Yes, the politicians have it right – we need the ‘Big Society’, but I have a slight feeling of déjà vu here! – the wheel being reinvented. Conservationists, in our case the RSPB, have been doing this for decades: looking after birds, making reserves, caring for the environment, creating fun for people, bringing meaning into millions of people’s lives. Yes, we have paid staff – totally necessary and comparative to their skills and dedication, not overly paid. This is not a job to them - it‘s a way of life. But a proportion of the work that goes on in our own organisation is voluntary; not particularly done through some sense of obligation or moral crusade but for the sheer love of nature and our environment. They don’t expect medals or awards or celebrity status – they just do it for the sheer joy they get from nature.
The work that goes on here at Campfield (some 900 acres takes some looking after…Hello!) is a microcosm of what goes on round the rest of the nation. Staff working, often in difficult arduous conditions - year in year out … dedicated to the intricate management of field, stream, salt marsh, peat bog, heath and woodland – making things possible on tight budgets.
Early engineering work, April 1993
Scraping out the pools, April 1993
Dave carefully planting Phragmites screen round the sluice - 15th april 2010
Stephen fencing off the Natterjack pools - April 2010
Ploughing part of the bird seed field in preparation for oats planting - April 2010
Stephen planting oats - 21st April 2010
Last year's Kale crop, now seeding, attracting a large flock of sparrows and finches - July 2010
Stephen keeping the lonning up to park standard
"Newly cut hay" - a digital painting
"The Hay baled" - a digital painting
Haytime - loading the bales , July 2010
Stephen, topping the rushes in preparation for winter, July 2010
Whooper swans enjoying the pools this last winter
These end results are made possible with the able assistance of the weekly volunteer group: working, more often than not, in the cold and wet; in the mud and scrub; torn by brambles; pestered by midges . Have you ever tried a day of ragwort pulling or gorse cutting!!!
Early workparty activity - clearing silver birches to make flight paths for wintering wildfowl, Autumn 1993
Workparty brash clearance after tree felling - Autumn 1993
Early workparty - bonfires after gorse cutting on the marsh front - 1993
Campfield volunteers planting Phragmites as a path screen, 15th April 2010
Dave, Stephen and volunteers maintaining willow bower in sylvan glade, April 2010
Staff and volunteers have improved this field boundary to provide better wader breeding areas
Workparty on new hedge weeding detail, 20th May 2010
Dave discussing thistle weeding plans, 10th June 2010
Workparty weeding thistles out of Kale seed crop, 10th June 2010
Workparty - screen maintenance detail, 2nd June 2010
Volunteers, Marjorie and Neil, doing a Bumble Bee survey - one of a number of surveys carried out by volunteers on the Reserve
Willow bower growth in a few years
Hawthorne saplings planted by workparty as a hedge, a few years ago, are developing nicely
Earlier years planting of Phragmites is starting to screen the path
Pinks and Barnacle geese, 20th February 2010 - some of the thousands of wildfowl visiting the reserve in winter
, ”This is the Big Society”. Only I say to the great and the good – RSPB did it first!
Dave Blackledge, Reserve Warden, reported a Red Kite flying over the reserve early this morning. Other reports from the area this morning too, in the vicinity of Cardurnock.
This last few days the estuary seems to be livening up a bit after the Summer Solstice. A good many Bar-tailed Godwits, in a variety of plumage are around now and Oystercatchers are amassing. Have seen an immature, quite large, Shelduck with a parent bird. A few Black-tailed Godwits seem to have been hanging around the area most of the summer. There is a decent sized flock of Golden Plover – again they too seem to have been round for a while now. But notably Dunlin are gathering in decent numbers – large flocks can be seen flying up and down the estuary, with odd individual larger waders with them. Have yet to identify these.
Haaf-net fishermen also seem to be grouping now in fair numbers. The fresh water in the river has presumably brought the fish on. You can usually tell by the numbers of them fishing whether they are having success or not. Sadly, though, these hardy fishers seem to be a threatened species, as I have noted their numbers declining over the last quarter of a century. Pity if we were to lose them altogether!