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A ‘boar’ of a day!

December 3, 2008

An invite across to the wilds of West Dorset was an offer not to be missed by all of us based at the Urban Wildlife Centre.  Some mixing up of ideas would be a useful tool in finding new ways to engage with people and wildlife -plus there was the chance to take a walk around Powerstock Common, home of Wild Boar!

The Powerstock reserve entrance - home to some big pigs!

The Powerstock reserve entrance - home to some big pigs!

 

Read on to see if we managed to find them as we were guided around the Reserve…

The Pastures New project team had arranged for us to have the opportunity to meet up and discuss our various projects.  Pastures New is about connecting areas up to create wildlife friendly landscapes – quite a challenge to say the least!  It does involve a lot of community and volunteer work, something that the Urban team does quite well at, even if I do say so myself!  We took a lot of experience across with us, ranging from the People and Wildlife Team and the East Dorset wardens, through to the Brownsea Island wardens.  I (Steve) went along to provide my advice and input into the volunteering side of the projects to be discussed – and of course, to drive the minbus!

First stop though was at Powerstock Common, to give us an insight into the practicalities of creating a living landscape project.  The West Dorset Warden, Neil, was on hand to give us masses of info as he walked us around the 260 acre site.  It had been quite a number of years since I had last been there, and I was really pleased to see how much work had gone on – with lots of scrub having been removed and a much more open, and wildlife friendly area created.

I was even more chuffed to find that the gates that I had put in during my own placement days ( a few years or so ago!…) were still there, and as solid as the day we put them in – I must have been a good worker!!

One of my old gates - still there!

One of my old gates - still there!

Moving around the trails, some of which were decidedly muddy!, we learnt a great deal about the challenges facing the team – even the simple task of checking the stock is not easy! Trying to find 6 Galloway cattle that can hide under pretty much any shady tree on a 260 acre Reserve can test your patience – and it’s definitely one aspect that I very clearly remember from my days on the Reserve!

One of the Galloways - experts at hiding!

One of the Galloways - experts at hiding!

As we walked along the upper reaches, a woodcock rose up out of the bracken and whizzed away down the slope away from us – a great sighting.  2 Roe deer, a buck and a doe, moved off calmly and quietly, thinking that they had not been seen.

It was around here that we got to see some signs of wild boar.  The ground had been dug up as if someone had come through with a mini digger!  It was all fresh as well, and Neil felt that it could only be a matter of a day or so ago that the criter had come through here -probably at night, snuffling away as it dug for bulbs.

Want your garden dug?  Get a wild boar!

Want your garden dug? Get a wild boar!

What we found amazing was that despite all the fresh digging, and the muddy conditions all around, there were no signs of any prints from the animal.  Well, there was one hint of a hoof print, but nothing that really stood out as a clear sign.  The boar was obviously a big beastie judging by the amount of digging, yet must have tip toed its way around!!

Chris helpfully points to the print to make it easy to see!

Chris helpfully points to the print to make it easy to see!

By now it was raining steadily, and we hurried onto catch up with the rest of the group – only to find them looking bewildered and confused at the next gate.  Why?  Take a look at the pictures and think about it….

Everyone had come to a halt...

Everyone had come to a halt...

So how do you go through yet keep the gate shut at all times?

So how do you go through yet keep the gate shut at all times?

 

In the end we decided it would be ok to open the gate for just a short time to get us all through!   With the walk over, we headed off to Kingcombe for our meeting with the rest of the Pastures New team. A very productive meeting followed, but I won’t ‘boar’ you with the details!

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