My Traineeship: Who knew the twists and turns that I and indeed the World would take?!
From installing deer fencing and hedge planting to the lockdown, then homeworking to being furloughed and having activity restricted. My traineeship was certainly interesting to say the least.
I shouldn’t forget that there was so much I helped with on the project. For starters, there were lots of construction of deer fencing at Wappenbury Wood. Then during the early summer I was introduced to a variety of habitat surveys including: woodland, grassland and hedgerow condition surveys. These allowed me to learn how to identify a variety of species.
Also during the summer, I helped at some of the village fetes, talking to locals about the project and the wider Trust to raise awareness of what our aims and aspirations were, along with our current and past achievements covering our habitat restoration and community outreach work. One particular highlight was helping to organise a Norman Family Fun Day at Brinklow Castle. This, like the fetes, gave us an opportunity to engage with the local community, but by being held at the green space itself, gave locals the chance to explore and discover the site. Also with the help of Guarderobe, a local re-enactment group, the children had the opportunity to dress up in Norman attire, make a shield and take part in a battle.
Once the autumn commenced, this gave me the opportunity to do plenty of coppicing, and a two-day hedge laying course. I had done some hedge laying before, so the two-day course in November served as a refresher, as well as familiarising myself with the midland bullock style, as I had previously learned to lay a Devon hedge.
The power tool training was appreciatively supported by my line manager / City & Guilds assessor by giving me a familiarisation in maintaining a brush cutter/chainsaw ahead of the formal training. I had such a good introduction to the safety features and routine maintenance during my brush cutter training, that I was practically teaching fellow learners! I found the first aid fascinating, as I have a biological background, so being able to use that knowledge and apply to new scenarios was great! The chainsaw training was intense and overwhelming. The fact that I had only felled a tree using a bow saw to then going straight into felling sizeable ones – with a chainsaw was a big step for me! By December, having had time to regroup, I decided I would go back, do some refresher training, and take the assessment for maintenance and crosscut. I am so glad I did, as I felt it was such an achievement – and earned me the certificate towards 2 credits of the diploma. I was fortunate enough to also have some additional training in pesticides and woodchipper which I was thrilled to take part in as well.
A large aspect of the project was hedgerow restoration. That meant gapping up, laying or even planting up entire new ones. We were in the middle of creating a new hedgerow at Stoneleigh when the Covid-19 pandemic forced us into homeworking / lockdown.
For the first two weeks of the UK-wide lockdown, we (like many others) were working remotely. During these two weeks, I completed the remainder of my diploma written questions, field reports and completed some questions as part of a professional discussion (or I should say phone call, for absolute accuracy!). Once restrictions were eased enough, Trust protocols / risk assessments were in place, myself and Dan, our Engagement Officer, went out and surveyed some hedgerows. I must admit, surveying isn’t my most favoured activity, but under the circumstances it was nice to feel we were contributing something positive towards the project targets. Before being allowed to go out and survey there was the challenge of using street view to survey some of the hedgerows. Now that was no easy task, I just had to focus on the overall connectivity for wildlife such as dormice and whether any restoration was necessary. The on-site field surveys were on occasion challenging in terms of fathoming exactly where we were on OS maps and dealing with the extremes of weather, but still enjoyable and great to be outdoors!
All in all though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Dunsmore team and the Trust and hope to soon be successful in finding a suitable position to use my newly acquired skills.