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Wildlife Skills communications week in Devon

November 21, 2016
Lake at Meeth Quarry, copyright Lizzie Parris

Lake at Meeth Quarry, copyright Lizzie Parris

Last week we went on our second residential of the traineeship, down to Devon. It was a great week filled with important training where we learnt new skills and challenged ourselves. Over the course of the week we got up to a variety of activities.

On our arrival in Okehampton it was good to catch up with our fellow trainees. After sharing what we had been up to over lunch it was time for our first activity of the week, a high ropes session. Facing our fears, we managed to complete several teamwork tasks including climbing a Jacob’s Ladder as a group. We had to work together helping each other to get our team as high up the ladder as possible in five minutes. In the evening, we had a presentation skills training session where we were given useful tips on how to deliver an engaging talk to an audience. We could take things from this session to use in our own presentations we had prepared for this week.

Tuesday was spent cracking on with our training, this time though we were learning all about communicating through the media and how to become social media gurus! The evening session gave us a chance to practice our presentation skills, presenting to the rest of the group about our favourite aspects of the traineeship so far. Delivering a presentation can be a bit of a daunting task so this was a great opportunity to practice and improve at it.

It was time to get out and about on our third day. We took a trip to Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve where we were given a guided walk of the site lead by the Devon practical trainees. It was interesting to learn about how the former clay quarry has become a haven for wildlife with its range of habitats from its lakes and ponds to its woodland and grassland which are grazed by ponies. We also took part in a practical conservation task to restore a pond. A mass of trainees made light work of clearing scrub and digging the pond base out, even the rain couldn’t stop us!

Pony at Meeth Quarry, copyright Lizzie Parris

Pony at Meeth Quarry, copyright Lizzie Parris

We were joined by Chris Salisbury from Wildwise who delivered a workshop about storytelling. To begin the session, he told us a short story whilst playing an instrument called a tank drum. We all listened intently, captivated by his voice and the accompanying music and gestures. The session involved a few different activities to get us thinking creatively and understanding the power of storytelling in engaging people with nature and wildlife.

Our final day provided some glorious sunshine for us to take part in a guided walk lead by one of Devon’s trainees to Black-a-Tor Copse National Nature Reserve. Black-a-Tor Copse is a good example of a high altitude oak woodland in Britain and was a new type of habitat for us to experience. Many of the trees here support nationally important lichen and mosses.

Stream on Dartmoor, copyright Hazel Pittwood

Stream on Dartmoor, copyright Hazel Pittwood

Dartmoor, copyright Lizzie Parris

Dartmoor, copyright Lizzie Parris

Engagement trainee Hazel really enjoyed the training week and reported, “The highlight of our Okehampton training week for me was Black-a-Tor Copse.  I loved spending time amongst the gnarled oak trees of the ancient woodland, draped in lichen and moss. If ever I saw a place that resembled the domains of faeries and other folk of fantasy tales, this was it! Our eyes were met with an entire spectrum of lush greens. A Red Admiral butterfly glided past and came to rest on a branch, furiously vibrating its wings to warm up. The adjacent stream provided a peaceful soundtrack to our visit and the low autumn sunlight illuminated the glowing golds, yellows and reds of the other trees nearby. It was quite simply a magical place to behold! Other elements of the trip I thoroughly enjoyed were our visit to Meeth quarry and our practical task there (restoring a pond), hearing what my fellow trainees have been up to when we all delivered presentations to each other and the session about using storytelling skills as a way to engage people with the wonders of the natural world.”

Black a Tor Copse, copyright Lizzie Parris

Black a Tor Copse, copyright Lizzie Parris


Lizzie Parris, West Dorset Practical Conservation trainee

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