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Sports, spades and SSSIs: Help for Heroes- Tedworth House and Indoor training

February 9, 2015


Tedworth House

Tedworth House

Tuesday 20th January

Today was going to the first full day of our third Wildlife Skills residential trip at Oxenwood, Wiltshire. After a surprisingly good sleep (minus a fellow trainee’s snoring habits), a few of us took our time to appreciate the surroundings of the site. The frost covered fields around the centre created a perfect winter scene as we watched brown hares going about their daily business, as pointed out by Matt (one of the Wiltshire Wildlife Skills trainees), who was crazy enough to go for a run early that morning.

Tedworth House

The site for today’s task was Tedworth House, one of four recovery centres run by Help for Heroes aimed at caring for sick or injured serving and veteran soldiers as well as providing support for returning soldiers who find it difficult to re-adjust to civilian society.  Upon arrival, I would say we were all amazed at the beauty of the grounds; the vast gardens, small areas of woodland, a grand entrance and of course the house itself.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Help for Heroes have created a woodland camp at Tedworth so that residents can learn conservation skills and wellbeing techniques.  Georgie, volunteer and engagement trainee for Wiltshire, is based here 3-4 times a week so is therefore fairly accustomed to the workings of the site and knows all the staff.

Team Task
Chaz, the managing warden, and Lucy, the horticultural therapist set out our task which was to take out the dogwood from the entrance of the house. Easy enough we thought.
Georgie did a great job on the health and safety and tools talk before we split off into two groups, grabbed some tools and got stuck in. Digging the roots turned this task into a proper hard days work and, indeed, tested our team working strategy.  These days are always good fun and the interesting thing about working with the other trainees again was that we got to see how everyone’s skills have improved since the last time. In the end, both teams did an extremely good job of taking the shrubs out, but of course, our team did better.

Which team is winning? (one on the right!)

One highlight was a dog, owned by one of the trust’s staff, who made a great effort helping us out with the roots. We liked to think she thought she helping anyway.Which team is winning? (one on the right!)


One highlight was a dog, owned by Lucy, who made a great effort helping us out with the roots.

Dog vs Dogwood

Dog vs Dogwood

After the task, we were given a tour of the house. It was evident that staff at the centre were completely focused on providing the best environment for the soldiers. For example, she described how they encourage social interaction between residents thus not supplying televisions in single rooms and instead providing communal areas. The  facilities within the centre ranged from active areas such as a fully equipped gym and an outdoor assault course to more relaxed areas such as the library and cinema room.

One part that really stuck out for me was the wall images throughout the house. They were all completely neutral images with recurring themes in each part of the house to help residents recognise where they were (it was very easy to get lost here).  The reason the pictures were neutral (things like balloons, fruit and veg and nature images) was so they would not trigger any negative feelings. It was truly fantastic.

Sit Down Volleyball
After lunch, it was time for something a little bit different in the sit down volleyball court. To get a taste into what goes on at the centre we, you guessed it, were taught how to play. This was extra special because we were joined by some of the residents. After going through some basic practise exercises we were ready to st. Let’s say our skill wasn’t up there with the athletes but top marks to the trainer who had to witness our awful performance while still providing us with some great encouragement.
The rules force players to constantly change roles throughout the game therefore making sure everyone is included in the action while the encouraging attitude of the trainer further reflected the positive motives of the centre.

Tom attempting the winning serve

Tom attempting the winning serve  Photo: R Janes

After a very active day we were treated to dinner by the Devon trainees. Again, a tremendous effort led to great results. It was roasted veg pasta bake and the pudding, home-made brownies with ice cream and white chocolate (courtesy of Lucy – Devon trainee) made a perfect warm end to the meal. I certainly agree that I probably eat a lot better at these residentials than I do within my normal working week.

written by Edward Sanger

Wednesday 21st January
This was a day spent mostly indoors completing some essential training.
We had a thorough overview of Wildlife Law from Imogen Davenport (Head of Conservation for Dorset Wildlife Trust). She seems to have a never ending knowledge of Wildlife Law which was great to have the opportunity to take advantage of.  This was followed by Risk Assessment training by Andrea Lakin (Health and Safety Officer for all four Wildlife Trusts). We all have to write (and follow!) risk assessments throughout our traineeship, so it was good to go over how to do them properly.

Risk assessing with Naomi & Matt

Risk assessing with Naomi & Matt  Photo: R Janes

We were then let loose with the ‘Twigarium’ a box of winter twigs compiled by two previous trainees, Sarah & Chloe. I and most of the other trainees want to improve our winter tree ID so this was great way to test each other’s twig skills.

Tantalising twigs

Tantalising twigs  Photo: R Janes

After a quick dinner of Butternut Squash curry made by us- the six Dorset Wildlife Trust trainees, we headed out to a talk in Salisbury about Raptors.
Major Nigel Lewis gave a great talk on the raptors of Wiltshire. He was obviously passionate about raptors which shone through during his talk.  He delivered the slideshow on a slide projector which gave his amazing pictures a retro look.
Nigel and his sixteen ‘agents’ have been involved in building nest boxes for raptors from Barn Owls to Kestrels to Tawny Owls, sometimes out of rather odd materials.

A range of pictures showed boxes made from old army supplies and wooden wine crates! He showed us a map of Salisbury plain which was littered with dots, each signifying a barn owl box. His plan was to have a box within 500m if you landed in the area by Parachute!  The majority of the boxes he has erected have been used and had a great impact on the Barn Owl population, nearly doubling the amount of Owls – pretty inspiring.

written by Nadine Atchison-Balmond

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