815 Naval Air Squadron undertook a day of practical volunteering for Somerset Wildlife Trust on Monday, March 9, across several nature reserves, including Black Rock and Yoxter Range on the Mendip Hills. The squadron members meet on a termly basis to take part in fun, team-bonding activities, and decided on this occasion to use the opportunity to give something back to the community while also raising awareness of what the Royal Navy is about.
Approximately 200 personnel completed a range of activities over 7 different sites, such as thinning trees and scrub, rebuilding stone walls and removing old fences lines. The weather remained good and spirits were high, especially for the popular activity of burning brash. The day proved so successful that squadron members will now be making a termly commitment to support the Trust with practical volunteering.
Effort accelerates habitat restoration work
Lieutenant Mike Emptage said: “We are all physically fit due to being in the military, so a physically demanding role in support of Somerset Wildlife Trust was the perfect choice. It will be interesting for individuals to see the sites progress in the coming years, as well as continuing to support the local countryside.”
The mammoth effort of the squadron members has accelerated the large amount of habitat restoration work required on the reserves that is so crucial for ‘fine-tuning’ land management to benefit wildlife. Thanks to them, species such as the large blue butterfly, the dormouse and several different types of orchid will reap the benefits.
Reserve Manager Neil Watson said: “The squadron worked really hard over the day on various Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserves. After a long winter of scrub clearance, it was great to have the boost in manpower that the Royal Navy was able to provide to get us over the finish line with our winter work programme.”
Save Our Magnificent Meadows
Some of the work was undertaken as part of the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project, with the volunteers helping to conserve grassland habitats on the Trust’s reserves. Due to the way the project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the volunteers’ time is converted to cash that helps to support the project as a whole, delivering events, provision of advice to landowners and activities with local schools.
Please note that Yoxter Range is strictly no visiting as it has a live firing range and is used as a training area for cadets. Black Rock is part of the Cheddar Complex Nature Reserves and is open access all year round.
Save our Magnificent Meadows is the UK’s largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of our vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife. Led by Plantlife, the partnership is made up of 11 organisations, including Somerset Wildlife Trust and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.