The life of a conservation volunteer is wonderfully varied. One week we may be moving sheep and ragworting, the next it could be moving ponies or cows and rubbish picking.
Last week it was rubbish picking. It seems that some of the chalk grassland sites we work on were once grand fly tipping areas. A lot of the larger rubbish is removed when a site is initially cleared and fenced, however, when the area is to be grazed, the remaining smaller bits of rubbish also need to be cleared and it is amazing how much of it there is.
After a quick sheep move our task was to rubbish pick an area at Hutchinsons Bank that will possibly be grazed by the project's two Dartmoor ponies in the Spring. It is strangely satisfying when one reviews the big load we removed from the site.
It is even more satisfying when one sees all the broken glass, barbed wire and other dangerous things we removed. I wonder how many wild animals may have suffered with injuries caused by this rubbish.
Most of our volunteer livestock work involves the conservation grazing sheep but another variation over the last couple of weeks has been tasks involving the Project's cows and ponies.
I am not very confident with cows as the only ones I have been involved with in the past were some rather dopey bullocks owned by my boss in a previous job. These big fellows would happily walk all over you rather than round you:) Animals are quick to pick up if one is nervous and the biggest give away is the way one breathes so I had to use the 'boring' technique (see 'Boring' post 18/9/11) to make sure I stayed calm while helping move the cattle. The first move was taking five of the Project's Sussex bullocks to the field next to Holly Lane car park at Chipstead. They were all very good which is just as well as they were sporting sharp little horns which on occasions seemed to be just a matter of inches from the Grazing Officer as he ushered them into the trailer.
The second move was taking the remaining three bullocks to Foxley Wood, Purley. This is a surprisingly lovely site, a little oasis, close to the infamous, car infested, Purley Cross and with views across to Riddlesdown.
Following the move to Foxley Wood there was just enough time to visit the farm where the Project is over-wintering twenty conservation grazing cows for the Corporation of London. Even though I am not a fan of cows I have to say these are a lovely group who seem friendly and inquisitive. One particularly caught my eye as she looks as if she has just had her top knot permed:)
My favourite stock move over the last couple of weeks has been the return of the ponies to my livestock checking area of Tatsfield. The sheep were moved up a field and the ponies have gone in at the bottom, conveniently next door to the farrier as they will soon need their hooves trimmed again. It is the first time they have grazed this field so after gobbling down some tasty grass they trotted round inspecting their new abode.
Then it was time to show off with a bit of bucking and galloping around just to inform any rivals or predators (being ponies they still think there may be wolves in Surrey:)) that they are tough guys.
Then they noticed the sheep staring at them from the adjoining field. Both ponies and sheep looked shocked and quite horrified at first but it didn't take them long before they were politely introducing themselves....
Lastly I wonder if other people are having trouble with their blog sites? I have had to change my 'comments' from embedded to pop-up as some people (including myself) couldn't access them. Also there are several of my favourite sites that I cannot access at all and others that I cannot access the comments on. Is it my computer or is it blogger or something else? Any ideas would be most welcome.
Ludwig Loewe visits Nymans Gardens
12 hours ago