We have now completed our Holistic Habitats volunteer programme which ran from December 2015 until the end of June 2016, and a huge amount has been achieved. The programme – funded through the ‘Volunteering in Wales’ fund – included regular conservation management days as well as our ‘Veg Patch from Scratch’ project.
60 new volunteers joined the programme; some for just one or two sessions to learn new skills in a particular area, and others to take part in the wide range of activities we had on offer.
Conservation Management and Wildlife Monitoring
We held 28 conservation management days, and volunteers contributed a whopping 378 hours of their time. The work of the volunteers is making a huge impact on the management of our nature reserve. Encroaching bramble and blackthorn have now been cut back from the edges of several of our meadows, and also around the pond and lake, which will improve the biodiversity in these areas.
One of our main tasks was to harvest the 1-year willow whips from the willow beds around our Wetland Eco-Treatment system. The first session was led by external trainer, Paul Simmons, and we then held 4 volunteer days where we continued to harvest, bundle and store the willow. This has provided a fantastic resource for our willow-weaving courses later this year (plus we all became experts at tying slips-knots to secure the bundles!)
Our volunteers have also received training in earthworm ecology and lichen identification, as well as gaining valuable experience in conservation management skills, from path drainage to coppicing. We also held a Tool Sharpening and Maintenance workshop. We have also set up a regular Amphibian and Reptile monitoring survey, and held a guided bird walk where we identified 23 species with the help of Ceredigion Bird group.
A Veg Patch from Scratch
Our volunteer project to create a new organic kitchen garden got off to a delayed start due to the wet weather in January, but once the weather improved we successfully held 17 fortnightly sessions. A team of 10 volunteers ranging in age from 10 to 77 were kept busy digging the beds, and planting a range of veg under the expert guidance of tutor Malcolm Berry. Malcolm has previously taught courses for the RHS, and worked in the National Botanic Garden.
Veg Patch Volunteers in Action
We have been both pleased and surprised with the popularity of this project, and glad to be able to offer this opportunity to both new and old volunteers. We now have a fantastic kitchen garden, filled with a variety of vegetables and flowers – and beneficial insects.
Veg Patch bed
We showcased the new kitchen garden at our Open Day in June when the tutor and volunteers were on-hand to answer visitors’ questions. The day also included children’s outdoor activities in the woodland and storytelling in the yurt with local storyteller Milly Jackdaw. We also had willowcraft, pole lathe and tool-sharpening demonstrations, plus plant stalls, a nature discovery stand and plenty of eating opportunities.
We have now received extra funding to enable us to continue to run growing sessions through the summer with Malcolm (including a greenhouse-growing project) and to continue our programme of site conservation and wildlife survey days with local experts. You can find more information on our ‘Sowing Seeds, Sharing Skills’ volunteer page.