Somerset Wildlife Trust

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November: Feeling on Fire

 16th Dec 2016

It's certainly getting colder...time to wrap up...

Novembers started as it should for me, lots of scrub clearance and bonfires. My first task was working up at Yoxter range and clearing a large amount of gorse which had been encroaching on to our newly planted hedge line. This was all done by hand due to the close proximity of the fence which meant it took me most of the day, but I must admit lone working in the middle of nowhere is absolute bliss for me so the more days like this the better. Later in the week I was able to concentrate on my fire skills when we took the magnificent meadows volunteer group out to Yoxter range to remove a huge amount of gorse and burn it off. The gorse had been covering a Bowl Barrow, which is a late Iron Age burial ground and registered as a scheduled ancient monument (SAM). As part of my volunteer management AQA I needed experience in leading a volunteer group so this was a perfect opportunity for me to practice. I gave the group a quick talk about the site and its historical importance, as well as a tool safety and health and safety introduction. This was my first real go at talking to a group within this situation, and hopefully I will have a lot more opportunities to practice in the future.

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November has also been the month for my second residential week away with the rest of the trainees, and this time it was Devon’s turn to host. This was my first time to Dartmoor so I was really excited to explore a new part of the country. Our first task when we arrived was a team building exercise on the high ropes course they have on site. This basically involved some very tightly fitting harnesses, a degree of upper body strength and a large amount of trust with the people holding the ropes. It was great fun and set us all in high spirits for the rest of the week. In the evening we had a session on presentation skills, which will come in very helpful in the future as a large part of conservation is presenting your knowledge and inspiring others, so this was something I got a lot out of. On our second day we had a full days training on communicating through the media and social media training. These are things we are already involved in on almost a daily basis so to get some proper Do’s and Don’ts training from an industry perspective was extremely helpful. Again, this is something that I will use a lot of in my future career, and if anything will use even more so than I do now.

We have also been treated to a trip to the newly purchased Meeth reserve, where we were given a guided tour by the Devon Trainees. As well as seeing the work they had been doing, we also foraged several species of fungi along the way which we were able to identify when we got back to the hostel. In the afternoon we had a group practical task of digging out an old pond and cutting back so willow to make the pond more open. Just a few days later it rained heavily and filled the pond up, so job well done I reckon. It was really nice to work in a different location to my own and see how the other practical trainees work and organise themselves. On Thursday we started the day by getting to grips with the second part of our volunteer management AQA and discussing the kind of volunteer work we have all been doing. Since our last residential I had done quite a bit more volunteer work so felt I had a bit more to contribute. The second half of our day was our story telling session, which I must admit I really wasn’t looking forward to. We started with some simple memory exercises which we did as a group, followed by a funny story telling task where you basically lead someone else’s story which could basically end anywhere. The last part of the session was telling the rest of the group a short story but within a small group where you keep on interrupting each other. The session lasted about three hours, and although I had my reservations at the beginning I actually really enjoyed it and thought it was great fun. Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone really can surprise you. The week ended with a guided walk again by the Devon trainees to a beautiful copse situated on the north side of Dartmoor. This was a great way to finish the week and see a bit more of a National park I have never been to before. The week had been a great success particularly due to all the training we had received, and seeing everyone again.

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The month ended much like it started, lots more scrub clearance. We spent about three days on Yoxter range clearing more of the scrub on the barrow and burning it all off. That’s most of the scrub cleared from this small section, but plenty more to be done on Yoxter throughout Winter. I have defiantly felt my chainsaw skills improving and I feel I’m a lot more competent week on week. I’m also now an expert in getting fires going! At the end of the week we had a meeting at Avalon Marshes to discuss how best to promote the levels and how to better get the local community involved. I found this really interesting as I have done quite a bit of work on the levels and felt it was a great way of further contributing to a fantastic area of Somerset.

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