Yup, that's right- out on Magdalen Down clearing scrub for the butterflies, moths, birds and other Wild Things who make this fantastic stretch of Chalk Downland their home.
My friend Dave, who is on my course, was there too, wielding loppers and a saw, as well as three other volunteers and Abby who is second in command, and finally Jayne, who is Reserves Officer and arrived with The Most Enormous box of cakes you've ever seen.
By the time I arrived they already had a bonfire going, and we fed it for the next two hours with branches and twigs and brambles which we had cut down and collected, until it was white hot, roaring, and baptising us with hundreds of flecks of drifting ash (I pretended I was in Pompeii, which was a Bit Frightening to be honest).
It was Great Fun, even with the rain. We all stopped for tea and cake and a bit of a natter in the shelter of the trees while the rain poured down. Jayne showed me a map of the site and highlighted some of the management considerations she has to think about when running the reserve (the cost of fencing alone is staggering).
It gave me a really good insight into what it is like to look after a reserve, how much work is involved, how every tree and shrub and flower is meticulously planned and has to earn its place with conservation in mind. You don't necessarily consider these things when you're out enjoying a walk in the country so it was good to see it from the other side, so to speak.
It also made me realise how much difference volunteers and volunteering make to places like this, so I would DEFINITELY say, if you have a couple of hours spare, really think about volunteering with a local organisation - you can guarantee they'll be able to put you to good use and you'll meet plenty of nice, like-minded, cheerful souls and enjoy a morning or afternoon being active out in the country (does it get much better than that?) It felt really good to be doing some active and purposeful to help wildlife.
Here are some shots of the morning...
|We were working at the foot of the hill where you can see the bonfire smoke|
|Our Lovely Bonfire|
|Dave chucking branches on the fire|
|An action shot of me in the rain, just to prove I was there!|
|Magdalen Hill Nature Reserve|
The Herald Moth who appeared in our bedroom recently looks very much like he is hibernating as suspected. He certainly hasn't moved off his spot on the wall above where I sleep since yesterday. Finger's crossed.
Wishing you all a lovely weekend,
PS- If you'd like to see the Northern Lights in action, have a look at Dave's blog (here) and click on the photo to go to a video of it. Fantastic!