My placement so far

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

Hello, I’m John Rowlands and I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce myself as the student placement volunteer in the north. For the past two years I have been studying an honours degree in Forest Management at the University of Cumbria in Ambleside.

The particular units I have been studying include Ecology, Silviculture, Research Methods & Data Analysis and GIS mapping. As you will imagine, a placement with Cumbria Wildlife Trust is a little change from the content of my degree so far, but this is something I am excited about with the chance to learn a lot of new skills and knowledge. I am particularly interested in learning to identify a wider range of ground fauna, birds and insects, enabling me in the future to envisage and apply a fuller picture of the habitat I am surveying.

Since starting my placement in early May I have been involved in a wide range of courses including identifying insects, wild flowers, scything, and the maintenance and use of quad bikes.

Alongside working at Gosling Sike, I have carried out work at a variety of nature reserves including Drumbrugh Moss, Bowness on Solway, Boathouse Field, Thacka Beck, Wreay Woods, and Rockcliffe Marsh.

Gosling Sike is a relatively new project, from when the Trust’s northern team relocated from Susan’s farm to next door and into the lovely new timber clad building. The land surrounding the building is gradually evolving into a lovely wild garden, which from Kate’s hard work is beginning to take shape. This isn’t without the hard work of volunteers, who have and plan to regularly visit Gosling Sike on Wednesdays. It has been a great pleasure to work with the volunteers so far on the project, which there is too many to name!

Also working from Gosling Sike is the Red Squirrel Northern England team, who are working to protect red squirrels in Merseyside, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, and Northumberland. Working with one of the rangers, I installed camera traps and bait in the southern reaches of Kielder forest. The footage from the cameras is used to assess the number of grey squirrels to plan any necessary future control to help save our native reds from the invasive greys!

Himalayan balsam removal work at Wreay Woods

Himalayan balsam removal work at Wreay Woods

Much of conservation work involves the removal of non-native and invasive species, which includes Himalayan balsam! With a team of volunteers, we persisted on Wreay Woods and Boathouse Field to pull and hang plants in nearby trees to prevent regeneration and further spread. Luckily both nature reserves are under a state of control with the number of Himalayan balsam, but the work carried out to remove plants is still very important.  

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

Whilst the sunshine persisted I visited Drumburgh Moss and Bowness-on-Solway nature reserves to improve my butterfly identification, ready to complete surveys. I soon found out that butterfly identification is not as easy as it sounds, but gets easier with experience. Like any new knowledge gained in the past, I found myself using it more and more with an occasional attempt at impressing friends!

Quad bike on Rockcliffe Marsh

Quad bike on Rockcliffe Marsh

Making good use of my quad bike training, I carried out drone flights on the vast Rockcliffe Marsh to take photographs for a brief assessment on the status of the vegetation. Being on the marsh is a unique experience, something I initially approached with a little trepidation but once familiar with the area I settled into the work.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get the chance to meet, and maybe work with some of you in the future.

John