Nothing could be more true to describe what I’ve been up to this week. Lots of different tasks, lots to learn, lots of fun 🙂
This week we set up a bit of a work exchange. On Monday Neil and James joined Liz and I on East Mendip in return for us helping them out on West Mendip on Tuesday. For Monday we were working on Yoxter pulling ragwort, whilst we were doing the same but at Ubley Warren on Tuesday.
I know the subject of pulling ragwort can cause divisions in thoughts, and I have heard this article by Buglife mentioned a few times recently. Here’s my understanding on the need to control ragwort: Due to it’s toxicity to animals, in meadows that will be used for hay it needs to be removed completely so it isn’t caught up in the harvest. In land that is just grazed I think that animals generally avoid eating it unless there isn’t any thing else to eat, though obviously there is still an element of risk. Another major issue, especially on reserves is that without some measure of control ragwort can just take over; I’ve seen plenty of fields turned yellow by the amount of ragwort in it. Controlling ragwort gives other species a chance to flourish (This is all my own understanding/views so if I’m wrong that is purely my own fault).
Two days of ragwort pulling was pretty hard work. I have blister on one of my fingers and had aching forearms, a first for me. I realised I’m never going to need to join the gym whilst working on reserves. I also learnt that you should never be separated from your rucksack after I left mine in Neil’s Landrover and the heavens opened whilst he was on the other side of Ubley, so I got soaked. I won’t be doing that one again!
I started Wednesday off by varnishing a few interpretation boards in preparation for them to be put together and taken to reserves before we went off the Yarley Fields for the day. Yarley Fields is a really beautiful grassland reserve with lovely views across the Levels and of Glastonbury Tor. We were there to remove the few bits of ragwort before the cows come on and to thin out the Creeping Thistle. I was slightly distracted from working by the number of butterflies that were around; there were so many! And all different species, from Speckled Wood to Gatekeeper, Common Blue to Small Tortoishell, Clouded Yellow to Small Copper, I could go on. I also got some good views of the Great Green Bush Cricket; as the name suggests it is very green and very big! Jobs finished we ended the day with a spot of plant id, trying out my new Rose, Key to Wildflowers, and trying to not sit on the Dwarf Thistles!
Yesterday was another lots of different jobs day. We started off by going to check on a fence that a car had run into over the weekend. They’ve hit a strainer and also knocked the wall down onto the wire so it is now on the jobs to do next week. We then nipped over to Cheddar to buy some more materials for interpretation boards before attempting for the gazillionth time to collect the scrap metal from Limekiln Fields. The lock defeated us once again; despite a liberal spraying with WD40 it still would not turn. After a brief inspection we decided, it would take a few trips, but we could walk the metal out of the field. Apparently if you’re a cow then people removing scrap metal from your field is the most fascinating thing possible! The afternoon was more ragwort pulling at Yoxter. We found the ponies whilst we were there; really beautiful Exmoor ponies which made me smile rather a lot. Yes, I know they’re only ponies but I grew up with horses so they always bring a smile to my face. I ended the day marking out the boards ready to be cut out once we have the jigsaw.
Today was proof that things never go as you’d planned. Claire was joining the reserves team for the day and she and I were both meant to be out with Neil. Neil arrived at Chancellors a little late due to escapee cows from Draycott Sleights so the first order of the day was a visit to the Callow Office to create some signs to remind visitors to close the gate behind them. This involved my first experience of using a laminater (get me learning new skills :P). Neil started to feel pretty unwell at that point. Not wanting to abandon Claire and I for the day with nothing to do, and having heard us talking about or reserves lists (we both have the aim of visiting all Somerset Wildlife Trusts over a year here) Neil set us loose with a Landy, an OS map and the folder with the reserve compartments to explore.
Our first port of call was Draycott Sleights to put up the signs. It was also a new reserve for Claire and I wanted her to see the view from up at the top. There were still a few Chalkhill Blues around and we were testing out our recently gained botany knowledge as we wandered around. After consulting the maps we decided Cooks Field was our next port of call. We parked at Deer Leap and walked across to the reserve. We weren’t entirely sure where we were going but had a nice wander around. I’ve acquired a Carrion Crow skull that I need to work out how to clean without upsetting the housemates and we were fascinated with the Wooly Thistle that we managed to ID all by ourselves. By the time we’d climbed back to the top of the hill we really felt like we’d earnt our lunch.
Re-fueled we attempted, and failed, to find Tor Hole Fields so instead settled for visiting Velvet Bottom. There were lots of Harebells out at Velvet Bottom, quickly becoming my favourite flower, and swarms of flying ants. The reserve filled in a nice gap in both of our reserves list as we’d both visited Ubley Warren and Back Rock whilst missing out the part in between. It was a really nice way to spend the day, catching up on what the other has been up to, exploring places we’ll be working on and constantly testing our id skills.
Next week will be interesting as I’m off to the office in Taunton on Monday to meet some of the staff there, have a couple of days out on Mendip with Liz, then James and the volunteers and then I’m off to Birdfair with AFON. Can’t wait!