The weather might have been a little damp and blustery but the first signs that spring has sprung are all around. As is tradition at this time of year all the Trainees had a bit of a spring clean as we dusted off our CV’s and spruced them up with our recently attained qualifications, and new found experience ready for the year ahead.
Monthly Round Up
No big trainee meet up this month but there was still a lot of exciting shared training.
Beth and Olivia went on an adventure down to Devon for two days of driving 4x4’s on muddy tracks and steep hills. It was great fun and most importantly both everybody and the vehicles made it through the course in one piece, and another cheesy certificate photo follows!
Beth and Olivia also did their pesticide use training. It all seemed to go okay but it is quite mathematical and precise so lots of revising to go before the assessment in March, so keep your fingers crossed that there will be some pesticide good news in March’s Update.
Olivia was particularly busy going to joint training with Chris and the Wiltshire trainees on the “Wonderful World of Lichens” training course. It was run by Plantlife and the experts were brilliant. Lichens are fascinating as they are often the first to colonise any bare space and play a key role in the ecosystems we are working to protect on our reserves and across the county.
Beth - I know it’s only a few days shorter than most months but February has flown by!
The month started with a day hedgelaying with the East Mendip Conservation volunteer at Harridge East, where they completed a section along the road side. I’ve also spent time with the at Edford Meadows, clearing scrub from the edge of one of the fields in time for March and the bird nesting season where we can no longer cut down scrub. I also helped the Magnificent Meadows Volunteers installing a kissing gate which was a new challenge for me. I spent even more time with volunteers when I was reunited with the West Mendip Volunteers for a day of tree planting at Black Rock. It made a nice change to be planting trees rather than cutting them down! I also may have strategically placed my trees so I can check on their progress when I visit in future.
I had a chance to practice felling larger trees at Long Wood. It was a really god experience and I feel I learnt a lot from the day as felling broadleaf trees is a lot more difficult than the conifers we learnt on, particularly as they all grew so close to each other so kept getting hung up.
Olivia and I have gained another ticket this month 4x4 off road driving, and are busy revising for our pesticide exam which we also had training for this month!
Chris - February’s has been a rather bitty month like so many over the winter have been made worse by activities being interspersed with nasty viruses that have put me under par! Nevertheless, I am enjoying the diversity of all that’s been on offer and whittling down my “To Do” list! I started off completing the plotting of survey data from the Mendip Living Landscape project and I am just finishing spreadsheets and correspondence associated with that. Then I finished the project I was doing on plotting boundaries in GIS for sensitive riparian species to be shared with partners to create buffer zones against any potential development threats. This took longer than anticipated as there were many logistical and philosophical implications which I felt privileged to be able to discuss and be part of the team finding the solutions. It not only gave much food for thought about using records but also recording and improved my ability to use various tools in ARCGIS.
This month has had a distinctly woodland theme and I have been involved in updating the woodland management plan for one of our woodland reserves, dipping in and out of a preliminary woodland fieldwork survey carried out at the beginning of January and attending an internal workshop on Forest Research on Ecological Network Modelling tools which has been developed in consultation with us. The workshop was particularly interesting with the raison d’être being that habitats have become so fragmented that despite conservation effort there is still a decline in biodiversity, so we need to look more closely at management on regional and national scales to create networks may enable this trend to be reversed. This Traineeship has confirmed how much I enjoy woodlands and studying the wonderful wildlife it supports, so much so I intend to study it further and I hope it will become my biome specialism in the future.
I had a splendid day with some other trainees looking at lichens in Savernake Forest, Wiltshire. These are a complex taxa for identification purposes and I am hoping to do much more on them throughout the course of my Traineeship.
Claire - I started the month with my Outdoor First Aid qualification. This was brilliant and a real achievement for me. It was a really intense few days filled with continuous practical assessment and written exams but I now feel confident to deal with a wider range of scenarios and in particular situations where the casualty doesn’t fall and conveniently land lying on their back.
Another course I was really looking forward to was “Dealing with Difficult Behaviour”. Although everyone I have worked with here, both staff and volunteers have been lovely, supportive and anything but difficult, this traineeship is designed to help prepare me for a long career in conservation and environmental education and I expect that at some point I will encounter this behaviour. I learnt simple but practical techniques and had an opportunity to test them. What I found most fascinating was the training on why people act in difficultly and what the triggers might be which is useful to understand when working out how to tackle the behaviour.
Aside from the training courses I am out now regularly outwith school groups, both on reserves and in school grounds. Having undergone visitor risk assessment training in January I got out to five of our busiest reserves in the Blackdowns and the Quantocks and completed these. It was really great to see some reserves I hadn’t been to in, particularly because they were full of the first signs of spring.
Olivia - February has been a very busy month for me in terms of training. Beth and I completed an off road 4x4 training course at Escot House in Devon. This was definitely one of the most enjoyable training courses we have been on with a few nice steep tracks to test our skills! We also carried out the training for using pesticides with a knapsack which was all about ratios and flow and very maths based. We will have an assessment in a few weeks time, so we'll have to do a bit of studying before then! Chris and I also attended a course on Lichens in Savernake Forest in Wiltshire run by Plantlife. It was a very informative session and a lovely opportunity to catch up with the Wiltshire trainees.
When I haven’t been training I’ve been out on the reserves carrying out coppicing at Great Breach Wood and West Coker and tree felling on New Hill with the help of some of the other reserves staff. I also had my first attempt at hedge-laying with chainsaws at West Coker where we were working with some contractors. It was definitely challenging working by a road side and my technique needs work but as they say practice makes perfect!
Beth and Olivia passing their 4x4 training
Installing a Kissing Gate with the Save Our Magnificent Meadows Volunteers
Somerset is truly embracing the first signs of spring and our species spotted list contains all the classics so enjoy!
- Cherry Blossom
- Water Rail
- Red Admiral
- Wild Garlic
L-R Cherry Blossom, Daffodils, Primrose
Photo Credits: 4x4 Training and Primrose - Beth Aucott, Kissing Gate - Save Our Magnificent Meadows Project, Cherry Blossom - Routes to the River Tone Project