So I’m a third of my way through the traineeship. It really is true what they say, time flies when you’re having fun.
October started in pretty amazing style for me, a whole week of chainsaw felling training. This is something I have been looking forward to for a long time, not only because I really enjoy chainsaw work, but also because this will give me the opportunity to do a lot more varied work within my reserves. The training was very practical-based, and full on from the word go. Our trainer really wanted us to get stuck in and have as much practice as possible. We learnt a variety of different felling cuts and techniques, safe working practices, what to do when things don’t go to plan i.e. hung up trees, and how to best deal with processing (snedding) our felled trees. Out of all the training and courses I’ve been on this was by far my favourite. The guys I was training with made it a really enjoyable week, with lots of banter and general laddish behaviour. On the fourth day I took my assessment, although I was nervous about it, I felt I was as ready as I could be. All my fells went to plan and I was able to impress the assessor with my knowledge of all things health and safety. I was over the moon when I was told I had passed with flying colours. This is a big step forward for me in the right direction. On the Sunday I went out with the Sedgemoor volunteer group to Yarely Fields to do a day’s scrub clearing and burning. I had a really lovely day with them and got to do a serious amount of brush cutter work. Not quite felling, but give me time.
My second week started pretty well also. A group of us went to Wadbury bat house to see if there were any visitors. After a bit of climbing and silent recognisance we were incredibly lucky to see several Greater Horseshoe Bats, a single Lesser Horseshoe and also a single Serotine. This was really exciting as it was is my first time seeing more than one species of bat in the same location, and also my first time to the bat house - which is clearly living up to its name. During the week we spent some time at the small orchard we have at Chancellor’s Farm - under our Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement we are responsible for looking after the orchard and replacing any trees that aren’t doing so well. In the New Year I will hopefully be doing a one day orchard course, so the small patch will be getting a lot of TLC from myself in the coming months. This is an area of work I had never even thought of prior to starting the traineeship; it just goes to show how varied work as a warden can be. I have also finally been able to put some of my new chainsaw skills to the test. Although it was strictly felling, I was able to take some large limbs off a Hawthorn, which had come down over a fence at Harridge Woods. This trip also involved some new rails being put on a kissing gate, as well as a bit of quick gate repair.
Picture: Greater Horseshoe Bats
I have been to Chancellor’s Farm again this month, to continue with our dry stone wall repair. Although it can be back breaking work, the more I do it, the more satisfaction I get from seeing the final result take place. We are still at least a day’s work away from completing it, but we were defiantly making good progress, and I’m defiantly getting better. Many of the walls around Chancellor’s Farm and Yoxter need some looking after, so I spent a morning checking over a few fields and repairing the walls where I could. Hopefully this will keep the walls standing for a few years to come, and also keep the stock in also. In the afternoon I met up with Reserves Manager Liz, to remove and replace a section of post and stock netting around a plantation of newly planted trees at the bottom end of Yoxter. The trees are mainly Ash, Willow and Birch which were planted by the Military. Unfortunately the cattle seem eager to get in and have a nosey, so the fence line was in pretty bad shape.
I met up with all the wildlife Trainees this month, in Dorset, for a time management and personal effectiveness meeting. The day was really useful and taught us a lot about how to deal with the public and colleagues, and also how to use our time effectively - unfortunately, the Somerset team was forty five minutes late due to traffic! Late for a time management course, Oh dear. Myself and Liz have also been doing some work at Yoxter range, replacing some posts and railings around a copse used regularly by the military. We also repaired some of the troop stiles which had clearly been used a lot. I’m pretty sure repairing such things is fairly unique to where I work, which is just another reason why I love where I work so much.
My final week of October began with my fellow trainee Phil spending the day with myself and Liz, finishing off the dry stone wall at Chancellors Farm. This was Phil’s first time doing any walling, so it gave me the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and some handy tips - after about four days the wall was finally finished. In the afternoon of the same day, we started to take out a stretch of old post and barb fencing at Long Meadow, which was going to be totally replaced by a contractor at a later stage. Myself and Liz then spent a full day back at Long Meadow finishing the fence removal and taking down some overhanging branches which needed to be out of the way for the new fence to go in. Again, not strictly felling but getting closer and closer. I ended the month at Yoxter range by myself, taking out some unwanted gorse and brambles which were taking over a stretch of newly planted hawthorn. Eventually there will be a rather handsome hedge line in place – which will undoubtedly need lots of work needed in the future.
Picture: Dry Stone Walling at Chancellor's Farm