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Soggy socks won’t ruin our day!

Posted: Tuesday 19th September 2017 by Eycott Hill

Admiring the view from Eycott Hill summit - Photo: Emily DoddAdmiring the view from Eycott Hill summit - Photo: Emily Dodd

It was my first time attending an event held by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, so I had no idea what to expect. Upon arrival, I was introduced to Imogen, the Nature Reserve and Training Officer, along with plenty of other smiling faces.

There were just odd jobs left to complete today, since previous volunteers had been so efficient at planting and tree-weeding earlier in the week. So, to begin our first task, we strolled through a field of cattle and squelched through wetland across the nature reserve, as the refreshing winds blew against our faces.

We began by creating public way markers, by plunging each of the wooden posts into the ground with a fence driving tool. This required the sheer strength of two individuals, steady rhythm, and group motivation. Although it took a few attempts and many angles to insert the posts, it was entertaining to judge the verticality of each marker. These posts were then sprayed with primer on the top, in preparation for painting later in the day. We made our way to the summit, where gusty winds and fantastic sights surrounded us – in the distance, you could even see the diggers creating scrapes in the ground to diversify the habitats for dragonflies, amphibians, and wetland plants.

On our way back, the rain began to trickle, and a tiny frog jumped onto my foot before bouncing off into the thick vegetation. The wildlife can be seen emerging all across Eycott Hill, with fox moth caterpillars wriggling their way in sight; plus Devil’s-bit Scabious and Grass-of-Parnassus thriving in the wetland. There were even two meadow pipits perched beside one lonesome rowan tree that was growing out of the cracks of rock upon elevated ground, away from any shelter – it was fascinating to see life survive and thrive in the most peculiar of places. 

It was midday by the time we had hiked back to the viewpoint, so before starting any new tasks, we sat down for lunch. Delicious whiskey fudge bites were coincidently handed out after a couple of volunteers craved a hot toddy and fruit cake (they went down a treat!). As I took a bite into my sandwich, the skies opened and the clouds burst with heavy hail and rain. Despite the wet weather and lack of sunshine (and a few soggy toes), everyone kept such brilliant enthusiasm.

Once the rain had passed, we broke up into small groups to scatter yellow-rattle seeds in the scuff marks that we made in a few freshly cut fields. It was interesting to learn about this seed, as the plant is semi-parasitic, surviving from the nutrients in nearby grass roots. This means that unwanted grass weakens and diminishes over time, allowing other species to become established. Birds flew overhead to keep an eye on us, or maybe they were keeping their eyes on the seeds, but we had trodden the seeds into the soil to prevent any scavenging!

I found it thoroughly rewarding to contribute towards the development of Eycott Hill Nature Reserve. As a newcomer to events like this, I highly recommend others to come along and try them out, to find more details about the upcoming volunteering opportunities visit
http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/whats-on.

Emily Dodd
University of Cumbria & Thrown Overboard Media

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