Published: April 10th 2011April 9th 2011
Where does the time go? It’s almost a third of the way through 2011 and I feel like I haven’t drawn breath since Christmas. Although, as you are probably aware, I love being busy, and find it very hard to say no to anything!
So here’s what’s been happening in my little world for the last few months. Entertaining Visitors
After 6 months of drout, the seas have parted and ryanair has supplied me with a host of visitors from far and wide – thank you Michael! Each person who has braved the trip has been exposed to a slight different side of Somerset – depending on my thoughts on what might actually interest them! The common themes are getting out into the countryside, seeing some wildlife, being active, drinking cider, and braving my cooking! From mountain biking down steep sided combes to hikes across the remote heather clad hills and cream tea in quaint tea rooms, my “tour guiding” has taken may forms! The wildlife encounters have included deer spotting, examining owl pellets, visits to local bird sanctuaries, and finding out about native hazel dormice – not too much complaining on this part either! My own cooking has
Finding the highest point
Some visitors need a helping hand to take in the view!
been sampled (including hand picked nettle soup), but we have also enjoyed some local delights such as cream tea (dam its bad, but SO good), pasties, cider (it’s a food!), giant goose eggs, cheese with cider, fudge, the legendary fish and chips and the local Indian restaurant. I did even try to sneak a pickled egg on one unsuspecting visitor, but alas I was rumbled! To vary the visits I’ve tried to bring in some history with visits to local village churches (and pubs!), the beautiful city of bath and the home of a local poet (Coleridge). It’s been a busy few months, with some overlap in visitor at times, I’ve even transformed our loft into a sleeping space for those willing to climb the ladder of doom! It’s been a great experience guiding friends and family around my new home. It makes me feel more like I belong here. After 9 months I have so many stories to tell about every corner of the Quantocks. Wildlife Monitoring
Spring has arrived and is in full swing here in sunny Somerset. I’ve been getting to grips with some local wildlife as they waken up for the year. I got the
Visitors enjoying the cider
Would you like a glass with that gallon of scrumpy?
opportunity to attending a bird identification weekend back in February and have been out practicing my id skills very early in the morning around local parks. I didn’t realize I could turn into a morning person, and would actually enjoy it! I’ve just finished putting over 70 bird calls and songs on my ipod - please don’t put it on shuffle and expect anything exciting! I’ve also become involved in some birds nest monitoring. This involves looking into bird boxes which are located high up in a beautiful ancient oak woodland once a week during the breeding season. I’m very excited about getting out and finding the tiny little eggs and chicks!
On a more exciting note, I’ve been finding out more about the local adder population! There is a large survey going on across the Quantock Hills to get a better understanding of where adders hibernate during the winter, so we’ve been out on sunny days searching through prickly gorse to find the adders sunning themselves, fresh from hibernation. Surprisingly I’m not too scared of these little venomous reptiles, and they are becoming easier to spot. This is something I’ll be involved in for the next two months.
Over the last few months I decided to take on a project surrounding native hazel dormice. This involved analysis of information which had been collected over the last 3 years on dormice numbers, weights, locations etc and mapping these using GPS. I wanted to see how the dormice were doing, if there numbers were increasing and if they were spreading across our woodland in any particular direction. Once I had all the data analysed I held an information evening for the staff and volunteers I work with, and anyone else who might have been interested. It was a really lovely evening with some very supportive and interested (or so they seemed!) attendees! A big thanks to everyone who helped me out leading up to the night and on the night, as I said, you’re going straight to heaven! Swailing
(aka burning stuff!)
One thing that must be mentioned for the “wow” factor is swailing, or controlled burning. It’s an old traditional practice used to manage heathland. It prevents succession (trees invading the health) and provides wildlife with a patch work of different aged pieces of health – all suitable for different needs. All that aside – it’s
FUN! It’s carried out in a very controlled manor. So many factors are taken into account (wind speed, slope, height of vegetation, previous weather the works). Burn are very carefully planned, lighting certain sections first to make it safer and we always have LOTS of water near by if it’s required. On my very first burn I was called into action to drive the “fire truck” – 4x4 with water container and power hose attached. It was high octane exciting stuff, more scary than any of the alpine routes I did this summer! Once the excitement had passed, I realized that I was the only one slightly worried about the whole thing and soon I learned to relax around the fires, 40ft flames and all! Job Hunting
As always the search continues! I attended one interview (came 2nd) and was called for another, but due to short notice and the distance involved (519 miles!) I wasn’t able to make it. I’ve decided that I’d like to stay where I am until the end of the summer to see through any projects I’m involved in (snakes, birds etc). So at the moment I’m looking for part-time but relevant work in
It's all under control!
the local area to hopefully bring in some well needed funds but also keep me outdoors and maybe learning something useful. I’ve been in touch with local garden centers and farm shops with the hope they might have something coming up – fingers crossed! On the “career” front, I’m being driven at the moment towards “biological monitoring” aka surveying, researching, and finding out more information about the natural environment. I have a contact in an ecological company who may have some work coming, again, more fingers and toes crossed this time!
My volunteering post is shortly coming to an end. My replacement has been recruited and I’m getting ready to hand over the reins and step back. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as a full time volunteer with the two organizations. I have learned so much and met so many helpful, wonderful people. It really has been a 9 months holiday, and in all honestly if my financial situation didn’t dictate it, I would stay here, doing what I’m doing for a long time. I will sorely miss my daily routine, surrounded by wildlife and wonderful places and people, but hopefully I will be able to find something which
The undigested bits of their prey - bones and fur!
offers similar delights along with some sort of a wage! Settling in
At the start of February I moved house, round the corner to live with Tom and Laura, friends of friends. This has made my life here in Taunton all the more real. We’ve grown into a little family, looking out for each other, making each other laugh, and most importantly drinking cider together! Last night we had our first BBQ of the season (you know how I love to feed people and eat) and soon we will be planting up our raised bed in the back garden to produce some of our own food. I’ve found a safe, comfortable place to live with two really cool people. It’s going to be hard to leave if the time comes!
That’s where things are at the moment. It’s a time of change for me, but an exciting time. Spring has arrived and there is so much new life everywhere. Regardless of my personal (read financial) situation you can’t step outside and not smile. I’m happy right now, I have some amazing people in my life who make me smile (some from afar!) and I’m enjoying finding out more
Hand picked (it was painful!) at Fyne Court
about myself and where it is I would like the path of my life to go. There is no hurry in figuring that out, I’m going to follow my heart, listen to it carefully and be content. As always, my door (and loft) are always open to anyone who would like to experience the wonders of Somerset. I can tailor the visitor package to suit your individual needs (at a cost!). I must sign off, I’ve an early bird walk planned for tomorrow – 6am start…on a Sunday – I must be mad!!
There are more photos below