Trainee Reserves Officer Diaries Part Three

 

Trainee Reserves Officer Helena shares her third update on what she has been up to over the last few months.

Hello All,
 
It certainly feels like quite a while since I wrote my last blog. It has been a bit of a strange year to say the least, but over the past few months, we’ve been able to return to some form of normality with the volunteer work parties. 
 
With the summer work programme finished for the year, I’m glad we’ve been able to make the most of it, especially after a somewhat disrupted spring. We’ve all certainly done our fair share of bracken pulling at Charnwood Lodge and as a result, Timberwood Hill looks much better! There have been buckets of ragwort removed at Cribb’s and Merry’s Meadow and most recently we’ve been battling the gorse and brambles at Ulverscroft - although unfortunately for us, the brambles haven’t been as placid as the bracken, which I’ve actually grown quite fond of.  … Maybe ‘fond’ is the wrong choice of word, but it certainly doesn’t put up as much of a fight.

PC Shrub Removal

 

I’ve had the chance to finally try out the Powerscythe, third time lucky, as the other two attempts were thwarted by Covid-19. We used it to cut back vegetation at Tilton Cutting and to mow a path through Fox Wood. For me and a few of the volunteers, it was our first time visiting Fox Wood – one of our reserves not currently open to the public. We ran the first volunteer task day with the Thursday group, where the main task predominantly involved weeding around the tree plantings to encourage them to grow; these were planted by the local community. 

I was also able to assist with the island creation and tern rafts at Cossington Meadows. On an unusually hot day in September, a small group of us shovelled a fair few tonnes of hardcore and gravel to create a new island for the terns, gulls, and other breeding birds to utilise. With the water level low, we were able to access the site without relying on our wellies! I was also able to assist with the maintenance of the second tern raft. 

To complete the job, we had to row out and bring the raft to the shore. I think it is safe to say I won’t be making the GB Rowing Team anytime soon, but it was good fun!
 
Over at Ulverscroft, we have been coppicing, undertaking track repairs and ditch clearance. I wasn’t directly involved with the stream work, but did partake in hazel coppicing, where the stems were used to secure the banks of the stream. The Thursday woodland work at Prior’s Coppice and Launde Big Wood has also been continuing, with the familiar fires helping to keep everyone warm which is needed more than ever, as I’m failing miserably as a tea and biscuit provider.

Within the past few months, I’ve also completed the pesticide assessment – PA1, PA6a, and PA6aw. I was able to put the training into practice at Cossington Meadows, where we were cutting back crack willow from around the scrapes and treating it. We must control willow trees and prevent them from regenerating in and around scrapes and pools. An exposed shoreline is important for deterring predators, as they are not able to hide in the undergrowth and predate waders and their young. 
 
I also gained the brushcutter ticket and by the time this blog is published, I will have completed the first aid and chainsaw training. Fingers crossed I’ll have the chainsaw assessment ticked off before Christmas.
 

TRO

 

In wildlife news… with the rainy weather now upon us and the dampening of our reserves, it is the perfect season for fungi. I’m planning on getting out and about to learn as much as possible. Ulverscroft in particular is a good spot, so I couldn’t be in a better place. 
 
Think that’s all for now, take care