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Volunteers make the difference at Meeth

Posted: Tuesday 30th May 2017 by DevonWildlifeTrust

Volunteers stand alongside the new wildlife hide at Meeth Quarry nature reserve Proud volunteers with the new hide at Meeth Quarry reserve

Local volunteers have been at the heart of the construction of our Meeth Quarry reserve's splendid new wildlife hide. Tom Parsons explains how it happened...

As I approach the end of my practical conservation traineeship with Devon Wildlife Trust, I find it hard to believe how much I have learnt in one short year. As part of the traineeship I’ve visited beautiful nature reserves throughout the South West, seen amazing wildlife at first hand and met a range of kind, generous and hard-working conservationists. One of my favourite aspects of a brilliant year has been the opportunity to work with the volunteers at Meeth Quarry nature reserve.

As the name suggests, the 150 hectare reserve was previously a quarry, mined for clay and stone. The reserve hosts regular monthly practical conservation volunteer work parties which carry out tasks such as tree-guard removal, scrub clearance and path and track maintenance. On a reserve the size of Meeth there is no shortage of jobs, and the work of our volunteers makes a huge difference: from helping to maintain habitats for nationally important species such as Wood White butterflies and Small Red damselflies to improving public access to the reserve.

Volunteers give so much

Many of our volunteers give much more than one day a month to help Devon Wildlife Trust. In the last year our volunteers have assisted at Open Days and community events, carried out stone walling and swaling (controlled burning) on Dartmoor and bird surveys and butterfly transects at Meeth. And without question their major achievement of this year has been building the first bird hide for Meeth Quarry.

Initial plans for the hide were drawn up by volunteer Kevin New, with some suggestions from reserves officer Ian Chadwick. A readily accessible site was chosen, with fantastic views over a range of habitats. Initial groundworks were carried out by a local contractor, and after that it was over to me and the volunteers!

Working occasional days to fit in with our winter works schedule, December saw us concrete in the huge uprights which form the outline of the building. On these we built the floor structure and timber frames for the walls, topped with a sturdy ring-beam to support the roof.

Taking shape

After a hard-earned Christmas break we returned in freezing conditions in January to build the roof structure and undertake the painstaking task of cladding the walls in waney-edge larch. The round posts and rustic cladding meant that each panel had to be cut at specific angles at each end; visualising these angles was a bit like playing tetris in 4 dimensions! The green roof went on in mid-February, a wheelchair access ramp was added, and finishing touches including windows, doors and leaning ledges were all in place by March.

Volunteer Steve Martindale commented:

“Construction of the bird hide enabled the volunteer team to be totally involved in a project from start to finish, really allowing them to feel that they are an inclusive part of the work they are doing.”

Volunteer Chris Baines said:

“Having recently retired from an office job, volunteering at Meeth is giving me the chance to ‘do my bit’ for the environment. The work on the hide was particularly satisfying, as it is a lasting example of something I have been a part of.”

The contribution of the nine volunteers who helped in the construction cannot be overstated; without them we simply would not have been able to complete this project. Each brought their own skills and experience to the job, as well as suggestions and ideas which added to the organic nature of the final building. Many brought their own tools, saving considerable time and expense. Perhaps even more important than all the hard work was the sense of teamwork and camaraderie amongst the group. I can honestly say it was a pleasure and a privilege to work with such a great team.

Our supporters

The bird hide at Meeth Quarry nature reserve was supported through the generosity of  Devon Wildlife Trust’s Barnstaple and District local group and an anonymous local donor. We are also grateful to Sedum Green Roof, Hawk and Owl Trust, RGB building supplies (Hatherleigh) and JP Building (Launceston) for advice on aspects of its construction.

Tom Parsons is a Heritage Lottery Fund Wildlife Skills Practical Conservation Trainee based at Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve.

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