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Case Study Mike - Waterways & Conservation Grazing

Mike - Waterways & Conservation Grazing

A keen hill walker and rambler, Mike is also no stranger to volunteering. He volunteered as a group leader walking in locations across Europe until problems with his feet meant that he was no longer able to. The shock of losing this wonderful volunteer role led Mike to consider what he really enjoyed when looking for other volunteer roles to fill his time. “Walking for me was very much about what you see, the nature, the wildlife, as well as the geology and buildings. I realised that volunteering with nature and wildlife was something I could do without walking long distances.”

Through Foresters’ Forest, Mike was able to get involved with various Wetscape survey teams including MoRPh, Riverfly and Sphagnum. MoRPh involves a physical assessment of a river in sections, looking at aspects such as depth, height of banks, vegetation and material build up. “I have done four or five rivers and have loved the experience. It is amazing how different each site is once you start to look in detail, and how things change over time, especially when agents of change such as Beavers are introduced.” Said Mike.

The Riverfly survey is interested in the invertebrates that live in the riverbed, all of which are an indicator of water quality. It gives a detailed and ongoing picture rather than a moment in time as a chemical analysis does. “These have been great social activities with people with similar interests which I have really enjoyed. It is also an excuse for adults to put on wellies and kick about in a stream!” Laughed Mike.

The Sphagnum survey focusses on boggy areas that were drained in the past to allow trees to grow. Now these sites are nature reserves, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust have blocked the drainage systems to allow the natural bogs to return. The presence of Sphagnum moss is a good measure of a returning wetland. “It is extremely interesting,” said Mike, “and I do find it amusing that for years as a hill walker I avoided Sphagnum at all costs because it meant boggy ground, and now I am searching for the stuff!”

During lockdown in 2020 most volunteering was stopped and Mike was keen to find something meaningful to do. Animal welfare requirements meant that Stock Checking volunteers have continued throughout the pandemic, and Mike was delighted to join the team. “At first it was like playing hide and seek with the cattle to try and find them. They would be in two separate groups to add to the fun.” Said Mike. Hours spent roaming Woorgreens Nature Reserve gave Mike a profound connection with the landscape and the animals behaviour. “It really made me get to know the reserve so well. On a night with a westerly breeze the cattle would be in one place; cold frosty conditions meant they would be in another to catch the sun. I found this all fascinating.” Mike said. Time spent Stock checking has also given Mike the chance to immerse himself in the natural world, using binoculars to spot the rare Great Grey Shrike on the lake and seeing frogspawn changing into tiny froglets.

Volunteering for Mike has been an excuse to be busy out of doors. “It’s been tremendously sociable for me.” He said. “It is enjoyable doing these things and doing them with people is even more enjoyable. I have met people and made friends and connections.”

Mike also wanted to volunteer with Foresters’ Forest to learn more about nature and biodiversity. “What I have found is a fascination not so much with individual species, but with how the whole ecosystem works together.” Mike said. “It has changed my view of what is going on around me. It has made me more connected to nature and the local environment, just through watching the way the cattle interact with their surroundings has heightened my awareness of it all. Visiting so regularly has made me notice slight changes so minutely, it is very rewarding!” He said.

Mike intends to continue volunteering as much as he can. “I’m selfish really!” He said. “I want to volunteer to gain the experience and the learning. My time is more than rewarded with what I get to experience! Working with experts and having their knowledge diffusing into me is something I’m so grateful for.” He said.

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