Louise looks back!

Volunteers dry stone walling at Eycott Hill

What can I say? My placement finishes on Thursday and I still can’t quite get my head round the fact that I won’t be driving down to Eycott Hill to struggle against the wind after this week. The nine months since I started have been brilliant, I have learned so much from this placement and I have picked up so many skills; from dry stone walling and fencing to writing blog posts and e-newsletters.
Louise Richards with quadrat

Louise Richards with quadrat

I’ve really enjoyed the many different experiences I have had whilst volunteering at Eycott Hill.

When I started out I got many comments on the state of my back pack which was pretty small got very grubby very fast and fell apart in its first week. It took me back today when I got an email from one of the volunteers wishing me and my back pack well in the future.

One of the first things I did was attend a wildflower identification course; the skills I picked up during the course were very helpful because the next few weeks were mainly taken up by surveying the vegetation at Eycott Hill, putting my newly learned wildflower knowledge to the test. Since then I have been on a moth identification course, iRecord training and s fungi identification course.

Volunteers at eycott hill with heath plants

Volunteers at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve

I have been to countless volunteer work parties planting plugs, trees, hedges, dry stone walling, fencing and working on heathland restoration.

My practical skills have definitely improved over time (I hope) I remember on the fencing training course how the volunteers were speedily attaching the fence to post after post whilst I was still on my first post, but I would like to think I’m a lot faster now.

I was surprised that I have interacted with nature when least expecting it, I have seen more voles when dry stone walling than at any other time, and we even found a hibernating newt when repairing a dry stone wall with volunteers. 

Volunteers tree planting at Eycott Hill

Volunteers tree planting at Eycott Hill 

The Eycott Hill staff and volunteers, who are so enthusiastic no matter what the task or the weather and seem just as happy planting trees as building walls, welcomed me as part of the team when I first arrived.

It has been brilliant to meet and to get to know the volunteers and I will miss the debates trying to make a decision on what type of biscuit is best can (we still can’t decide on a clear winner). 

I have led some guided walks, school visits and an environmental art event at Eycott Hill. It has been really enjoyable to lead these groups in getting to know Eycott Hill nature reserve in different ways.

Louise Richards leading a school group at Eycott HiIl

Louise Richards leading a school group at Eycott HiIl

I particularly enjoyed leading the school groups and the environmental art event. The school groups often really enjoy coming to the nature reserve.

The chance to run around outdoors on a school day is pretty fun and writing your own story about the muddy mermaids and rock dragons that live at Eycott Hill is quite exciting.

The environmental art event was also pretty creative and had a nice spring theme; we drew pictures of what inspired us in the reserve, made very muddy bog paintings and then got even muddier making clay animal sculptures with clay we had dug out of the ground that morning.

I am now fairly familiar with the nature reserve, I am pretty sure that I have been to almost every corner on work parties, guided walks, school visits and events but it can still surprise you, whether it’s the breath taking views or how muddy the bog can get the reserve still has the ability to surprise you.

I would love to take the chance in the future to visit again to see how the nature reserve is getting on. 

Louise, volunteer placement student

National Lottery Heritage Fund

Work at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve is possible thanks to National Lottery Players, and support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.