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First day volunteering for the Durham Wildlife Trust

July 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

My first day! – Low Barnes Nature Reserve – 21/6/16

Well, it started off with an early morning discrete reminder that I need a lift to Low Barnes – that didn’t exactly enlighten my mum’s mood. Low Barnes is a beautiful, diverse, friendly nature reserve. Vast with wildlife and local to my area; I spent most of my childhood weekends here, sitting patiently in a hide. I arrived an hour early so I had the pleasure of photographing this wondrous male kingfisher (gender distinguished by the underside of beak). Another spectacle presented itself, a woodpecker feeding its two young. Not a bad start to the day? But it came time to start grafting!

I first met the team outside the reserves building – receiving the morning brief, discussing what needs to be done and what tasks we were assigned too. I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only volunteer – I was lucky enough to work with a welcoming team that also had two other new starters: Elliot and Tracey. Steve, the northern reserves officer, was our leader today.


So, the task for today was not exactly ‘exciting’, but it needed to be done. Ragwort, not the most impressive species of British plant, a very common species of weed due to its large seed abundance. Although it doesn’t have a direct impact on the environment, it has knock on effects if there are horses involved. Low Barnes have a small group of Exmoor ponies, grazing amongst the meadows/grassland, nourishing the land and preventing to much overgrowth (saving a job for the task force I presume). These wonderful animals are susceptible to poising if they consume the flowering Ragwort – which could easily be done considering the profusion of the plant. So our job today was to dig up the Ragwort and get rid of the detritus. Sounds tedious doesn’t it, well, I thought it would be to be honest. But then I got talking to the people involved, sorry for the slang, but it was great ‘crack’!

We talked about football, what films we liked, favourite animals etc. Was more of a social task than a practical task. Digging up the Ragwort was not to strenuous, we had forks that assisted us. Obviously nothing is expected of a volunteer – your there to have a good time, and appreciated with with your conservation intentions. I did however start to notice the abundance of the plant, and realise why the job needed to be done… it was everywhere!


As a photographer I couldn’t help but get my camera out, its amazing what you can see whilst working in the outdoors, especially when the sun is shining bright. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t damaging any animals of the smaller world whilst digging up the Ragwort. Insects are amazing, simple as, they are often undermined by humans. I came across mayflies, the common blue damselfly, plenty of bumblebee species, caterpillars, beetles moths and spiders etc. Lots to see, just get down on your knees and observe.  One member of the team found a young common toad on the banks of the river whilst digging up the Ragwort – another nice find!

So, how was my first day volunteering? I got some good exercise, bit of a tan, met some wonderful people, seen some fantastic wildlife and most importantly, helped conserve the environment at Low Barnes – I can’t complain. 

You can also find my blogs on the Durham Wildlife Trust website - http://www.durhamwt.com/


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