Busy, busy, busy and only one reserve

As the title of the post may suggest I have been super busy this week, so busy in fact that up until today I didn’t set foot on a single nature reserve. Considering I’m a practical conservation trainee, who is always on the reserves as I have pretty much nothing to do in the office (yet anyway) that may give you an idea of quite how hectic this week has been!

The week started with a trip to the office in Taunton to meet some more members of staff. First on the list was Tim Youngs, head of reserves. As Olivia and I are both practical trainees we do spend the vast majority of our time out on them but we know mostly about our own little areas (so Mendip for me). It was really interesting to hear them considered as the whole estate, the history of why the Trust now owns or manages them and possible ideas for the future.

In the afternoon we met some of the staff from SERC (Somerset Environmental Record Centre). They have a huge amount of data on species and habitats from sights all across the county which have been provided by both the public and professional ecologists. The data can be accessed for use in conservation, planning and research. The staff talked us through how they input and handle the data, so it remains in a standard form even though it can come in from a variety of sources. They were all extremely friendly and have told us we are more than welcome to pop in with any questions for them at any time.

Tuesday was another office day but this time at Callow with all of the reserves staff from the different teams. We were all there to have some training on the the Reserves Management System. This is, in very basic terms, a computer system that will allow staff to log, using maps, any work that has been done. It looks fantastic for keeping records of what work has been carried out, and looks as if it will become more valuable the more it is used.

Whilst we were all gathered in some place we had a bit of a Health and Safety Session. There is a new member of staff who is currently in the process of coordinating Health and Safety for the four South West Wildlife Trusts and she was updating us on various points. We also did a little bit of manual handling training, with us having to correctly pick up and carry a box full of leaflets as our practical side!

On Wednesday I was back at the Taunton office for a little while to write up some bits for the website and magazine but also to help with any last minute things and prepare for the Volunteer Conference that was happening that afternoon. It was also the first time all four of us have been together since our first week back at the beginning of July! This also somehow coincided with Rachel, who runs the whole Wildfutures programme, dropping into the office to see Jessy, who looks after the four of us. It was great to see her and hear a bit about how the others are getting on and what is planned for our next residential week.

Olivia, Claire, Chris and I - all together at last!
Olivia, Claire, Chris and I – all together at last!

We spent the afternoon over in East Quantoxhead helping with the Volunteer Conference. This is an annual event which brings together volunteers from all over the Trust, to give them a chance to meet but also to hear about what has been going on; it’s one way that the Trust shows how much it values and appreciates its volunteers. After helping set out the room Claire and I donned lovely hi-vis jackets to help direct the cars. There wasn’t much space by the village hall so the cars were parked further down by the duck pond. It was a beautiful little place. There was a huge group of swallows gathered by the pond, darting across the water and perching on the telephone wires. I think they were getting ready to leave us 😦

Duck Pond
Duck Pond

Before the conference started one of the volunteers, Nigel Phillips, led a walk down to the beach to point out some of the fantastic wildlife that Somerset’s unappreciated coast boasts. We found that much down on the beach, and everyone was so keen to learn about everything, that our walk didn’t get any further then about 200m away from the bottom of the steps onto the beach! Sightings included at least 6 species of sea weed, anemones, limpets, barnacles, periwinckles, sea lettuce, fossils and a few volunteers even saw a Peregrine as we made our way back to the village hall!

Beach
Beach
Volunteers hanging onto Nigel's every word
Volunteers hanging onto Nigel’s every word

Back at the village hall there were a series of talks from various members of staff about different aspects of the Trusts work, what it has achieved in the last 50 years and what they want to achieve in the future. We had to give a short talk too, introducing the scheme and ourselves. There was also a session where in small groups we discussed some new novel ways of getting people onto nature reserves. There was plenty of time to mingle and talk to all the volunteers too and fingers crossed over the next year we will all have plenty of opportunities to work with and learn from them all.

Volunteer Conference
Volunteer Conference

On Thursday I made my first visit to Ford Farm to do my Brush-cutter training. I have been using a brush-cutter for probably a year now, so feel fairly competent with one, but at least now I have my ticket and can tick it off the list when it comes round to job applications again. It was still quite an interesting day as it covers all the maintenance side as well and our instructor covered some of the mechanics, an area I know nothing about. Going over there also meant I got to have a sneaky-peek at the Ford Farm guys workshop and tools. They have a lot more space then we do on Mendip but they are on a smelly chicken farm, rather then our picturesque one so I think overall we win 🙂

Officially licensed to strim!
Officially licensed to strim!

I had Friday off to attend the A Focus on Nature Vision for Nature conference in Cambridge (you can read about day 1 here) but went out today with the East Mendip Practical Conservation Volunteers. This group meet on the first Sunday of every month so today was my first chance to go out with them. We were at Harridge Woods doing a couple of jobs, cutting back vegetation around the seating area and cutting a glade. The volunteer Reserve Warden also helps out with Somerset Bat Group so I was talking to her about going along to some of their events. It turned out to be a lovely day, and I was so glad to get outside properly after the hectic-ness of the last week. I even managed to get in a spot of butterfly stalking, and rather belatedly saw my first Comma of the year!

My first Comma of the year!
My first Comma of the year!

Luckily next week looks like it’s all back to normal so I should be spending plenty of time back out on the reserves 🙂

Beth

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