accessible to all and offer full, part-time and evening courses. https://www.elatt.org.uk/

City of Glasgow College ESOL Job Club

One of the Modern Apprentice students at Arnold Clark.

I can’t write a post without mentioning my fabulous co-worker Pam Turnbull and the incredible things she has done for the learners at my college. Pam tirelessly networks with the local community to create work, volunteer and apprenticeship opportunities for ESOL students at City of Glasgow College. She also supports them with job searches and applications. She’s a true shero. The image is one of our CoGC students on a Modern Apprenticeship with Arnold Clark.

Laget Quo Vadis

I had the good fortune of visiting this organisation on an Erasmus+ funded trip to Oslo a few years ago and their innovative work has stuck with me. This organisation provides Norwegian classes and trains learners in textiles, ceramics and cooking. Graduates leave with strong transferrable skills and the confidence to succeed. http://www.laget.oslo.no/about


The Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation is a London based organisation who provide training, advocacy and support for women from Kurdish, Middle Eastern and North African communities in the UK. They offer training in digital skills, employability, ESOL, parenting and exercise classes. https://www.kmewo.com/

Code your Future

CyF are a coding school for people from refugee backgrounds and disadvantaged people. They are a non-profit organisation that trains marginalised groups to be web developers and find employment in the tech industry. CyF training is delivered by volunteers and graduates have progressed to prestigious organisations such as BBC, Financial Times and Ticketmaster. https://codeyourfuture.io/


These are just a few of the inspiring organisations and projects that I’ve heard of over the years. Do you know any others? Please share anything I could in the comments or via my twitter.

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