My second month is over already and it really is living up to expectations. I’ve learnt so much, in such a small space of time.
My first job has been to book on to some of my courses. Pesticides 1 and Chainsaw 31 are the first ones on the list. Having these early on will mean I can crack on with my skills throughout the clearance and felling season starting in September. I had the privilege of working with the magnificent meadows volunteers at Yoxter and it was the first time I was able to work with one of my fellow trainees, Freya (pictured below). We spent the day pulling Ragwort and made a huge dent in the area we were working. We also spent a while doing some plant ID with Pippa, Community Engagement Officer for the Save our Magnificent Meadows project. I got some good brush cutting time in at Harridge woods clearing an area for volunteers to pull some Himalayan Balsam.
I’m getting some good driving time in with the Land Rovers which is a vital skill to have, even more so when I have completed my 4x4 training and will be able to drive off-road. I have been doing some much needed tree safety work around public areas, making the paths safe and identifying possible hazards. I got the chance to spend the day with a volunteer group dry stone walling up at the Trust’s nature reserve, Lotts. There were really experienced people involved, and lots of knowledge to be gained, although I really wasn’t a natural. I have also put up 50 new dormouse boxes, (made by prisoners at a nearby prison) and checking the old ones. We were lucky enough to find one Dormouse which was my first experience of the species-very cute and very exciting to see. Hopefully the new boxes will encourage them to nest so they can be monitored. We did two more long days of Ragwort pulling, but finally I think I can say that’s it for the season.
I have also worked with the Education Team to help prepare for the fun day they held at the Trust's Blackrock nature reserve near Cheddar, with great opportunities to engage with the public - several people signed up as new members during the day. This was my first glimpse into the work the team do, which was very interesting. I have also done a full day of dormouse surveying around cheddar with Assistant Warden James, and with 60 boxes to check we were hoping to see at least one! We managed to find and record one male and three baby dormice (pinkies), which was even a first for James who had done many surveys. I felt really lucky. Following that, I spent the day with my fellow trainee Phil, and Public Engagement Officer, Olivia at a pond dipping event on the levels. Although fewer people came than we expected, it was really interesting to see the different ways in which we interact with the public, and was also a lot of fun looking for invertebrates in the pond.
The month ended on a real high when I was able to take part in an Aquatic survey along the rhynes and tributaries at the Trust's Westhay Moor Reserve. Four of us, the reserve's Assistant Warden Phil, Head Ecologist Kiff, Survey Trainee Becky and myself canoed gently around the site all day in the sunshine, looking for different species of weed and algae in order to assess the health and diversity of the area, it was a lot of fun and I even got a tan. I also managed to purchase all of my chainsaw Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so I’m all ready for Autumn. I have also been around a few of the sites using the Ashtag, tags which will help us monitor the spread of ash dieback, to build up a national database and show a bigger picture of the problem, and how we may be able to tackle it in the future. I feel the more I work with different teams, the better understanding I have of the organisation as a whole. I finished the month with a couple of days of bracken topping with Liz, Reserves Manager for East Mendip, which I feel is going to be good practice for the next few months to come