So just under two weeks ago something rather exciting happened; I was offered the position of Reserves Officer for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust.
The role is mainly based at a reserve called Houghton Regis Chalk Pit, an old chalk quarry that the Trust has been managing since 2011. I’ll also be working on some of the other reserves in the North Chiltern Chalk Living Landscape. The role sounds like it’s going to be varied, covering all the jobs you could think of on a reserve, and will involve a lot of responsibility but I am so excited to start there!
I didn’t get a chance to visit the site before my interview but having a free day today, Matt and I decided to head over for a nosy around and to give myself a better idea of what I was taking on. We abandoned the car in the housing area and found a footpath that seemed to be heading in the right direction. Frustratingly our view into the quarry was blocked by scrub for a few hundred meters before a break in the vegetation and a bench finally gave us our first proper look at the reserve.
It being a grey and wet December day, meant the view wouldn’t have been particularly inspiring to many but I found myself grinning straight away. The chalk grassland areas are full of lumps and bumps and dips, that remind me a little of the gruffy ground from some of the reserves in Somerset and it’s already making me impatient for Butterfly season! I knew there was an area of wetland but hadn’t realised quite how big it was and I’m looking forward to getting to grips with managing that. There are also a network of lakes and ponds, plus the edges of the quarry itself which I’m hoping will act as nesting sites for peregrines (but that may just be wishful thinking). Combined with the areas of scrub and woodland, the reserve is unique, not like anything I’ve worked on before, and has so much character!
As we explored we spotted a man armed with a litter picker. Suspecting him to be a volunteer we made our way over to introduce ourselves. The litter-picker was Michael, the Volunteer Warden for the site, who was kind enough to then give us a guided tour of the areas we hadn’t covered. His passion for the site was clear, and it was fascinating to hear about the work that has been carried out. I feel a little bit more prepared for the job now knowing a bit more about what has been going on there and the work they plan to continue carrying out.
One of the things I’m looking forward to the most is seeing what wildlife lives in the quarry. As we wandered around today we had a nice range of bird species with the highlights being a Green Sandpiper on one of the pools and a Peregrine that flew across in front of us before perching on the cliff (pleassssee come back and nest there in Spring!). I want to know what everything is so I can see my ID skills drastically improving over the next year.
My contract with the Wildlife Trust is for a year and I’m looking forward to being able to see how the quarry changes over the seasons. Being mainly based there means I can really get to grips with the site, something that I’ve really wanted to be able to do for a while. Matt seems rather taken with the site as well, already offering his services for any volunteer work parties at the weekends and planning to steal it off me for Patchwork Challenge. We’re already planning on heading back before my official start date for more exploring.
I can’t wait to get started and the 11th January can’t come soon enough!