The Start of my Somerset Adventure

How is it already the start of my third week as a trainee?! Where has all the time gone? It has flown by and I’ve been having an amazing time. My aim is to try and do a blog post every week detailing what I’ve been up to but as you can see I’ve already failed with that! Too much has happened for me to lump everything in one post, and it wouldn’t do it justice so I’ll write a couple of posts tonight / tomorrow to get myself caught up. So without further ado here’s what I did in my first week:

Our first week started on the Tuesday (1st July so a nice, easy to remember date), and we spent the morning at the Callow Rock office going through the introductions to the Trust, the Wild Futures programme and filling in various bits of paperwork. It was the perfect chance to get re-acquainted with the other trainees and the staff as we had plenty of time to chat between activities. There are three other trainees apart from myself; Claire has the Volunteer and Community Engagement role, Chris is the Survey and Monitoring trainee and Olivia has a Practical Conservation position, but is based with the Ford Farm team. Although we had quite a few forms to fill in, we were all excited to get started, so it wasn’t too much of a chore. Once the forms were completed we all were given the task of creating a ‘Personalitree’. This is a tree made up to represent you; the roots are your past, the trunk is your skills and personality and the branches, leaves and fruit are your interests, hobbies, achievements and dreams. They were quite difficult to get started, working out what you wanted to include and where it would fit, but it was another way to learn more about each other.

My personalitree
My personalitree

After lunch, where we were joined by the other staff who were in the office, Jessy took Claire and I, along with our mentors, Rosie and Liz to Ubley Warren. Chris was whisked off to do some survey work and Olivia has badly sprained her ankle, so after a few introductory bits, has delayed her start date for a month. At Ubley we had a wander around, giving us a chance to see the site and have a chat. Lots of mining for various metals used to occur in the area, and you can see the evidence of this as you walk around; ‘rakes’ show where veins of minerals were worked and the odd hollow will reveal a capped off mine shaft. Whilst the others were focussing more on what plants they could see I was enjoying the flurry of butterfly activity all around. I counted ten species just on our short walk with the highlights for me being a beautiful Marbled White and the gorgeously bold and bright Silver Washed Fritillaries.

Beautiful Ubley Warren
Beautiful Ubley Warren

On Wednesday we met another member of staff, Janet, at Westhay Moor to do some accessibility work. Over the course of the day we gathered various pieces of information about the car parks, hides and paths to be added to the website, so that people who may have issues with access have all the information they need, easy to find, to plan their visit. It was really interesting to hear all about the history of Westhay as it was once been a sight for peat digging, but had been remodelled to become a haven for wildlife.

Westhay
Westhay

Whilst we were in the bird hide, Fin, the work experience boy, who had joined us for the day, shouted out that he could see an otter. I didn’t really believe him but ran round just in case and low and behold I caught sight of the sleek mustelid’s brown back slipping underneath the water. We stared transfixed down the channel it had takenย and were rewarded with another sighting, this time of it’s head as it surfaced briefly before disappearing into the reeds. My grin could have split my face in two; only half an hour earlier I’d been saying I’d never seen an otter and was planning to camp out until I did.

Pretty cool starling sculpture
Pretty cool starling sculpture

Amazing wildlife sightings continued through out the day. As we walked across the boggy part of Westhay, Chris lifted a metal sheet to find an adder resting underneath. There were dragon and damsel flies galore as we wandered around. After lunch we headed to Catcott and had to watch where we put our feet amongst the mass of froglets and toadlets. I also got another first in the form of a Marsh Harrier and managed to tick my first Ringlet of the year.

We got an introduction to the brand new office in Taunton on Thursday. This meant being introduced to everyone, though there were that many people I hope they don’t get offended if I can’t remember their names next time I meet them! After an introduction to the computer and email system, and a few more forms it was time for some serious planning of what we were going to cook for our meal on Brownsea! Knowing we had to cater for 20-ish people made this a little tricky but we eventually got the menu and the amounts all sussed out!

After lunch Chris went off for more survey work and Jessy took us girls off to Mole Valley to buy some PPE (personal protective equipment). I very quickly discovered that my feet are only just big enough for me to be able to get steel capped wellies! After sending the staff of numerous times to hunt for items of clothing in various sizes we all managed to find what we needed.

All kitted up - Claire, Olivia and I
All kitted up – Claire, Olivia and I in our matching waterproofs!

On the Friday I went along with others on the Reserves team on a trip to Exmoor. We were there to look at the work on flood management carried out by the National Trust on their Holnicote Estate. After a talk on all the work that has been carried out we had a walk round to see it in place. It was really interesting to hear the different ways flooding could be combated or the effects lessen, and to hear about all the planning, applications and agreements that are all needed for a lot of reserve work. Once lunch was finished we went down to Bossington for a walk up to Hurlestone Point and then back along the shingle beach to see Porlock Ridge and the saltmarsh.

View on the ascent to Hurlestone Point
View on the ascent to Hurlestone Point

On the way up to the point we walked past a Common Lizard basking at the side of the path. Looking out across the sea we could see Gannets fishing. Suddenly there was a cry of ‘Porpoise!’ and I began to scan the water frantically. It wasn’t long before I saw the smooth back and dorsal fin. It soon became clear there was more than one, an individual had a lighter flank than others, and they were being spotted too far apart. Amongst us all we came to the conclusion that there were three individuals. They must have been hunting as we found we could track the porpoises by watching the gannets; who would dive into the water just in front of where the porpoises would breach; I assume helping themselves to the fish the cetaceans were chasing. For what felt like the millionth time that week I once again had a ridiculous grin on my face.

Looking across to Hurlestone Point
Looking across to Hurlestone Point

By the end of the first week I could feel myself falling a little in love with Somerset. I had so many brilliant wildlife sightings, without purposefully going looking for things, and it got me even more excited about this coming year than I already was. I really do feel like I’m starting off on some new great adventure and I really can’t wait to see where it leads.

Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

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