WOW! It’s been a whirlwind first month of meeting new people, encountering new wildlife, engaging with the public at events and getting my head round the big main projects I’ll be working on over the next year.
My second day on the job was spent working with the Magnificent Meadows team, at a National Meadows Day event up at Chancellor’s Farm which is part of the Coronation Meadows project: http://coronationmeadows.org.uk/coronation-meadows/region/somerset. The farm is not normally open to the public, but Somerset Wildlife Trust sometimes hold events up there and the vibrant array of colour and richness of plant species is breath-taking. On National Meadows Day we took visitors on a guided walk, pointing out key species such as Yellow Rattle, Eyebright, Selfheal, Betony, Knapweed and Birds Foot Trefoil. In the afternoon, everyone settled down with watercolours and sketchbooks to paint the landscape and flowers. Here’s a few pictures of the wonderful species we came across on the day:
The following week I was out and about in Taunton with Nick Tomlinson who works on the Routes to the River Tone Project. As part of the project, the team is placing interpretation boards at various sites around Taunton, each with a map showing the habitats and species that can be found there. I have been tasked with drawing up maps for each site, identifying common species found there and writing about them - I never realised Taunton was so green or had so many wonderful watery areas! The tour with Nick really opened my eyes and I was delighted to hear that there are Otters and Water Voles living right in the heart of the town. Hopefully the interpretation boards will make these spaces even more enjoyable and interesting for the local community who use them.
Then we were off to Brownsea Island, with trainees from three other neighbouring Wildlife Trusts: Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset. We had a packed week of Red Squirrel and Water Vole spotting, glorious Nightjar walks in the dark out on the island’s heathland, bird-watching, a refreshing swim in the sea, and Moth identification - I’m developing quite a love for them! This was alongside lots of lovely communal meals and Forest School games to get to know the other trainees. I was totally exhausted when I got home!
The following week saw me seed harvesting with Jo and Kate, the Site Managers up at Chancellor’s Farm. We used a piece of machinery called a brush harvester, which does what it says on the tin really-harvests seed heads using a brush mechanism rather than a cutter. We harvested a hectare of seed out in the sunshine, Kate towing the brush harvester and Jo and I bagging the seed up. It was hot work but the smell of the harvested vegetation was wonderful, sweet and slightly orangey, and I left feeling gloriously happy, with seeds in my hair and shoes. We dried the seed in a barn belonging to a farmer the Trust works with, and turned it morning and evening until it was dry enough to bag and store. It will be sowed on recipient meadows in the Autumn.
During that same week I ran some creative children’s workshops at the Taunton Live Festival- making Alder Cone bees, Pine Cone birds, and willow dragonflies. It was a hot day, but we had lots of children go away happy with their new creations.
During the last week of July, we said goodbye to Jessy, my mentor, who I’ve known since last Autumn when I started going out on schools sessions with her. It was really sad to see her go, but exciting that she’s moving to new and exciting challenges! For Jessy’s leaving send-off, we went canoeing down the river in Taunton-a great way to see the town, and to inspire me in the interpretation work I’m doing!
On my last working day in July I attended a bumblebee identification training day at the Earth Science Centre, run by the Aoife from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. I learned a huge amount about Bumblebees, (and also discovered there’s a Bee called the Hairy Footed Flower Bee!). We later visited Edford Meadows to put our new skills into practice - I’ve decided to start a monthly bee transect to keep practising!
It’s been a great month, and August looks set to be just as exciting!