Trainee Reserves Officer diaries...

New Trainee Reserves Officer Helena talks us through her first few weeks in the job and how she got into conservation.

A bit about me...

Hello all, I’m Helena Bolingbroke, the new Trainee Reserves Officer working for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. I’m writing this blog to reflect and share with you the work I will be carrying out during the next 12 months, including any cool wildlife I may see. However, before I get ahead of myself, let me briefly explain how I have come to be working in conservation...

Like many a budding conservationist, my interest in nature and the great outdoors was sparked at a young age. With a Scottish Mum, trips to the Highlands were a fairly regular occurrence, so there were many opportunities to begin exploring and appreciating wildlife. That being said, conservation was not my initial thought when deciding on a potential career and instead I took the farming route. I worked on a number of small scale farms in Leicestershire and the Highlands, which then led to part time employment in the agricultural industry. 

However, I soon started to realise the agriculture wasn't for me and instead I chose to study a degree in Wildlife Conservation at Nottingham Trent University, a decision I certainly did not regret. I was able to apply some of the knowledge I had gained working on farms to the conservation grazing parts of my modules, but also covered topics such as behaviour, habitat management, wildlife conflicts and resolution, wildlife law and policy and ecology.

I graduated in July 2019 and then began the process of applying for conservation jobs, although soon realised a bit more practical experience was needed. So I started volunteering at Beacon Hill, Watermead Country Park and for LRWT. Whilst financially supporting myself by working at the Co-op as a Customer Service Assistant (and later in training to be Duty Manager) and at George’s Tradition, I learnt a lot in both roles and was able to develop supervisory experience at the Co-op. However, when the trainee role was advertised, deciding to apply for it was a no-brainer, especially as I was already volunteering with the mid-week LRWT group. The interview was a success and I was happily in a position to take up the role!

Helena TRO

Work So Far…

The main part of this job is assisting the Reserves Officer with the organising and leading of volunteer work days, where a range of habitat management tasks are carried out across our nature reserves.

Some of the work I have been involved with so far has included planting willow stakes at Cossington Meadows, which will grow to create a protective barrier, shielding the scrapes from the footpath and canal. This also provided an excellent opportunity for a spot of bird watching and some of the highlights were Gadwall, Goldfinch, Little Egret, Shoveler and Wigeon! I was also part of the team removing Western Red Cedar from Launde Park Wood, a strenuous, but rewarding task, with a free workout at the “green gym”. I also assisted with bramble pulling at Ulverscroft to encourage the regeneration of heathland, an essential task on this important site.

Fencing at Lea Meadows

With Spring now upon us, there has been a significant change to the workload, moving away from habitat management to improving reserve access, as the return of our migrating birds and the imminent nesting season means we cannot continue with scrub removal or thinning for fear of causing disruption. This has provided a good opportunity to get involved with my first fencing tasks at Dimminsdale and Lea Meadows, as well as step repairs at Holwell.

Out on site we’ve seen our first Bumblebees and Brimstones of the season, as well as early migrants such as Chiffchaff and the start of the Bee Orchids emerging. I’m looking forward to getting more hands on experience, particularly in the fencing department and getting to use a range of machinery such as the Power Scythe, as we start the mowing and raking of grasslands, whilst also keeping an eye out for birds and reptiles!