This week has happily been back to normal with me being back out on the reserves everyday.
Monday morning saw James, Neil and I at Ubley Warren clearing some vegetation from around a stone wall/ fence line that needs repairing. The weather was lovely and Ubley was looking rather beautiful. I think it may be one of my favourite reserves, especially with all the rakes dotted around. It gave me a chance to put my newly qualified brush-cutter skills to the test 😛 I was using a bramble head on the brush-cutter for the first time and they are just as effective as everyone has been saying, though I did end up splattered in blackberry juice!
In the afternoon it was time for another meeting; this time on Visitor Management. We were discussing plans for improving visitors experiences on nature reserves and how it’s linked into the habitat management. There are different plans for various reserves and the rest of the trainees and I have kindly been volunteered to help write a grant bid to secure funds to achieve some of those aims! If it goes ahead it’ll be fantastic experience to get but it was just a little bit scary getting it landed on us in the middle of the meeting!
On Tuesday the three of us were at Draycott Sleights, down in one of the bottom corners dealing with some scrub. Neil took the flail over some flatter its whilst James and I got stuck in with the brush-cutters. It was a huge area of scrub but it was a rather heartening to see that beneath all the scrub, there was still grass and vegetation rather than bare soil. It was rather warm and being on a sheltered slope, it was quite hard work but we did make a decent dent into it all. When we were looking at the Reserves Management System last week James found some old satellite images of Draycott and you can see how much scrub has grown up on the reserve.
It was a volunteer work party day on Wednesday. We were at Cheddar Wood Edge for the day. As you can probably guess from the name Cheddar Wood Edge is the edge of Cheddar Wood. It’s meant to be woodland edge habitat but requires a bit more work to get it to the intermediary stage between grassland and woodland. We were thinning out a few of the larger hazel trees and clearing some of the scrub that is at the edge furthest from the wood. This meant getting re-acquainted with my old friends the loppers and bow saw. There was plenty to see on the reserve with a beautiful wood ants nest by some fallen dead wood and clouds of dragonflies about whilst we were eating our lunch on the slope. There were also quite a few primroses in flower! Should that be happening in September?! I got distracted from working for a while whilst attempting to photograph a dragonfly. The kept coming back to land on some dead wood so after a few attempts I managed to get a half decent photograph of a Common Darter.
When the volunteers were done for the day James and I went to check the paths along one edge of the reserves as James had noted a fallen tree whilst meeting the volunteers. There was one really large tree, that had come down and possibly taken out a few more. James pointed out the Honey Fungus at the bottom of the trunk, a fungus that is extremely damaging to trees and one that is always worth noting if you spot it whilst doing tree safety surveys.
On the way back to the farm to put the tools away we stopped off at GB Gruffy to have a check on the ponies and have a quick walk around the site. I attempted to lure the ponies over to say hello but they aren’t quite that friendly and would walk off if I got too close. It was my first time at GB Gruffy so that was two reserves to tick off the list in one day! GB Gruffy is another site where mining used to occur and it also has cave networks underneath it. The devils bit scabious was looking rather beautiful as we wandered around.
On Thursday I ventured off the Mendips and down onto the Levels to spend some time with the staff there. We were heading to Catcott for the day where Mark, and Phil have been very busy building the new tower hide and board-walk, The board-walk is being made from timber extracted from Black Rock. Only a little bit of it has been completed so far but it is looking good and will be fantastic when it is complete. They had a group of volunteers with them. I knew one of them, Ron as he comes out with the Wednesday Mendip group, but the rest of the group were all lovely, very welcoming and entertaining as a group. A few of the volunteers got stuck in carrying on with the board walk whilst the rest of us completed some odd jobs, like cutting the path, clearing up unused bits of timber and raking up some piles of hay.
Friday saw us start the day at Long Wood. We were cutting back some vegetation along the nature trail paths to make it more welcoming for visitors and also cutting the glade. As we were working a couple from Exeter stopped to chat to us. It was great to see that they had one of the new Cheddar Complex leaflets and seemed to be really enjoying their walk around. After lunch on the orchid slope, and a very fleeting glimpse of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth we headed over to Mascall’s Wood. The original plan was to cut the glade but there was a tree down there, so James attacked it with the chainsaw whilst I cleared the timber out of the way. Seeing photos of the other trainees with chainsaws on their training courses, plus the arrival of my new shiny one this week, has made me very excited to get my chainsaw ticket (course is booked for the end of October :D)
I’m not sure of plans for next week yet. We’re meeting some of the Mendip Living Landscape staff on Monday and Liz is back so I think I’ll be heading out to some of the East Mendip reserves with her.