An eventful penultimate day

An eventful penultimate day

Rachel Shaw

As her student placement with the Trust drew to a close, Lorna had one last opportunity to help on a nature reserve. It turned out to be more eventful than expected.

After a quiet morning, reading through the Environment Bill and trying to keep up to date with the ever-changing conservation policies whilst recovering from my recent cold, I donned my hat and headed over to meet Sarah Craythorne, Nature Reserves Officer, and her volunteers at Moor Closes nature reserve.

When I arrived, the cattle gave me a noisy hello at the gate and greeted me into the field where I could see the tractor mowing. I knew we were raking up grass behind the tractor that day, as this will allow next years wildflowers to grow without as much competition from shade or being swamped by dead grasses, however I couldn’t spot my fellow work team anywhere. Luckily for me, Mark pointed me towards the team from his tractor and I set off in the right direction.

What I saw next was like something out of a children’s book – ‘The Cow Who Came to Tea’ perhaps!? The volunteers were sat having their lunch with one of the cows laid down with them!

After a few exchanged glances of bewilderment and some laughter, Sarah and the vols explained to me that the poor cow had become stuck in the boggy stream that morning and had to be pulled out. The poor girl was rightly feeling a little bit sorry for herself and probably a bit chilly.

Tall thrift (c) Barrie Wilkinson

Tall thrift © Barrie Wilkinson

After the lunchbreak, we headed off to start raking up the grass where the tractor had been. Raking and pitchforking grass across nature reserves is hard work but beneficial for nature and also very rewarding when you see the results. One of the important plants we work to protect at Moor Closes is tall thrift (Armeria maritima elongate), which is only found on this reserve and also in the nearby cemetery (which is an interesting site to look around in itself, with a lot of history).

Unfortunately for the glum cow later that afternoon, now surrounded by the rest of the herd and being nosed at by the bull, it was time for her to be loaded into the trailer and sent back to her farm for some serious R&R (rest and recuperation). I say unfortunately, as because she wasn’t able to easily stand yet due to her trauma, she had a tarpaulin squeezed underneath her and was dramatically winched into the trailer via the tractor, which pulled the winch through the panels at the front of the trailer.

However, as interesting as this was, it fell as my responsibility to assist the grazier’s two-year-old daughter exploring the streams. We spotted some freshwater shrimps and other aquatic invertebrates, and then looked at some brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), noting to her that it was a water plant so very boggy wherever it grew and we shouldn’t go near it or we would sink like the cow! Although she may have been a little too young to actually remember anything we looked at, the most valuable thing to see in the time I spent with her was her love for the outdoors. In the half hour we spent together she was already looking closer into nature for wildlife.

We did eventually finish our raking (well… most of it). Later in the day I went along with Sarah and Mark to hear about their plans for work on the reserve over winter – mostly tree felling to open up the grassland and allow the mature oaks to thrive, which is not as simple as it sounds with the regulations that have to be adhered to. Did you know that Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust can only fell five cubic metres of trees in a year across their whole estate? This shows how much care and thought goes into conservation work and deciding where is most beneficial for woodland thinning and felling. I also spoke to Sarah about stewardship agreements and different funding for nature reserves, which I am deeply interested in as the new Environmental Land Management Scheme is due to be fully rolled out by 2024 and we are currently in a period of great change.

Reserves work is very eventful. I definitely didn’t expect to act as a livestock assistant and a childminder on this day, but every day is so different and I love the variety reserves work brings. All in all, a fantastic learning experience and a thoroughly enjoyable day. I am gutted to be finishing my placement as I have gained so much from it, however I’m sure I will still be round and about in the future at the Trust, how could I not be with days like this!

Volunteers raking hay at Moor Closes

Volunteers raking hay at Moor Closes © Sarah Craythorne