Somerset Wildlife Trust

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New Year, New Start

 10th Feb 2017

For many people January is a month full of fresh starts and new beginnings- and that has certainly been the case for me!

At the start of the month, I moved from Cornwall to Taunton to start my traineeship. My first few days were a bit of a blur of information, handshakes and new names (most of which I have managed to remember!) I also had several meetings to find out more about some of the projects that I am going to be working with. It was great to hear about the work the Trust is doing and exciting to find out how I will be getting involved!

During my first week I also had opportunities to get out and explore the local area. I spent a day checking the instructions for some WildWalks (self-guided nature walks) that have been produced by the other community engagement trainee, Freya, for Viridor, a waste management company. I have to admit, my knowledge of Taunton before moving here was limited to the motorway service station, so it was nice to see a bit more of the town. Two of the walks followed the River Tone and the canals, and I was amazed by how much wildlife I saw in such an urban environment- swans, a little egret, a grey heron, a cormorant, and even a kingfisher!

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A grey heron on the River Tone- right in the centre of Taunton!

On the Friday, I went up to Chancellor’s Farm nature reserve in the Mendips to meet the other three trainees and spend the day doing some scrub clearance. I haven’t done a lot of practical conservation work in the past, so I enjoyed the opportunity to get stuck in and learn about how the reserve is managed. It was also great to meet the others and find out what they get up to in their roles.

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A beautiful frosty morning at Chancellor’s Farm

The second week was a complete change of scenery again, as we were off to a residential in Wiltshire, with all of the trainees from the other 3 counties running the scheme- Wiltshire, Dorset and Devon. We had a packed programme for the week with a lot of time outdoors and some sightings of species that I’ve never seen before, including hares and red kites! On our first and last days, the Wiltshire trainees took us on guided walks around two local nature reserves- Jones’ Mill and Morgan’s Hill- explaining their significance and how they are managed.

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Looking out over the Wiltshire countryside from Morgan’s Hill nature reserve

In between, we also spent a day at Langford Lakes reserve with wildlife photographer, Iain Green, learning how to get a perfect shot. Iain gave us some great advice about getting the most out of our photos- which settings to use, how to frame the shot, and what kinds of things we should aim to capture. I’m looking forward to putting these new skills to use as I venture around Somerset in the next few months.

My favourite day of the week has to be the one we spent at Tedworth House. Run by Help for Heroes, Tedworth House is a recovery centre for sick, injured and wounded veterans and service personnel. Activities and courses are run to help with wellbeing and recovery, including the roundhouse project led by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. For just over a year, beneficiaries have been working with the Trust to build a replica Iron Age roundhouse, completely from scratch using traditional methods. The result of all of their hard work is incredible and I’d love to go back and see it when it’s completely finished.

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The impressive replica Iron Age roundhouse at Tedworth House

After a morning of woodland clearance and garden maintenance, we spent the afternoon having a go at wheelchair basketball. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy but it was much more difficult than I thought it would be- my arms were aching for the next few days! Whilst we all had a good laugh taking part, I came away with a new level of respect for wheelchair users.

At the end of the month I spent most of my time with the Routes to the River Tone team. For the past three years, they have been encouraging and inspiring the residents of Taunton to explore, protect and enjoy the town’s wild spaces. They are currently preparing for a week full of family activities during February half term to celebrate the end of the project. I’ve been lending a hand to promote and prepare for the events, and have enjoyed learning more about the work they have done. From planting community orchards, to training volunteers to survey for bats, to wildlife artwork around the town, the work they have done has been very varied and sounds like it has been a lot of fun. It’s a shame that I’ve joined them just as the project is drawing to a close, but I’m looking forward to getting involved with the final events- more on those in next month’s post!

So, that’s January done! I can’t believe how quickly this first month has gone- bring on the next eight!

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Exploring Taunton and the River Tone