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The Boardwalk Project – Hedleyhope Fell Nature Reserve - Durham Wildlife Trust

July 25, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The Boardwalk Project – 23/6/16

I had been looking forward to this day, to get involved with the boardwalk project at Hedleyhope Fell Nature Reserve. Recently, I wrote a photo story for my university magazine; focusing on the damaging effects that plastic pollution had on marine invertebrates. After much research, the message was apparent – plastics are devastating for the marine environment. Harmful to all of Earth’s natural environments to be truthful. The problem being; plastics take an immense time to degrade and harm much of our wildlife. So, it’s a poignant issue that needs to be recognised and solved.

When I was informed by Ian (the western reserves officer) that they are building a 150m boardwalk out of recycled plastic bottles, I was delighted. What an ingenious Idea! Use this over-manufactured material for a secure and sustainable resource, to benefit the environment, rather than destroy it. Although I was incredibly enthusiastic about this idea, my step dad wasn’t, who was playing the taxi role today. Due to chores and work – I have to be dropped off early, an hour or so before the conservation work begins. I use this time to peer out of the western hide at Low Barnes – waiting for my friend, the kingfisher, to turn up. Sadly, no turn up today, however, I was enlightened to see the offspring of many little birds. I chuckled watching the juvenile great tits – although they are old enough now to feed for themselves, they seemed to prefer shouting at their parent, making them do all the work -  similar to human teenagers I suppose. At the other end of the lake I spotted the local swans, such tranquil looking birds, I smiled as I noticed 4 healthy looking signets. Another lovely morning start at Low Barnes.

I arrived outside the reserves building to find Ian and a couple of other volunteers, loading the contents of the boardwalk, the majority of it being wood like plastic stacks. Once everything was loaded, we got in the land rover, and set off to Hedleyhope Fell Nature Reserve (Tow Law). As we arrived, I was chuffed to see the awaiting volunteers, at least 15 other people! Clearly I wasn’t the only enthusiastic volunteer. We all worked together to gather the building contents of the boardwalk and take them down to the heathland where it was being built. The boardwalk project was designed to save people from the inevitable boggy tracks nicely imposed on us by the miserable winter months. Its also a clear indicator for what you should be walking on. The heathland is a vital habitat for many animals – birds, insects and reptiles are probably the ones most associated with this particular environment.

There were many jobs to be getting on with; we were lucky enough to be accompanied with a richness of martins, darting between us as we worked. A lot of the labour required today was DIY related chores. Today was a worthwhile fortuitous moment for me -  a little confession... my masculinity fails embarrassingly when it comes to DIY work. Well, it did before today, I do feel slightly more ‘mannish’! We did all sorts; measuring and sawing the plastic stacks to fit the wholes and match the adjoining architecture, drilling the correctly aligned nails to secure the structure, just generally using different tools for different jobs. Another task was assigned by Ian – a group of us started to cut down young ash trees that were close to towering over the adjacent heather. I assume this was for ecological reasons - once the trees got tall enough, they would have prevented the contiguous heather from sunlight. Once they were cut down, they were dumped in a nearby woodland. I tell you something though; although I spend a lot of my spare time doing regular exercise (running, walking and rock climbing mainly), I was quite worn-out doing all this in the sun -  hats off to everyone for the physical exertion that day!

Lunch time! – I managed to sneak off from the crowd of hungry volunteers to search for the hiding insects. I only had a bit of time so the quantity of my sightings were not so successful, but was more than happy with the quality! A spectacular looking insect presented itself – I’ve identified it as a Green Sawfly, I’m no entomologist so let me know if I’m incorrect! The next find required patience to get a photograph; a Small Heath, perched nicely amongst the long grass.

It was very reassuring to see so many people, young and old, coming together to work on this project. I had many pleasant experiences talking to some of the folk, I could barely get round to all of them. Huge progress was made on the boardwalk. I was very satisfied with what I learnt as regards to the DIY work. Wonderful to meet such enthusiastic hard working volunteers. Not complaining as regards to my wildlife sightings, got some nice shots to add to my portfolio. Exercise is always important, I definitely got plenty of that! For the very few lucky people that were returning to Low Barnes, I’m sure we would all like to thank Ian for the tasty ice lolly!


You can view my blogs on the Durham Wildlife Trust website: http://www.durhamwt.com/jacks-2nd-week-volunteering-with-durham-wildlife-trust/


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