I cannot believe how quickly a year has flown by, it doesn’t seem two minutes since I was a fresh-faced Carbon Landscape Trainee looking forward to the challenge that lay ahead in my first paid conservation role. Now my traineeship is at an end and I feel that I am leaving the Carbon Landscape Project with more skills and more confidence than I came with and I have met and worked with some fantastic people along the way.
Coming from an eighteen-month internship, I already had plenty of practical experience, leading volunteer groups and a couple of tickets under my belt and, while I was keen to continue developing those already existing skills, I was looking for new experiences and challenges.
The position has given me the chance to work on a range of sites and habitats throughout the Carbon Landscape, including mosslands, wetlands, grassland and woodland. I was especially excited at the prospect of working on mosslands for the first time. By working on a series of sites in various stages of restoration, I gained an understanding of how best to restore and protect this habitat and how important a role they are going to play in the fight against climate change.
The restoration project on Pestfurlong Moss was one of the highlights of my traineeship as I was involved in a series of different ways – including being part of volunteer parties tackling scrub, installing a new path and steps, leading a three-day tree felling project and installing some ditch blogs to prevent water loss on site. It has been great to get to know this site well and see the positive impact that the work we have done is already having – the water table is rising, the ditch and bog pools have filled with water and the sphagnum is thriving.
Little Woolden Moss is another mossland that I have worked on extensively – mainly delivering a planting project. This is a site where peat extraction has only recently ceased and the restoration of 115-hectare site is underway in earnest. I was part of two stints of planting common cotton grass, hare’s tail cotton grass, crossed-leaved heath and sphagnum, which are not only plants that are key bog species but they are also the key foodstuff of the Manchester Argus – a butterfly that will hopefully be reintroduced in the future.
Work to recolonise Little Woolden Moss does have a long way to go but the recent capital work – which was carried out during the winter – has seen water levels rise. It is already a great spot for wildlife with lapwing, oystercatcher, snipe, buzzard, skylark and hare just some of the species that I have seen during my time on site, and that richness in wildlife is only set to increase.
I have loved all of the survey work that I have been part of – mainly with our partner GMEU and the Citizen Science project. I was already conducting monthly wetland bird surveys but I have got involved in dragonfly and damselfly, wildflower and willow tit surveys, which have introduced me to a range of different methodologies.
I am looking to continue my wetland bird surveys throughout the year – the breeding season is almost here – and return to Low Hall Nature Reserve for wildflower and dragonfly surveys this summer. As well as getting experience of different survey methodologies, being part of the Citizen Science Project and all of these different surveys has helped me to continue to develop my ID skills, which is something that is hugely important to me.
I was also trained by Mersey Rivers Trust, another of the project’s partners, to conduct water quality and kick sampling surveys. The River Guardians project aims to monitor the health of all of the water bodies that feed into the Mersey and, since I completed the training, I have been down a Rayner Park in Hindley monthly to put that training into practice. It has been great to learn about how to identify species such as blue winged olives, flat-bodied stone clingers and fresh water shrimp – all are indicators of clean water.
One of my key aims of the traineeship was to gain my chainsaw ticket. In September I headed off to Lowe Maintenance for four days of training before the assessment. Since passing the cross-cutting and felling assessment, I have had lot of opportunities to get out on a series of sites to do some felling. My confidence grew with every session and it was great to work alongside and learn from those more experienced than myself. It culminated in leading a three-day felling project on Pestfurlong Moss.
As well as gaining my chainsaw tickets, I have also undergone PA6a and PA6aw pesticide training, hedge-laying and dry stone walling training, completed hedge-laying, peatland, wetland and invasive species removal AQAs – which gave me sixty hours of practical experience. I also had the chance to get to grips with QGIS through a training session and then using it regularly on a range of different projects, from mapping the number of hectares improved during a practical session, mapping wetland birds as part of my survey work and creating maps for grant applications. While I am by no means a QGIS whiz, I certainly feel more comfortable and confident with the programme than I did back at the start of the traineeship.
While I have achieved everything that I set out to achieve in this trainee role, I have also been thrown into things that I never expected. I have been involved in a range of different events for different audiences, including a fungi walk and a series of umbrella doodle sessions aimed at children, before going on to design and run my own fungi photography event at Three Sisters. While events weren’t something that I was hugely interested in, it has been valuable experience to be involved in a range of different events and activities.
The last month has been a mixed bag of last bits of surveying, some practical days on Wigan Flashes and it has been great working with Stu and Hanifah, the new trainees. They are already throwing themselves into a series of projects and I have been handing things over to them – they have a very exciting year ahead.
It is also going to be an exciting twelve months for myself as I am heading to Mersey Rivers Trust – a Carbon Landscape partner – as a Project Manager. I can’t wait to tackle this new challenge and get stuck in. However, it is going to be sad to leave the Carbon Landscape behind. I have got more out of the traineeship than I ever anticipate and I want to send out a huge thank you to all of the staff, partners, volunteers and fellow trainees for all of their support and making this last year a real blast.
Signing off for the last time.