Thursday, 17 October 2013

October News

Hand-tool training.
This month, I thought I would tell you about all the things in our diary that you might not hear about. Of course things just crop up as well, such as the tree that fell on the Ouse Valley Way last weekend.

Three times a week the rangers patrol the whole site to make sure that it is safe and tidy and that we still have ther right number of cows in the right fields! We also do a more thorough check of the wider site each month and rangers from here look after the Ouse Valley Way and Barford Road Pocket Park. I bet you didn't know that we also manage a section of railway cutting near Huntingdon to encourage butterflies and lizards. All of the staff have to go to Huntingdon once a month for the Greenspace departmental meeting, so if we are not on site, it does not mean we are not at work. We also give talks and attend meetings away from the Reserve.

This place really runs on volunteers of course. Every day we have two Voluntary Wardens manning the Visitor Centre and every week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we have our midweek volunteers who work outside on conservation or access tasks, These two groups together contribute over 100 volunteer days of work each month. Every now and then they undergo training sessions and, of course there are lead volunteers that organise the others, often from behind the scenes.

Buzzards are seen every day.

In the background, the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve has a number of hard working committee members and trustees who attend meetings of the Board of Trustees, The Conservation and Volunteers Committee, The Visitor Experience Committee and the Trading Group that oversees the commercial side of our enterprise. Committee time is one thing, but those people do their real work between meetings. We really need more active committee members and trustees.

A buzzard's eye view of the reserve.
Photo by Ray Matthews
One of the great unsung triumphs around here is the amount of wildlife monitoring carried out by volunteers. We have a team of bird counters and a few 'soloists' who specialise in the more specialist beasties, but we also have a more general group that goes out on 'bio-blizes' to find out what species are present in a given area of the reserve.

In most months the Friends organise at least two events. There is always a guided walk on the third Thursday of each month and then a themed event or an indoor talk. Last month we had a fascinating presentation on Otters by Cliff Carson and on October 23rd we have "An English Country Garden and its Wildlife" by Ann Scott. We also go out and hold events in the surrounding villages.

It is hard to know how many visitors we get but we count everyone who comes into the centre and we try to record all the groups that come. Bedford Learning Needs Group comes every Thursday and we see Healthy Walks groups and Nordic Walking groups almost daily. In September we had 2601 visitors in the centre. The St Neots Astronomy Association meets here once a moth on a Monday night.

Brimstones are still on the wing.
The Environmental Education Centre has become a booming business in itself, with its own volunteers and a fantastic programme of events. That side of the work is run on our behalf by the local Wildlife Trust, but we all get involved when there are joint events or projects.

Beyond all this, running a Reserve is a matter of co-operation between partners and so we have to liaise with landowners and the Quarry as well as with Natural England, The Environment Agency, the County Council and the District's internal departments. That all means more meetings!

No matter how important we each think our role is, we all have to roll our sleeves up and muck in; which reminds me that it's my turn to clean the loos.