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The Magdalen Project

January 21, 2009

Although in my last blog I highlighted the many opportunities for indoor volunteering, I just couldn’t resist getting my hands dirty, which is I why I offered to help at the Magdalen Project last October. Read on to discover what the team and I got up to…

The Team

The Team

In October and December of last year, DWT volunteers and staff made two visits to the Magdalen Project, a farm centre situated in a stunning conservation area on the Somerset/Dorset border offering field studies, conservation and conference facilities for schools, youth groups and businesses. Described as a “magnificent place” by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, I must agree that the 130 acre area owned by the Project is truly beautiful, with the diverse mix of rivers, woodlands fields and farmland making it a perfect place for exploring wildlife. To care for and preserve this landscape for the future, ecological and sustainable practices of land management lies at the core of all that the Magdalen Project does.

Tall Task!

Tall Task!

But what has this got to do with the Dorset Wildlife Trust? Recently, DWT’s Pastures New Project (which helps protect and restore species rich grasslands in west Dorset) has offered to help with scrub clearance at the Magdalen Project to help restore an area which has suffered a huge decline in habitat. By partnering with the Magdalen Project, the Pastures New team is becoming involved with the wider community plus achieving one of its ultimate aims to help local wildlife adapt to climate change.

In the thick of it...

In the thick of it...

It was a very wet start to the day on our first visit to the Project and flooding in numerous areas of the Dorset countryside proved quite a hindrance on the long journey there. Despite being late, Andrew (yes, he does get out of the office) and I were met with many eager faces from the waiting volunteers and we were swiftly handed lots of tools to take down to the work area. Off we trudged and the quiet farmland was brought to life with lively chatter as we all got to know one another. The way down to the site was very wet and muddy and when we reached the top of what I imagined to be the steepest hill in Dorset, which we had to somehow get to the bottom of, I was certain that either I or another unfortunate person would be unwittingly using it as a slide. But, to everyone’s relief I am sure, we all made it to the bottom safely.

Tea Break

Tea Break

After a quick safety talk from Matthew, reminding us not to charge around like lunatics with scythes in our hands, we set to work. After a good hour of thrashing and panting, it was time for a tea break and it was interesting to see those that had been shivering like wobbly jellies from the cold at the start were now acting like it was a fine summer’s day, with red faces, dressed in t-shirts and their unwanted layers of clothing thrown carelessly about them. By lunchtime, we had a roaring fire blazing and had already cleared more than half of what we had hoped to. Needless to say, the thick and creamy homemade tomato soup with warm bread rolls that was served up for lunch went down a storm!

Dragging the scrub to the fire

Dragging the scrub to the fire

After lunch, we set back to work and by dusk, we had cleared a huge area of 15 foot high twisted mess of bramble, blackthorn and gorse. By the time we had finished, I can safely say we were all exhausted but I went home that day with this sparkly, satisfied feeling I always get after I have been practical volunteering, knowing that a little of your hard work will help wildlife survive and flourish in that place for years to come…

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Veni, Vidi, Vici

If you would like to join Matthew and his army of volunteers, please contact him on 01300 321 320.

To learn more about Pastures New, please visit or to discover The Magdalen Project for yourself, click

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    January 21, 2009 10:28 pm

    Hi Jess,

    Wow! You guys really got stuck in and achieved a lot! It must have been a very satisfying end to the day to see the space you had cleared. Amazing work in getting Andrew out of his office as well – I thought it might have been him in the first picture but couldn’t quite bring myself to believe it until I read it in the text as well!
    Another great blog Jess. We are all looking forward to the next one – the pressure is now on! Cheers

  2. January 22, 2009 9:25 am

    I agree. Great blog post. Could you let us know why the scrub was being cleared. I thought scrub was really important for wildlife (I’m probably being thick about this… but humour me!). I bet you were all really tired at the end of the clearing – then you had to climb the hill again! Jane

  3. January 22, 2009 2:24 pm

    Fistly well done, i bet your wrecked but well worth it. There is nothing like a bit of physical exercise in the ourdoors to help you appriciate our countryside.

  4. Andrew permalink
    January 22, 2009 2:59 pm

    I really don’t know where I got this ‘doesn’t come out of the office’ reputation! I’m always out – just in disguise! In fact I thought I’d got away with it this time using Steve’s camouflage jacket. Oh well. It was a really enjoyable day and a nice site to work on – Fully recommended for next time.

    To answer Jane’s question (and you are not being thick – it’s a good one to ask), we were helping to restore this piece of grassland back to its former wildlife glory. The scrub had encroached across an important grassland habitat shading out opportunities for wild flowers and butterflies, for example. Scrub is indeed a good resource for wildlife, so we were careful to follow a scrub management plan for the site. This will ensure we get the balance right. Hope this helps?

  5. Chris permalink
    January 26, 2009 11:22 pm

    It sounds like a fun by exhausting day. Do hope you didn’t ache too much after all your efforts. I love reading about your exploits as long as you don’t expect me to join you!

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