For our fourth and final residential we finally had the opportunity to welcome the other trainees to beautiful Somerset and share some of the reasons we’ve all fallen in love with this wonderful county.
Our home for the week was Barton Camp, nestled at the foot of Crooks Peak. The group seemed rather small once everyone had arrived, with Claire and Naomi off on fancy new jobs and a few of the other trainees attending courses and planning on joining us later in the week. Despite the missing faces we were all happy to see each other and catch up on what we’d been up to. Once bags were deposited and we’d had the quick safety talk we donned our walking boots and set off for a walk up Crook’s Peak. We were lucky enough to have good weather, much better then when Chris, Olivia and I had braved the fog and the rain for a recci of the walk a few weeks previously. Olivia had compiled a wildlife bingo game for the other trainees to complete as they walked around. I didn’t now bingo could be so competitive! We had a lovely view across Somerset from the top and I very nearly fell off the rocks in my excitement at seeing both my first Red Admiral and Painted Lady of the year.
Botany is a serious business when you are a trainee
Enjoying the views
That evening we were treated to an authentic Mendip experience; we all went caving! As Trainee’s in Somerset we’ve all been told that we should do something that scares us once a month, and so we thought it was only fair that the other trainees adopted that way of thinking whilst it Somerset. I personally really enjoyed the whole experience and we even spotted some wildlife down there shrimps and a bat!
All kitted out
We started the day by checking out the moth trap that Chris had brought with him for us to use for the week. We only managed to catch a couple of species but it was the first night and you can’t beat a spot of moth-ing in your pyjamas!
The rest of the day was spent completing a project management task. Split into small groups we were given a brief and had to come up with a project proposal, including a budget, based around visitors on Brownsea island. It was a new experience for most of us, and some of us found it more stressful then others. I think we all learnt a lot from the activity, whether we enjoyed it or not and it was really interesting to see what roles we all took on within our small groups.
After fajitas for dinner we headed to Cheddar where we were met by Somerset Bat Group members, and volunteer Reserves Wardens, Adel Avery, Dave Cottle and Chris Billinghurst for a bat walk. Dave started the evening by giving us a quick run through of the different British species of Bat, accompanied by his specimens before we stood at the entrance to Cheddar Show caves to watch the appearance of Lesser Horseshoe bats. As we walked around Cheddar we encountered four different species, Lesser and Greater Horseshoes, Daubenton’s and Soprano Pip.
After an inspection of the nights moth haul it was time to earn our keep. We were looking at various different areas around the Barton Camp site, and using skills and knowledge we’ve gained over the last ten months to provide advice on how they could be used and improved. My group were looking at the bird hide and giving suggestions on how that could be made more user friendly whilst at the same time attracting more birdlife. Another group were sussing out where would be good to create a Forest School area and the final group were mapping what species of trees occurred within the grounds.
In the afternoon we headed up to Cheddar Wood for a walk around. We were joined by Neil Watson and Liz for the afternoon. The woodland was looking beautiful with the Bluebells just coming into flower. The carpet of Ramsons on the woodland floor smelt divine and we spotted plenty of butterflies to be added to the transect Chris was recording as we walked.
Taking a stroll through the woods
After dinner it was back to the grindstone with a CV workshop. Although it was rather stressful it was a really useful activity as not only were we given feedback on our own CVs, but we also got a chance to have a look at other peoples. We all ended the evening feeling a lot better about writing them and how we could make improvements to increase our chances of job success!
Yes you’ve guessed it moths again with breakfast! We had a good haul with eleven moths from eight different species. After we’d finished admiring our catch it was time for a day of more job application workshops. Rose Gater from SWT came in to talk us through an exceptional application form that landed her her current role. We all then had a chance to see what it’s like to be sat on the other side of the table and were given the task of filtering through application forms to see who we would pick for interview. In a small window of time we had to whittle 45 forms down to just 5, firstly based purely on gut feeling, and then by using the selection criteria. It was encouraging to find that both times we did choose people that had been offered interviews so if you do write a good application, it should stand out no mater who is reading it.
The afternoon was taken up by mock interviews. My top tip from the afternoon is that OD-ing on mini meringues just before a mock interview is not the best idea in the world if you want to avoid the giggles! Despite that it was a good opportunity to practice interview skills and get some individual feedback from Rachel, both on the mock interview and on how we’ve done on the traineeship as a whole.
It was then time to let our hair down and celebrate our last night all together. Team Somerset were in charge of the cooking for the evening and to keep with the party theme we’d opted for Portrait Pizzas and build-you-own ice cream sundaes. They seemed to go down a treat before we headed off to enjoy the pool! After inflatable races and practicing our volleyballs skills from the Wiltshire Residential we all donned our Hawaiian shirts and enjoyed some fun and games. We were also able to reveal our surprise for the final evening; the appearance of Claire! She’d driven down from the North to join us for our final night together!
Ed and his pizza doppelgangers
After a big team effort to get the place looking like we’d never been there we all headed off to Cook’s Fields to have a go at dry stone walling. It was a new experience for all of the trainees apart from myself and I think the fresh air did us all some good. The weather was clear, though the wind rather bracing but we had beautiful views out across the levels.
Checking out our handiwork
Before we knew it, it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to our home counties. We’d had another fantastic week together and although there was some sadness at the knowledge that our journey as Wildlife Skills trainees is drawing to a close, there was also some excitement about the next adventures we all set out on, which this traineeship year will have made possible.
Over the week we kept a list of everything we saw. Here are some of the highlights:
- Willow Warbler
- Painted Lady
- Wall Pennywort
- Ivy leaved Toadflax
- Yellow Wagtail
- Greater Horseshoe Bat
- Powdered Quacker
- Green Hairstreak
L to R: Powdered Quaker, Bluebells, Green Hairstreak
Photo credits: Beth Aucott