My summer of work experience at Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Will volunteering at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve

My name’s William, and over the past summer I have been volunteering with Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

I am currently studying Biosciences at Durham University, with a focus on ecology and conservation, and therefore decided to spend time working with the Trust during my summer break. This has given me valuable experience of conservation programmes in action, as well as helping to get me out of the house!

I have had experience carrying out various different tasks over the course of my placement, helping to preserve vital habitats and monitor the species found across them. These have ranged from bracken bashing, needed to ensure the establishment of key woodland systems, to drone flights, which are important to monitor the success of habitat restoration.

Personally, the most rewarding experience has been surveying the important wildlife found at several key sites, including the nationally important population of white-faced darter dragonflies at Scaleby Moss. This species is confined to a handful of sites across England, and was previously considered extinct across Cumbria; its reintroduction has been a major success for the county’s biodiversity, and therefore the monitoring of the white-faced darter is one of the Trust’s most important responsibilities.

Will bracken bashing at Eycott Hill

Will bracken bashing at Eycott Hill

In addition, I have spent time surveying the plant life at several of the Trust’s reserves, particularly the meadows at Eycott Hill. I can confidently say that my wildflower ID skills have vastly improved (admittedly, I was no expert when I started!), and would strongly recommend anybody taking the time to improve their botanical knowledge. It has given me a new understanding of the rich plant biodiversity of our local area, something I had not previously considered in great detail. It is also incredibly satisfying simply to be able to identify a particular flower, be it speedwell, selfheal or eyebright; indeed, the more you consider the wildlife around us, the more you appreciate its beauty.

This placement has been intensely rewarding, and I am very grateful to the tireless staff at the Trust for giving me the opportunity to help them in the field (hope I wasn’t too much of a hindrance!). Volunteering with the Trust is a fantastic way to help the precious natural ecosystems with which Cumbria is blessed; I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in our local wildlife.  

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