From fungi to 4×4’s – life as a new Conservation Assistant

With the autumn season that has just begun its seasonal rain and the leaves that have started to turn all sorts of striking colours – from gold and bronze to russet and deep red, here at Yarner Wood there are some new faces within the team.

Beany, Natalija and Sarah have just begun their one year journey as EcoSkills trainees. With a passion for nature, they all have a background in ecology and conservation and are eager to pursue careers in this field. Here is a sneak peek into the exciting goings on during their first two months …

Recently, along with the ‘old’ trainees Robyn and James, the new trainees scouted the banks of the River Bovey looking for signs of otter activity by searching for otter spraint (otherwise known as poo!). Although this time they were not lucky enough to see any, they will most likely repeat the survey in the middle of December, and keeping fingers crossed, find signs of this elusive species.

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Otter survey on the River Bovey – ‘Old’ and new trainees

Working on the East Dartmoor NNR often means driving the land rovers and other 4×4’s off road and that is why trainees have recently been on 4×4 training, which will help them to get to the remote parts of the reserve. For this course they went along to SR Training just outside Plymouth.

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Vehicle recovery during 4×4 training at SR Training, near Saltash, Cornwall

In order to further enhance their knowledge and appreciate the importance of traditional practices, the trainees undertook a rural skills course in hedge laying. This course took place with CREST’s Training tutor, Ed Lowe, on his family’s mixed livestock farm near Okehampton in Devon. The trainees spent the day practicing the art of hedge laying after receiving theoretical information about the methods, tools and benefits to wildlife and the farm.

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Hedge laying course, near Okehampton in Devon (courtesy of Sarah Burchett, CREST)

In preparation for the River of Life Lantern walk the trainees and Andy Bailey, from the Moor than meets the eye landscape partnership project, got busy with their creativity. By visiting local schools to make fish-shaped lanterns with Year Six pupils and collaborating with each other to make giant lanterns, they hoped to create an illuminated river of flying fish, led by a giant salmon to celebrate the wildlife of the Bovey Valley.

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Lantern making by our new trainees; Sarah, Beany and Natalija, for the River of Life Lantern Festival

Every year the Lantern Festival is held to celebrate the wildlife and communities of Bovey Tracey and the Bovey Valley. There was a record 500 visitors which turned out for this year’s event, and whilst it rained heavily in the morning, by the time the lanterns were lit at dusk, the weather was mild and dry. The procession of fish-shaped lanterns, carried by keen participants, made its way through the Mill Marsh Park to the grand finale at National Trust Parke, where fire sculptures amazed, storytellers huddled around the campfires, and music and dancing filled the air with fun and laughter. Thanks to everyone that contributed and came along to make the event so special!

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Andy Bailey, the Community and Engagement Officer from the Moor than meets the eye landscape partnership, burning ‘The River of Life’  fire sculpture at the Lantern Festival

Autumn is a perfect time of the year for discovering the wonderful fungi that live in the woods here on the Reserve. With the help of fungi expert, David Farley, trainees assisted with the Fungi Foray event held in Yarner Wood in October, which focused on exploration of the fascinating world of fungi, identification, their ecology and importance in woodlands.

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In search of fungi in East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve, Yarner Wood

Natalija is keen to pursue a career in ecology and management and has an interest in the connections between nature and human wellbeing; Beany is looking into habitat management and hopes to have a job role as a conservation project officer; and Sarah is interested in species and habitat management on a landscape scale, to benefit native ecology and people’s enjoyment of the natural environment.

Looking ahead Sarah, Beany and Natalija will be working towards their licences in brush-cutting, pesticide and chainsaw use and they are eager to carry out survey and monitoring projects on Dartmoor.

Follow the link to get all the latest updates for what is going on at the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve … East Dartmoor NNR Facebook page.

Written by Natalija Jovanovic

The Conservation Assistant trainee programme is part of the  Moor than meets the eye EcoSkills Project

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