The bluebells are out and the sun is shining and Winter seems like a lifetime ago as we are in the full swing of spring. Using my new orchard pruning skills seems like a great place to start for the month. The orchard at chancellor’s farm had had most of its pruning but still needed an hour or two of attention, so myself and Reserves Manager Liz took off the last of the branches and checked the rest of the trees, ready to start blossoming. Much of my first week of April has been spent in the office finishing off traineeship bits and bobs, and preparing for the Somerset residential in a few weeks so I only had time for one more morning’s work out on reserves. Luckily for me this involved a trip out to Yarley fields which is one of my favourite places in Mendip, checking the fence line and making sure it is stock proof ready for the cattle to go on in about a month.
As with last week, this one also involves getting reserves ready for cattle and sheep to go on within the coming weeks. So first job is to check the reserves applicable and do a jobs list of which stretches of fence need repairing. Then I’m out on my own to Hollow Marsh, Harridge Woods and Cockles field to fit the new posts and repair any stretches on barb wire or stock proof netting that have been damaged or need tightening up. When the sun is shining and I’m working under my own steam there is few places I’d rather be, than out in the countryside putting my skills to good use. After a few days of fencing, myself and Liz went out to Yoxter to finish off planting the new hedge line. We had about 70 whips left to plant, stake and protect so after about three hours we were done.
Week three of April was the turn of the Somerset trainees to host the third and final residential. The week was to be held at Barton camp which is behind Crooks peak. After everyone arrived the group had a leisurely stroll up to Crooks peak and got to see Somerset in all its splender. Day two consisted of us working within our county teams and coming up with a project to enhance the visitor number on Brownsea Island in Dorset, as well as increasing profit for the Trust. We also had to cost the project and provide accurate figures to show that the idea was viable. As a team, Somerset decided on running two or three day bespoke wildlife team building activities which would include things such as nature walks, bush craft and education programmes. After spending all day working on the idea we presented it all to the rest of the trainees. Even though there were some great ideas from everyone else, our idea was deemed the best and we won the coveted award for this year. Later that evening the group went out to Priddy to spend a few hours caving. This was something we had all been looking forward to, and once we had all changed in to our rather attractive caving suits and helmets we split in to two groups. The first group was for those who were feeling pretty Gunn-ho about the whole thing, and feeling pretty confident I decided this was the group for me. However, once we started to descend in to the surprising small hole of the cave system my deep rooted claustrophobia came rushing to the surface and I pretty much froze at the entrance. After a couple of minutes I was able to compose myself and gave it another go, but it all started again and unfortunately I had to return to the surface and walk back to the car with my tail between my legs. So, it turns out caving isn’t for me.
On another evening we were lucky enough to be given a guided walk around cheddar by a local bat expert, and were able to hear the species flying about and chipping away with the help of the bat detectors provided. This kind of activity is much more my kind of thing, and we luckily stayed above ground all evening. On our second to last day we did a session in CV selection, and the kind of things employers look for when sifting through them. This was great for us as it gave us the chance to see where we could improve our own CVs and make ourselves even more employable. The final day was our turn to lead the group on our final guided walk. Myself and Phil had decided to take the group on the circular walk around Cheddar gorge. This was quite a steep walk, with a fair few areas of un-even ground and would take about three hours. Luckily the sun was shining and everyone was up for the challenge. After a quick risk assessment talk I lead the group on their way. Every so often we would stop so everyone could catch up and so I could give them a few key points about the Gorge and the local wildlife. We finished in good time, and I think everyone really enjoyed the final group activity of the traineeship.
The end of April was pretty much the same as it began, lots of fencing and repairs. I was back at Cockles Field and Hollow Marsh putting the final touches to the fence line. The cattle are going on to Cockles Field next week, and the sheep with be on Hollow Marsh in a few weeks so I’m glad it’s now all finished and ready to go. I was also able to see the magic of the bluebell wood at Hollow Marsh, which because of its location doesn’t get too many visitors and is largely un-spoilt. My final task for the month was something a little different. James and myself attended a fire warden training session with our Health and Safety officer Andrea. This was a great opportunity to explore more of the legislation and practices behind fire safety, and also to learn about the responsibilities of a fire warden on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis. Hopefully this will be something I can get involved with in the future, and worse come to worse I also feel a lot happier of what to do in an emergency.