Friday, 11 September 2009

Quarries and Quagmires

On Thursday we hosted a training day for the Countryside Management Association (CMA). This is the only national association for Rangers. (It used to be called the Association of Countryside Rangers). Ten rangers joined staff from HDC, including rangers from Paxton Pits and Sudbury Meadow, for a look at all the ways we are expanding at the moment. Ray Matthews represented the Friends, and led the afternoon session while Ian Langdon did a sterling job on behalf of the voluntary wardens, with teas and coffees coming over the counter before we even ordered them!

Our visitors came from all over the Region, and beyond, including Epping Forest, Suffolk, Langdon Hills, Herts and Middlesex, Cambridge and even Staffordshire. Roger Cole, who is based at Writtle College, represented CMA.

Of course, we are immensely proud of what of what we do and want to tell people about it, but I was also keen to get ideas from the group. We took care to identify the specialties of our visitors and pump them dry!

The format for the day was simple; get out and look around! We found six buzzards over the Visitors' Centre straight away. In the morning, after an intro from me, Matt Johnson led the discussions about livestock and grazing as we walked the Meadow Trail. Roland Fletcher spoke on the management of the Great Meadow, the windpump and our arable scheme.

After lunch, Ray organised a safari up to Pumphouse Pit where he has been working with Bardon Aggregates to landscape the islands and shores while we eagerly await the day when it will all be ours! In our bright yellow jackets and helmets (health and safety requirements while in the working quarry) we certainly failed to blend in with the wildlife! All the same, we saw hundreds of lapwings, thousands of gulls and three little egrets. On the way back, we found two Mediterranean gulls, a black necked grebe, three dunlin, two ringed plovers and a redshank or two, despite the hi-viz, but only by using a spotting scope. It was good to see a small tortoiseshell about the place, and Matt Johnson found a brown argus.

I was pleased to see that no-one rushed off at the end and there was a lot of discussion going on. Cakes and biscuits were eagerly consumed.
I hope our visitors enjoyed the day as much as we did.