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Behind the Scenes at Bay Pond

Posted: Thursday 28th July 2016 by OutdoorLearning

It’s a Friday morning in July, and gathered outside the workshop is a motley crew.

 Men, women, aged 18 to 74, about 10 of us in all. It’s a scene the workshop has seen before; every Friday in fact for at least the last 20 years. The ‘Conservation Work Party’ have arrived.

As tasks are delegated, tools collected and rucksacks slung on to shoulders, the day’s work begins. By 11am (the time of our ritualised coffee break; no earlier, no later), a new bench has been rustled up in Elm Wood, nettles and brambles have been slashed back from four main pathways, and volunteers have enjoyed the whirring churr of crickets as they made their way through the meadow plucking offending hogweed and ragwort from among the swaying grasses.

We settle down in the bird hide for a cuppa fresh from the thermos, spotting a heron on the island and a moorhen leading her two young ones through the reeds.
A lovely way to spend a day, for sure, but why? Well, the bench will stand there in the woods for many a moon to come, offering a raised space for children to safely store the minibeasts they’ve collected away from tripping feet.

The clear pathways let them explore our little rural haven with minimal discomfort, and the plant-plucking? A meadow free of hogweed and ragwort is a meadow worth cutting for hay. A hay-cut followed by a close-cropped graze by sheep or cows will mimic traditional farming practices, encouraging wildflowers and in turn supporting fabulous populations of invertebrates next Spring.

After coffee, it’s time to get the waders on. Some volunteers are keener than others to don the waterproof gear, so in they go – shovelling silt from the inlet pipes of the pond and replacing a broken grate under the bridge. The more terrestrially-minded among us occupy themselves re-stocking a ‘minibeasting site’ with carefully cut rounds of fallen timber to encourage more detritivores to move in.

What marks these Fridays as special for me is the easy way time is spent. The work may be hard, but it’s shared. And the purpose is shared too –at Bay Pond the volunteers complement their conservation brief by giving the education department a huge helping hand; cutting back nettles, mending an outbuilding, cutting poles for den-building.

We know that by ensuring that the young people who visit us have a fantastic time we are helping to hook the next generation on nature, and that, after all, is a big part of what the Wildlife Trust is about.

Lucy Gummer

Education Officer & Volunteer Liaison
Surrey Wildlife Trust (Education Centres)

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