As you may already know the Heritage Lottery Fund has provided funding for four trainees in Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust doing three roles. As a result there was the fantastic idea to send all the trainees to each county throughout the year to do group training and see what the different counties have to offer in terms of habitats and wildlife.
This is how our first residential to Brownsea Island in Dorset went.
On the morning of Monday 7th July three equally nervous and excited Somerset Wildlife Trust Trainees set off to Dorset HQ to meet our 11 counterpart Trainees from Dorset, Devon and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Now the observant amongst you may have noticed there were only three Trainees from Somerset Wildlife Trust; that is because two weeks before our very first day Olivia was broken by her mentor, Mark, before she had even started, spraining her ankle whilst volunteering on a reserve.
So one member down and after following several HGV’s down narrow, windy country roads we arrived at Dorset HQ where we met our lovely new counterparts. There was no time for awkwardness, as we were all squeezed into a minibus with enough food supplies to last a week and enough cake for months on end.
After an hours drive to Sandbanks we tumbled out and onto a ferry where we had a very enjoyable, short scenic cruise in glorious sunshine to Brownsea Island, our home for the next five days.
When we arrived we got straight to work getting to know everyone and exploring the island. Brownsea is famous for its population of Red Squirrels and we weren’t disappointed as several darted through trees and scampered along the forest floor within a few hours of arriving.
After our evening meal we went out on a bat walk with local expert Steve Davis. Of particular interest was a £6.50 child’s bat detector brought by a Devon Trainee who claimed that it could work as well as Steve’s official but rather more expensive bat detector. The results were astounding it did work very well; perhaps not ideal for all types of bats but for the Pipistrelle we were watching it was ideal and the quality well surpassed expectations of a product of that price. Unfortunately this product is now sold out at most south west stores as all the Trainees and staff were so taken with it.
After our first nights sleep in bunk beds we had the day of training we had all secretly been dreading. Health and Safety Training! Despite our reservations it was a really fun and useful with the peacock chicks taking a real interest in the PowerPoint presentation and with the Trainer using outside real world examples to find and identify risks and hazards, and fortunately we all passed the written test at the end. Hurray!
After our delicious vegetable curry made by Devon Wildlife Trust the previous night it was our turn to cook and assemble fajitas for 20. Full marks go to Chris who also cut and beautifully decorated our cakes. It all seemed to go down well and filled us up just in time to go out looking for Nightjars and Glow Worms. It was a little bit early on in the season for Glow worms but we did spot two. We were also lucky enough to see the Nightjar and they were quite vocal, obviously keen to impress. All in all a successful day.
A busy wildlife day planned. A few of us keen Trainees ventured out at 4am to watch the bats swarm back into their roost. Unfortunately we only saw the last few stop outs that were arriving back home a little later then their friends but it was still incredible to watch them fly in circles at such speed then suddenly dart onto the wall and scurry back up into the eaves.
Following our early start we headed back to bed for a few hours before the real work began; looking through the moth traps, and for someone like myself who thought moths were just creatures who accidentally flew in your bathroom and aren’t all that pretty, I urge you to set up your own moth trap or go along to an event where moth trapping is happening as they are beautiful. Some of them are huge like the Hawk Moth and others are elaborately patterned such as the Black Archers and the Garden Tiger Moth. However the variety we found in Brownsea was amazing.
After a morning moth trapping we did a spot of Rhododendron cutting to use as firewood which helps heat the hostel during the winter, not to mention helps remove this invasive specie so that other native plants on the island have chance to thrive.
In the afternoon we had a “Behind The Scenes” tour of the island with Chris, the resident warden. It was fascinating and a great privilege. as not everywhere on the island is open to the public. We learnt not only about the phenomenal variety and abundance of species on the Island but also all about the new pressures that the island will face and what we as the next generation of wildlife and landscape decision makers will have to consider. On that rather serious note came an even more serious training session on safeguarding and working with vulnerable user groups.
However we were determined not to be serious for too long and proof that the old games are the best. We played Mafia a modern twist on wink murder except without the winking. It soon had us all laughing and building a real sense of team morale between all the trainees in the counties.
Garden Tiger Moth
A full day of First Aid Training which is always good fun. The weather was so sunny that we did most of it outside which caused some interest amongst the peacocks who were quite intrigued by “Resusci Anne” and the noise she made whilst receiving rescue breaths!
Seeing as it was our last night on the island it only seemed fair that we should stoke up those rivalries between the Trusts by splitting into counties and competing against each other and several others staying on the island in the local pub quiz. Whilst I am disappointed to say Somerset didn’t win we by no means made fools of ourselves and we didn’t come last which is good, personally I think we just need a little more practice which I am sure can be arranged over the course of the year!
Our last morning, just time to pack up and tidy the house top to bottom, and have a look at a few of the moths from the previous nights traps of course! And what was the reward for surviving and passing all our exams in this beautiful wildlife haven I hear you ask? A very special cooked breakfast expertly made by Brian, from Dorset, which consisted of individual portions of ham, eggs and hollandaise sauce, encased in bread, accompanied by a sausage and tomatoes which was very quickly wolfed down. This left us to say our fondest goodbyes to the staff on the island and soon enough our counterparts from other counties. However whilst the farewells might have been sad all is not lost as we’ll be meeting up again in October to do a whole host of new and exciting training in the county of Devon. So it’s not long to wait now!
Photo Credt Breakfast - Brian Bleese, All Trainee - Rachel Janes, all others Beth Aucott