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Gwent Wildlife Trust Grassland Conservation Trainee blog by Nadine Evans

Posted: Thursday 18th July 2019 by Sarah Harris

Burnet Moth on an Orchid. Photo by Nadine EvansBurnet Moth on an Orchid. Photo by Nadine Evans

Here's June’s blog and I feel rather guilty. Looking back at the last two blogs and thinking Gosh! They were long! But if you have read them, you can see how much there is to pack in. Fate has dealt this month’s reader with a fortunate card however. I have been in hospital for a small surgical procedure so will lose at least a week’s worth of blog!

June started with a brilliant guided walk and talk on Wet Meadow near Trellech. Andy Karran, Senior Conservation Ecologist, is our walking, talking encyclopaedic guide and I think he must possess the brain size of a small county, as he's so utterly clever. The talk was about identifying grasses, rushes and sedge. Now I am a complete beginner but learnt absolutely heaps although I was completely headmashed later. Whilst on the walk, Tim suggested that at the end of my traineeship maybe I could give a talk involving everything I had learnt. When the initial shock of this idea passed I thought, you know, I have learnt so much in such a short time it would be kinda cool!

As I was enjoying the walk, I had a phone call saying my operation had been brought forward a week and was now in two days’ time! Once again my ever patient ‘higher ups’ were on side.
Linda and Tim have been so supportive and although I knew how pushed they were for people to help with tasks on the Thursday to come, and I had been a welcome addition, I had ‘dropped them right in it’ as now would be in hospital. They were incredible. They would manage. ‘Flexibility, adaptability, innovation’ Tim’s mantra and yet, it cut both ways. They have exercised the same with me without a grimace or frown and I am so grateful.
So I left after the talk as Linda kindly told me to go home, sort myself out for hospital.

Next day was a brilliant talk by Gwent Wildlife Trust Deputy Chief Executive Gemma Bode' on beginner’s wild flowers. It was so lovely and more like being with a bunch of friends as we sat in the glorious Pentwyn meadows, together in a field and looked at various grasses and flowers. The grasses are beginning to sink in; well about three of the more interestingly named ones! I even saw the Butterfly orchids which looked so lovely. Again, Linda gave me leave to go home early. As I left, a lady I had met on the talk that day was going my way so I gave her a lift. We exchanged numbers and she is looking to move to Monmouth as was enchanted with Pentwyn and the surrounding area. Over the next few days she texted me every day to make sure I was okay in hospital. This is the magic of Gwent Wildlife Trust and the people you meet. Volunteer with them - you will never regret it!
So back after my operation and all is well so far. Intermediate Flower Identification Walk with Andy again, only this time in the teeming rain and freezing weather conditions. A great time was had by all and lots learnt, after which back on my old friend the quad bike to check the stock even the cattle were sheltering from the foul weather. 
Next up the order of the day was orchid counting at Pentwyn/Wyeswood, and I felt an air of responsibility as Pentwyn is famous for its orchids and I'm happy to report a cracking number of Butterfly orchids this year. It is fiddly and a lot of walking is involved but enjoyable and so rewarding. If  ever the song ‘tiptoe through the tulips’ was relevant it is here, only substitute tulips for orchids! You develop a ninja like ability to avoid stepping on even the tiniest flower and at the end I feel proud and qualified enough to use the phrase ‘once you get your eye in’ to any passer-by who has come to view them. This was followed by a talk by Tim given to the Herefordshire Meadows group and included farmers and smallholders and others interested in wildflower grassland and meat box schemes. The talk was amazing and I realised, with somewhat mixed feelings I have learnt so much but still have heaps to learn. I also felt very proud of my bosses as usually I don’t see the ‘deep academic’ side to them in this much detail as my work is at trainee level, but was blown away by Tim’s knowledge and expertise about the land, beasts and farming and Linda’s about moths and creepy crawlies especially as I randomly say: “Hey Linda, I saw a black beetle and it stinks what is it?” and without pictures or further reference Linda comes up with the accurate answer!
Next I was asked to check the livestock as Tim and Linda were stuck in meetings all day. I arrived to find a few lame sheep. I texted Tim and asked if I could get them in and have a go at treating them. 'Yes' was the reply, so I mounted my trusty quaddie, who is now nicknamed ‘Trebor’ because he is mint, and off I went. Why does everything that appears simple always finish up hard? Suffice to say a 1,000 gallons of sweat later, blue fingers from the spray and a ripped top due to an errant Hebridean horn getting caught in the material and that errant Heb' running away (don’t worry, it was Pauline’s top I had borrowed!) a very satisfying days’ work and feet done! What is it with Hebs removing my clothing??? (see previous blogs!)
I completed two days brushcutter training at The Environmental Resource Centre at Ebbw Vale. It was my first time there, and it is one of those places that in the rain makes you feel cosy and you just want to crawl into a corner and read a book with a blankie (blanket) well, I did anyhow. Tea and coffee and chatting about brushcutters was the order of the day. Nice piece of kit! Think massive garden trimmer but with attitude. Lots of health and safety then out in the rain to try them. Day 2, time to go nuts on some serious vegetation with the blade attachment. All of this explanation is very much précised, but the teaching and detail was brilliant and delivered by Senior Reserves Officer Tom Eyles and qualified trainer assessor from the Living Valleys team. Tom is very good at training and is a top bloke with an incredible sense of humour which helps when you are less than co-ordinated at times! The other chaps on the course were great fun too and we all passed. My tickets and knowledge are amassing quickly and Gwent Wildlife Trust have repaid my work with these qualifications. A big thank you.
Finally in June, another guided walk from Andy Karran at the beautiful and well hidden (yes , I was the only one to get lost out of many people on the course….Tim and Linda must be so proud of their trainee!) Henllys Bog. A lot more attractive than the ‘bog’ part would suggest and actually a fen as Andy explained. Some very rare and beautiful flowers and again such great people, I really cannot recommend a guided walk with Andy enough you will learn so much.

So, I have tried to keep it short, but another month done and dusted. I am half way through my traineeship and cannot wait to see what July will bring! 


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