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The return of Alix and Mélanie

Posted: Monday 2nd September 2019 by ERC Team

Catch up with Mélanie and Alix and find out what they got up to during August.

Thursday 1st of August:
After these few days of volunteering and working at the office, we had to continue our work on our projects. Liz dropped us off at Silent Valley where we followed the route that was now becoming a routine for us. We checked all of the adder trays (did not see any adders) and recorded all of the environmental factors without a hitch. We were then able to begin to put into practice the phase 1 training on our own, in the beech woodland part of the reserve. We started mapping an area of marshy grassland as well as an area of acid grassland. It went well until our colleagues left us on top of the valley, waiting for them to pick us up in the sun. Two concerned workers in Silent Valley came to check on us to see if we were not lost hikers. We reassured them by saying that we were just volunteers of Gwent Wildlife Trust that Tom had forgotten. Of course this was a slight exaggeration (he did not actually forget us) and Tom arrived just a few minutes later.

Friday 2nd of August:
To try and stick to our plan of working twice a week on our projects, we once again headed to Silent Valley. The day was a pretty standard one in terms of work and findings: we saw a few ants, spiders, mice and slow worms, and the phase 1 survey went well. However, it was a particularly odd day for me as I found myself much clumsier than usual. I once slipped and fell on my behind without any particular reason, but the most memorable fall of the week - or might I say of the month – happened whilst we were walking through the bracken, next to the fence, with the slope being very steep on our left. A fly flew directly into my ear, making me lose my balance as I tried to shake it out. Being destabilised, I instinctively reached out to try and hold on to some bracken. However, my instincts were a bit off as I caught the bracken that was underneath me rather than above, and slowly fell, head first in the huge mass of fern, in the slope. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt anywhere, apart maybe from my dignity.

• Week 6:

Monday 5th of August:
Monday morning was the team meeting. We discussed what had been done this past month, with everyone saying what had been a few “highlights of the month” according to them. Mélanie and I said that we had particularly enjoyed rebuilding the decking over the pond, the stonewalling course and the phase 1 survey training. The team also explained the events to come and the work planned for the month ahead.
The afternoon was spent at the office, catching up on the report and this blog.

Tuesday 6th of August:
For volunteer day, a two-day course on stonewalling was organized. The original plan was for Stewart to once again be the instructor, but he was unavailable to come so Liz held the course instead. In the morning she did a quick presentation on stonewalling and the techniques we would be using. Indeed, the technique we used during these two days was slightly different to the one we had previously learnt. Instead of building a dry stone wall (only with stones), we built a wall that alternates stone and soil. This type of wall has the advantage of being particularly beneficial to wildlife. Plants grow in the soil, insects can crawl in between the stones and birds can even set up nests in small holes left empty of soil.
After the short class, we headed to Central Valley where the plan was to build a small wall to mark the entrance of the reserve. We sorted the stones that had been delivered the previous day, and got to work. We first laid the foundation stones, covered them with soil and added a layer of turf turned upside down. We followed this pattern all the way to the top of the wall, where we put a final layer of turf to cover the stones. The purpose of the turf being upside down in between the stones is to enable the water to trickle down and out of the wall. We managed to finish the wall in one day, with still enough stones to begin exciting new projects on the second day of the course.

Wednesday 7th of August:
The following day, we directly met up in Central Valley to begin working on our new project of the day. The group agreed that only having a wall on one side of the path didn’t define the entrance clearly enough and wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, and therefore decided to build another one on the other side. With the same technique and the leftover stones, we built a slightly smaller wall on the opposite side of the first one. We were then left with a small pile of stones. With these, we built a beautiful little planter next to the most recent wall. In this planter, we planted a small rowan tree.

Thursday 8th of August:
The day was spent mostly at the office with the rest of the team. I worked on the report, the blog and my project.
In the morning, Liz, Jane and I did a butterfly count and survey in Central Valley. We saw many Painted Lady, Meadow Brown and Common Blue butterflies. I tried to take some pictures of them on flowers for my report but they all either closed their wings or just flew away as soon as I approached. This is how I decided that flowers alone were also a lovely way of illustrating my school report.

Friday 9th of August:
Despite having originally planned to work on our projects in Silent Valley, the risk of trees and branches falling was too high to go. We were warned that there would be strong rain and wind, so we stayed at the office most of the day. We also went to Dan-y-Graig with Liz and Natalie who had a meeting there. We explored the nature reserve as we had never seen it before, and managed to get lost despite there being only one way to go.

From the 12th of August to the 30th of August:

During the month of August, we did less things so we decided to summarize what we did after the 9th of August.
To begin with, we worked on our technical assignment in Silent Valley where we did some Adder and plant surveys. With the rain we fell a lot of times because we are clumsy; but it was funny.

We built another stone wall in two days but in a different way and this time it was on one of the Gwent Wildlife Trust reserves: Central Valley. Indeed, we put some soil between the stones and we placed a strip of grass on top of the wall. The goal of this work was to mark the Central Valley entrance. It was very interesting to do this wall even if the weather was terrible the first day.

We also worked on our internship reports because we need to be almost done with them before we go back to France. Moreover, it’s easier to ask people about the company or the project while we are still working at Gwent Wildlife Trust.

We did two interviews with people of the enterprise as part of a school project about executives.

Furthermore, we did some weeding behind the office in Environment Resource Centre and in a cemetery to maintain the greenery. The weather in the cemetery was hotter than the one when we were behind the office. However, in both cases it was hard physical work.



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