After another busy month, I’ve now finally got time to sit down and write about what I’ve been up to during the month of October.

Conigre Mead Project

So October all kicked off at our Conigre Mead nature reserve. The plan being to install one woody debris structure on the nearside marginal shelf of the Bristol Avon, this would help to facilitate the sedimentation of the shelf with the aim to encourage colonisation by wetland plants, enhancing the riparian habitat for wildlife.

To install the structure we felled a large limb of crack willow from one of the tresses in the reserve, which we then winged into place and secured using chestnut stakes. This all sounds very simple but in the end, it took a team of 6 of us around two hours to get it into position! This was because the original tree we had earmarked for this project some time ago had subsequently been pollarded and the next nearest suitable tree was some way away from the river. This was further compounded by the fact the only suitable winching anchor we had was still far enough away from the river that we had a significant distance to lever the limb into position. We certainly needed our Weetabix that day (other cereals are available).   

Dorset Residential

Soon after this, I was off to the Kingcombe nature reserve in Dorset on a week-long residential course, staying in one of the holiday homes they have on site there. I even had my own en-suite! Very fancy! The week was part of the Wild Paths Traineeships. Wild Paths have two trainees from Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Avon wildlife trusts, but unlike my traineeship, these focus on land management and conservation. So I was the intruder for the week.  

It was a great week away, spent with lovely people all equally passionate about wildlife. Many late-night walks looking for owls and badgers ensued in our free time as well as an excellent wildlife pub quiz put on by Rachel. On top of that, some actual learning was done as well where we covered courses focussing on deer ecology and management, conservation grazing, stock checking as well as emergency first aid.   

Vehicle Introduction and Crosscutting

Later in the month, it was our team’s vehicle introduction day – the water team has its own quad bike and ATVs and given the changeover of the team it was deemed useful for us all to have an introduction into the basics of quad biking and off-road driving. I was particularly excited for this as I have a small amount of previous experience with both enduro and quad bikes and was excited to have some fun. It turned into a very useful day actually and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

The practical learning continued later into the month with my chainsaw maintenance and crosscutting course – a course I completed with the two Wiltshire wild paths trainees, always good to catch up with them. This was to be my first experience using a chainsaw and so was obviously nervous but excited too. Although I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite thing it’s a very useful tool for the job, one that you simply can’t ignore.   

Semington Brook Project

Finally, the month ended with a small project on a stretch of the Semington Brook. The channel along most of the stretch had become over-shaded suppressing in-channel plant growth and hence reducing the ecological value of the stream. Skylighting and pollarding to produce a shade/sun balance more akin to the recommended 40/60 ratio were undertaken to encourage in channel plant growth. This was also good crosscutting practice for me to help familiarise myself with a chainsaw so soon after passing my course.

So that’s it for the month of October. Tune in next month to find out what new adventures I’ve got up to, and in the meantime check out our twitter page (@Wiltsrivers) to see what the water team here, at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is getting up to.