A little bit of everything

I was meant to write a post last week detailing what I’d been up to over the last couple of weeks but it never got past the half written stage. Due to a combination of a first aid course, holidays, visits to family and friends and birthday shenanigans I had a few weeks of only being able to go out volunteering one day a week. Last week saw a return back to three days a week and it couldn’t have been better weather for it! So here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to.

Recently we seem to have been turning our hands to some construction; a nice change from chopping things down! Back in mid April I had the chance to try my hand at fence building. I’d been on a first aid course on the Tuesday and Wednesday whilst the Northern work party and the Midweekers had started on replacing the fence around the car park at Rod Wood and fixing damaged stiles but I managed to join them on the Thursday. The first task was digging the holes to put the fence posts in. Our fence was following the line of an old dry stone wall so it was rather difficult at times but the use of a giant metal bar to loosen the earth made it easier. Once the posts were in we started attaching the first rail so that the stock wire could be attached without making the posts wonky. For some reason I was trusted with the drill, and went along behind one of the other volunteers, drilling in the screws. I also had a go at attaching the wire. I managed both fine, but having an audience made me a little nervous. It was quite an enjoyable feeling of satisfaction, once the fence was complete, to step back and think ‘I built that’.

Our fence (just missing another rail)
Our fence (just missing another rail)

After my holiday down in Devon (which you can read about here) my next day out was on a Tuesday with Lucy to Croxall Lakes. We were there to add some adoption plaques to benches and put in a new one. It felt wrong to put up a beautiful new oak bench then gouge a big dent in it to put the plaque in! Whilst we were there we also did a few other little jobs around the reserves which included checking the hides (and having a little look at what birds we could see whilst we were in there). We ended the day with some tasks around the car park; Lucy re-attached the leaflet dispenser whilst I cut back the nettles around the gate and did some litter picking.

Not a bad spot for a bench :)
Not a bad spot for a bench 🙂

The week after that was another one where I only managed to get out on one day; this time on a Thursday. We were at Hem Heath putting in some benches and building a board walk. I started off helping three of the other volunteers put up benches. They’re dotted around amongst the rides and some of them had really beautiful views of the bluebells that were out. We got all four benches up and finished after tea break and went to join the others who were working on a board walk. It was a rather muddy affair and I’m surprised that the drills survived but with a bit of team work we got it finished by the end of the day.

One of the benches
One of the benches
The finished board walk (I didn't take this photo - I stole it from Lucy O'Toole)
The finished board walk – look at all that mud! I’m the third from the right.
(I stole this photo from Lucy O’Toole)

Last week was all back to normal and Tuesday saw me heading out with Lucy and Jeff to do some Tree Safety Surveys. We started off at Brankley Pastures where Jeff explained to me about how they split areas of the reserves in to A zones and B zones, based on if they are car parks, by roads, near buildings, footpaths etc and the amount of footfall each area sees. Zone A requires all the trees to be checked annually whilst trees in B zones are checked every three years. Trees are checked for any sort of damage which is noted down along with the tree species, height and other information. Any problem trees are tagged (a little plastic disk with a number on which is nailed to the tree) to make it easier to identify them again. Any action that is required is recorded and a time frame in which this needs to be carried out is decided. This action could include felling the tree or just doing checks more often on that particular tree to keep track of any deterioration in its condition.

After Brankley we stopped off at Croxall to check the trees around the car park and by the second hide, and also did a bit of litter picking. People who litter really wind me up, especially in a car park. You’ve brought your McDonalds or your KFC or your drink to the place in the car, it won’t kill you to take it home whereas leaving it in the car park may kill some wildlife! One of the items of litter I picked up was a pair of Jack Wills boxers; the less I know about that the better!

One of the better findings in the car park at Croxall - a lovely Small Tortoiseshell
One of the better findings in the car park at Croxall – a lovely Small Tortoiseshell

Our final stop for the day was George’s Hayes. We checked the Zone A trees around the car park and then had specific zone B trees to check. These trees had all been tagged previously, for various reasons, and it was deemed they needed checking every two years. It was difficult at times to spot which trees we were looking for but there is a brilliant display of ramsons and bluebells at George’s at the minute which meant I couldn’t complain about blundering around in woodland (and it smelt divine). We did manage to locate all the trees and there weren’t any that required urgent attention; just a few will need the ivy removing from them and an eye kept on some others.

So much wild garlic!
So much wild garlic!

On Wednesday we were at Thorswood citronella spraying ragwort. We were working in an area I hadn’t been to before, in the woods where lots of mine shafts have been capped off with concrete. It was interesting to see that the bluebells are only just out there where in other places they’ve started to go over. I think we’re getting better at walking in straight lines as a group as well. Citronella spraying isn’t the most interesting of the jobs that we do but it does give us a chance to spot lots of wildlife. I can add a few new wild flowers to my ‘things-I-know’ list and a moth has given me a chance to use my moth book I got for my birthday. A pair of ravens were calling when we first arrived, making appearances throughout the day and a walk over the top of the reserve, once we’d finished, gave me my first Wheatear sighting, a lovely female.

Mountain Pansy
Mountain Pansy
Lunchtime view
Lunchtime view
A Brown Silver-line (I think. Please correct me if I am wrong)
A Brown Silver-line (I think. Please correct me if I am wrong)

Casey Bank was our destination on Thursday and I managed to drive the Landy there with no mishaps. We were citronella-ing again. There didn’t seem to be much ragwort there at all, which is good as it means that all the other volunteers work there in previous years is paying off. There were loads of butterflies around and I was delighted to stumble on a Green Hairstreak. They like the bilberry that grows at Casey, and once I’d spotted one, it was easier to pick out more. One of the volunteers Paul, found a beautiful Emperor Moth that was not fazed in the slightest by us all taking photos of it and some of the others spotted a lizard though that scampered off before I could get close enough to see.

What a beauty!
What a beauty!
The only Green Hairstreaks we managed to get photos of, as they were preoccupied.
The only Green Hairstreaks we managed to get photos of, as they were preoccupied.
My new friend from lunchtime
My new friend from lunchtime

I’m hoping the nice weather stays around for this week though I am going to be putting sun cream in my bag as I did look at little like Rudolph on Thursday evening!

Beth 🙂

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