Over the first weekend of October I was in Wales, on the first module of a Field Ecology HND (Higher National Diploma). As I haven’t studied anything very sciencey since GCSE level, I thought it would be useful to get a good grounding in Ecology. Next summer I’ll be doing lots of modules out in the field, getting my species I.D skills up to scratch. To begin with though, I’m completing the core modules, the first of which was ‘Ecology 1’. The course was held at Denmark Farm, near Lampeter, a really beautiful site, and covered an enormous amount, including energy flow through habitats and food chains, the nitrogen cycle, succession, natural selection, zonation and lots more!
Denmark Farm, Lampeter, Wales
The following week I was out with the Magnificent Meadows volunteer group, sowing wildflower seed at Middledown reserve in the morning, and then cleared gorse and brambles up at Draycott Sleights, one of my favourite reserves, in the afternoon. Sowing seed by hand is one of the most blissful activities. Working up and down the strips of land, in parallel with the other sowers, I felt as if we were in a Thomas Hardy novel!
Seed sowing with volunteers at Middledown
A couple of weeks later there was more seed-sowing fun at an old quarry site very near my house! It was a beautiful day, and another hectare of seed sown. I’ve become completely obsessed with seeds! And I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on how they get on next spring.
Seed sowing in Downhead
Later in the month I joined my lovely colleague Lila in a day working up at the Cherry Wood Project- a coppicing and green woodworking project set in a beautiful woodland just outside Bath. We were there to help out in their coppice area, and to pick up skills and experience before running our own coppicing workshop later in the month. It was a fantastic day, with an amazing lunch cooked by Cherry Wood’s resident cook, Katie, and lots of people making sausages from the pigs they had recently slaughtered. (I don’t eat meat but it was still interesting to learn about how sausages are made!) Cherry Wood take on two coppicing apprentices each year, and it was great to learn a bit about this traditional method of woodland management. SWT are encouraging coppicing as a good way to manage woodland- it prolongs the life of the trees (mainly Hazel and Ash), is good for plant and invertebrate diversity as it lets in more light and creates different levels, it provides a way of making income from traditional coppice crafts, and is potentially good for Dormice as it encourages Hazel trees to produce more nuts.
Cherry Wood Project workshop, and coppice
During October I finally began getting myself organised to run my six Forest School sessions needed to gain my qualification. I met with a local school, and will hopefully be running my sessions in the New Year, at the wonderful setting of the Earth Science Centre in Stoke St Michael, under the guidance of Kaye, an experienced Forest School Leader, who runs the Holly and Hawthorn Forest School. I will also be preparing and delivering some more curricular-based environmental education sessions at some of our reserves with a local school in the Spring. It feels good to be getting back into education work, as I’ve been missing this since my role with the RSPB in the summer. In keeping with the theme of education, I also devised the content for a double-sided newsletter for our Wildlife Watch members, which Paul, our in-house graphic designer then put together beautifully.
The last week of the month was busy, with a launch event for the orchard-planting project in Taunton, Risk Assessment training at Callow Rock, and then our coppicing workshop on National Coppicing Day- Saturday 29th October. The workshop was organised by Lila, and held at Asham Woods, just down the road from my house, which used to be an SWT reserve, but is now owned and managed by one of the quarries. Hopefully there may be scope for me to take groups of volunteers out there in the future. Tim from Cherry Wood gave a talk and a demonstration at the beginning, we got a fire going, and then all set about coppicing! It was lovely to be in my local woodland all day, meeting new contacts and learning new skills. We covered the stools with brash at the end, to protect the new growth from Deer. The plan is to return in January for some more coppicing, and hopefully a bit of spoon-carving!
SWT's coppicing workshop, and coppiced stems