Volunteering at the Local Nature Trail - Week One

11 October 2020

I'm posting something a little different on the blog than usual, as lately I have been getting involved in some practical volunteering work at my local nature trail. I have been working towards the John Muir Discovery award (which you can find out more about here) and as part of the 'conserve it' section I decided to get stuck into some practical conservation work and help out in the local community. I've always loved sharing what I've been up to in nature and so I thought I would document my volunteering on the blog!

Last week I was walking along my local nature trail with my camera, taking in all the autumn changes throughout the woodland paths. I got down to the bottom of the trail where the wildflower meadow had been scythed for next years regrowth and I saw a lady digging up some weeds with a fork. I'd seen people working on this part of the nature trail before and I wanted to find out more and so I approached her and asked what she was working on. She told me all about the place and how it once used to be a railway station and that a group of volunteers have come together to work on a project to restore and conserve what remains of the station and to turn it into a place where people can come to sit and admire the nature that surrounds it. I spoke about how much I enjoy walking down there and appreciate having such a beautiful place to walk around in the village. I asked whether she was looking for any volunteers, to which she replied "of course! We're always looking for help around here". I agreed to help out and got stuck into it this week! 

On my first morning on Tuesday, I got stuck into clearing most of the widespread Herb-Robert around the stumpery and shaded area to make space for the spring flowers to bloom. In spring this would become a space where there will be a display of flowers such as English bluebells, forget-me-nots and daffodils. I was told about the stumpery area which has been formed together with logs, branches, rocks and bracken. It has become a haven for wildlife, with sightings of frogs, toads, butterflies and plenty of insects who take up residence there. I dug up some bracken that had started growing in the shaded area and re-planted them around the logs to provide more cover for wildlife. We found bulbs along the way, mostly bluebell bulbs and dug deep holes in the ground to re-plant the bulbs for spring. We also found English maple and Sycamore trees beginning to grow around the patch due to seeds being dispersed in the wind or by birds and so we dug these up to be planted in a more suitable place amongst the woodland part of the nature trail. 



On Wednesday I came back to help out in the afternoon and we continued to clear the Herb-Robert and nettles around the stumpery area. I was excited to have discovered jelly ear fungus that was growing on a broken branch beside the stumpery. I was told to leave the dandelions as they are rich in pollen and nectar for the bees for when they start to emerge in spring and are on the hunt for a source of pollen and nectar. I came across more bulbs that needed to be planted again ready for the spring and so I got my shovel and made deep holes in the earth to place the bulbs in and cover up. I pointed out beautiful deep pink flowers standing tall and was told that they were called common mallow and was told to leave them as they are a source of nectar for the insects. There were also cyclamen flowers in bloom which are a hardy perennial that likes shaded border areas and gives colour throughout the winter months. We also found primroses beginning to grow amongst the Herb-Robert and nettles and so we made sure not to disturb them too. 

End of week one

I came back on Friday to spend some time in the morning, helping out with clearing more of the Herb-Robert. We came across a lot of dried wildflower stems which would made a perfect material for birds nests so we made sure to keep this to one side for the birds. I found more bracken to dig up and plant around the stumpery, providing cover for the wildlife and saw that the jelly ear fungus was still there growing upon the broken tree branches. We spotted prints in the dirt along the pathway between the shaded area and had a feeling it could have belonged to a badger. I was told that there are badgers that are usually seen around this patch at night as a nearby neighbour has spotted them on their trail cam. 

Before packing up we took a walk down to the woodland area to plant up the English maple trees we had found growing in the shaded area. It's been a lot of fun helping out at the local nature trail and I look forward to popping my wellies back on and continue the rest of the project next week. It's given me plenty of ideas for my own garden projects such as making a mini stumpery in the garden for the frogs that visit the garden. It's amazing how you never know what's around in your local area and there are plenty of things you can do to help care for wild spaces. 

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