Work to get as much scrub cleared before next month has increased, so first job of the month is to cut and burn a section of gorse on Yoxter range. In a few weeks the trees and bushes will be used for nesting and foraging for a whole variety of birds so we have to get this done before they return. The good thing about gorse is that it comes down in big clumps so is fairly quick to clear. The bad thing is it is a nightmare to burn and takes quite a lot of persistence to get the fire roaring. One of my favourite jobs actually, but anything involving a fire usually is. Next on the list this week is to clear and lay a section of hedge at Harridge woods with the monthly Sedgemoor volunteer group. My hedge laying experience has been pretty weak up to now so this was a great chance for me to learn some new skills, and also to lead the group and make sure everything ran smoothly. Great start to February, hopefully more interesting things to come.
Week two started much as the first did, back to Yoxter to burn up more of the gorse left behind. It’s quite an art to getting the fire going in wet conditions, but patience paid off and finally I was throwing the gorse on as quick as I could. I was lucky enough to get some more hedge laying practice in, but this time with the south Somerset volunteer group which was being led by Mark Green. This was a much longer stretch of hedge. With a lot more scrub to come out first, but many hands make light work and by the end of the day we had completed about a third of the hedge which was roughly about thirty metres. Later in the week myself and our seasonal assistant Ronan went up to Harridge woods to continue with the Hazel coppicing we have been working at over the past few months. I am defiantly getting a lot better and faster using my chainsaw, so we made some really good progress and will probably only need to visit for a half a day to get it all finished, just in time for our March first deadline. Our final job of the week was back at Harridge woods, but this time we were taking care of a very persistent invasive species Honey suckle. This was a very labour intensive job, with one person cutting it at its base with a chainsaw, and the other following up behind treating it so that it doesn’t return. After a few hours of the same bending down routine it really does start to pull on your back. All in a day’s work restoring our woodlands.
One of my favourite jobs this week, fencing. The fencing on Yoxter range is an on-going job as there are always repairs and new stretches of fence to construct due to the livestock and army cadets sometimes getting a little carried away. Not only that, but we also have to deal with new mineshafts opening up, as well as old ones in need of some repair. This day was spent firstly repairing an old mine shaft fence to make it safe and secure, followed by replacing some stock netting and new posts along a hedge line which was no longer stock proof. I think it’s the instant progress you can see which is why I enjoy fencing so much, plus it’s a great was to release any built up stress. As part of my volunteer management accreditation I was required to spend some time with a different organisation and see how they run there volunteer groups. I was lucky enough to spend a day with the Natural England team down on the levels, and spent the day felling and burning a section of Downey Birch which had been taking over there wetlands. We were just clearing sections so that wildlife could benefit for both open areas and also woodland, which creates a very biodiverse habitat. It was great for me to meet some new volunteers and compare notes on how we run our groups, which is generally very similar but due to the different environment had very contrasting challenges. Thank you Natural England. The week concluded with a day’s scrub clearing and burning on one of my favourite reserves, Draycott Sleights. The Hawthorn removal has been going on up there all season and this would be one of their last visits. It’s a very challenging place to work due to the steep slopes and uneven terrain, however the views over Somerset are probably the best in the county, coupled with the massive fire we had going it was a pretty awesome day.
The end of the month was defiantly an unusual week, but very much enjoyable. Firstly I had a three day first aid course to attend which had been in the pipeline for quite a while. It was much like the emergency first aid at work one day course I had done at the beginning of my traineeship, however this goes in to more detail and we were tested in different scenarios and situations such as deep cuts, shock, CPR and seizures to name a few. Our trainer at reflex training was excellent and I feel much more comfortable if and when this training may be required. Happy to say I passed the course which is another qualification under my belt. On the Thursday a few of us attended an orchard course at Chancellors farm which was being led by Les Davis. This was all very new to me so I was very much looking forward to learning some new skills, which hopefully I might be able to put in to practice. We learnt about the history of apples, how to graft trees and also how to maintain and look after your orchard. We have a small orchard on the farm so were able to put some of this new found knowledge to the test by planting a few trees, as well as pruning and maintaining the existing ones there. Fingers crossed for a bumper harvest next year. I really enjoyed the day and would recommend to anyone with an interest in orchards, or just enjoy cider and would like to learn where it all comes from. The last day of February was spent at Slimbridge WWT with the whole of the reserves team. This was a chance for us to see how other organisations manage their reserves and what inspiration we can take from this. It was also a great chance to spend some time with some of the other guys who we don’t see that often. We were treated to a guided tour around the site by the reserves manager, and were able to spot a huge amount of wildlife around the site and along the Bristol channels edge. A personal highlight was spotting several cranes around the fields, and learning how they best manage these areas. Great day, and another great month.