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And even the Sun came out to play!

February 25, 2011

By Steve, Volunteering Manager

Well, it worked…  I placed my booking ages ago for the sun to shine on Thursday 24th Feb, and it worked.  Not just worked – it positively boomed with workingness (not a word I know, but you get the picture I’m sure).  The most Spring-like day of the year greeted us on our Youth Volunteering finale at Holton Lee.

The day before was anything but Spring-like.  Rain dampened the spirits of the team that assembled ready to prepare for the event.  John was obviously not in a party mood as he elected not to go shopping, opting for stores collection at Brooklands instead.

John getting emotional about the thought that he might have to go shopping..

Jess and I headed out to clear the shelves of baking potatoes, cheese and pesto, as well as milk, tea, sugar, squash (not the sugar free variety – every bit of sugar helps when you’ve been working hard!), while John, Becky and Sam picked up tents, cookers and tools.

Meeting up with Megan and Ali at Holton Lee, we all set out for the planned fire sites and got stuck in to clearing an area large enough to handle a bonfire without danger of catching fire to the surrounding heathland.

Ali - soaking wet and cold, yet still able to laugh!

  With all the rain that had come down in the morning, there seemed little chance of even getting any fires lit on the day!  After a couple of hours of hard grafting we’d had enough of an area to work in, and all headed off to try and dry out.

Jess, Becky and Megan hard at work

The conditions on Thursday were just as I’d hoped. Clear skies and a gentle breeze – perfect!  An early start saw us all setting up the tea tent and getting the fires going by 8.30am, so that all was ready for the 10am start.  We were soon joined by the Event Management girls -who had thought of everything!  Signs were going up, volunteers had been arranged for car parking, they had even printed out a programme for the day. 

Michelle - gloves monitor for the day

By now, the sun was really getting through and the heathland wildlife was responding.  Woodlarks seemed to be everywhere, singing away all day.  A Dartford warbler was also busy trying to make himself heard – and doing pretty well!  A couple of buzzard were displaying over the woodland, their diving flights looking really awesome.  I saw my first butterflies of the year as a male brimstone went by, followed by a red admiral.

The volunteers were lead through the trees to our site, Matt (Mr Environment at Holton Lee) and I did our introductory talks before we set them off to the fire sites.  Supervisors at the sites did a great job of delivering the safety talks (well done guys, Sam and I were well impressed) and away they all went – cutting and burning gorse for the day. 

Deep in conversation about - gloves I think.

We were clearing the taller blocks of gorse.  It grows so ‘leggy’ and open as it gets taller that it is no use for bird nesting or cover, yet continues to dominate the heather.  It is also very susceptible to fire and is extremely difficult to control – so cutting it back at this stage helps to manage the site not just for the good of the heath but also for fire safety reasons.

Yep, that looks like it burns quite well!

The local MP, Annette Brooke visited us and had a tour around.  She met and chatted to many of the volunteers, and was genuinely interested to hear about the work we are doing.  It’s always good to get such a visit, and there was plenty of clicking of cameras!

The team chatting with Annette Brook MP.

On to lunch…   The girls had prepared the potatoes, wrapping them in foil and placing them in the oven (old ammo boxes).  I dragged them over to Johns fire and gave him the cooking instructions – place it on one side of the fire for about half an hour, the turn it around for another half hour and they will be perfect.   Turns out that John should try for the next series of MasterChef as he followed the instructions to the letter – and perfect they were!

The potatoes in their oven. Don't ask about what temperature it needs!

This is where the Uni team came up trumps yet again.  With near military precision and timing they set up a culinary delight – get your jacket potato first, cut it open and then they served up butter, pesto and cheese in any combination you might wish.

Lunch gets under way, and the first of the volunteers get to experience the delights of Jacket potatoes - Gorse fire cooked.!

  Sam went for just cheese.  No potato – just cheese.  Last week he had just ham, next week he will have just bread.  Over the course of the three weeks he will then have had ham and cheese sandwiches.  Don’t you just love that logic?! 

The potatoes were very popular and enjoyed by all..

A couple more hours of work saw the day coming to a close, and before long we all headed back to the tea tents for a head count and a thank you all for coming send off.  I did have one surprise for the Uni team, who had put so much into ensuring the event ran so smoothly.   Just as they thought it was all over, I was able to present them all with their Volunteering England Gold Awards as part of National Student Volunteering week. 

Then, it was all over..  The volunteers all headed back to the car park and our team packed up while Matt kept a close eye on the last of the embers of each fire.

To give you an idea of how quickly this stuff burns, take a look at this video.  Don’t worry there is actually quite a large gap between the fire and the volunteer with the fork, even though it may not look like it!

Another event over, and the last big event under the banner of the V funded youth volunteering project.   Not that youth volunteering will stop of course, as we’ve learnt just how valuable it is – not just to us, but also to young people and to local communities.  Many thanks to all who have been part of the project over the last three years, and a special thanks to all who helped and volunteered on the finale.

Finally – huge thanks to Matt and Emma at Holton Lee for all their work, and of course to the girls of the event management BSc course, who were/are tremendous in their enthusiasm, their attention to detail and their excellent team working.  I wish you all well in the completion of your course, and if you ever want to have a go at another event, you’d be very welcome!

Ok.  That’s me finished for now.  I’ll no doubt be back and blogging at some time soon about my 50 for 50 challenge. I’m still working on the fine detail but it looks like it might be running about 250 miles across Dorset in 2 weeks – some of it dressed as a badger!

More about Dorset Wildlife Trust

Cheers

Steve

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicky Hoar permalink
    February 28, 2011 2:00 pm

    Great job by all the team and the wildlife will love it too. Not sure the photo of me eating a jacket spud was sanctioned by my agent…

  2. Ali permalink
    February 28, 2011 9:48 pm

    Epic conservation day! Sunshine, good scran and a sprinkling of brilliant wildlife spots. Another day like that please. Cheers guys

  3. March 3, 2011 9:18 am

    What a brilliant effort from everyone involved. Looks like it was a great day and loads achieved – and what a bonus to see/hear all that wildlife!

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