by Sam Newcombe
As this is being written, Sam is a student and is studying his A levels. He came to Rockingham Forest Vision for a work experience placement and, in his words, ‘It was well awesome.’
Sam has been interested in nature all his life, ranging from bug hunting in the back garden at age 5 to becoming an official volunteer at the Rutland Osprey Project when he was just 15 years old!
Day 1 - honey for tea and some nice insects
I have not written a blog in so long, so this is going to be fun!
I was looking forward to my work experience and wasn’t too apprehensive as I had already met Sophie a few weeks previously and I was excited to gain knowledge of working with nature. My first day of work experience did not disappoint! I was working alongside Sophie and my job was to go through the Rockingham Forest Vision website finding any issues I could feedback on and looking for anything that was particularly good. Through this I was able to discover a lot more about the project and learned a little more about the nature found around the Fineshade area.
Sadly, things could not go smoothly the whole time as tragedy struck at approximately 10:00am. It was tea-break time and we could not find the sugar! We looked everywhere but could not find it so we had to use honey instead, which I must say did not taste particularly great!
Once I had completed the feedback on the website, providing a teenager’s perspective of it all, it was lunchtime and thankfully we were able to find the sugar! A truly heartfelt relief, for me especially. Once lunch was over, I was sent off to do a short photography bioblitz of Fineshade which was incredible fun, despite the very strong gusts of wind and incredibly ominous clouds!
I was able to find a lot including a Purple Hairstreak butterfly, but sadly I could not get a picture of it. It even teased me by landing on me, just flying off when I reached for my phone to get a picture.
I had some more incredible encounters, for example the amazing number of crickets perched on the brambles along the paths. There were thousands of them! This inspired me to take a slow-motion video of a cricket jumping, so I got myself ready and my phone’s camera settings correct and then the inevitable happened. They all vanished! I searched and searched but it was like a UFO came along and kidnapped them all. So sadly, I decided to leave it till another day.
My final fun encounter was with this beautiful Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle. Nothing much happened with it, but I was able to get some fantastic shots and I enjoyed just sitting down and watching it get on with its day.
The walk back to Sophie was quite a hurried affair since there were some very large drops of rain beginning to fall and me being the silly person I am, forgot my waterproof jacket. Once I got back, I sent some of my photos to Sophie and did a little paper work and that was day 1 completed.
Day 2 - Butterfly Conservation
My second day of work experience was not as jam-packed full of action but it was still as educational for me. This day was with the Butterfly Conservation Project. Firstly, I went out with Susannah to collect in the posts and tape that had been used to block off an area of Fineshade for the Chequered Skippers.
This was okay as when we were driving between locations we were able to find a lot of interesting things, such as a beautiful web made by a bunch of caterpillars, abandoned when we found it sadly but still a spectacle to behold.
From here we went back to the base we were using that day and dropped off all the equipment. From there I gathered up my equipment and everything I would need and we headed out. Where to, you ask? To Fermyn Woods where we would be performing a survey to gauge the amount of Meadow Vetchling there and how much would be of access to the Wood White butterfly.
Weather wise, this was the worst day. By the end of the surveys I had puddles in my trainers and I was ready to get back into the warmth.
However, on our way back to the car to head back, we had an amazing encounter with another Purple Hairstreak and this time I managed to get a few photos of it. It was fantastic and it nearly made up for the sogginess I had put up with for 2 hours!
The final part of day 2 was inputting a lot of data from the surveys into an Excel document. This was surprisingly good too! Since I know my way well around Excel, I knew exactly what to do to speed up the process.
Overall, for day 2, the weather was a wash out and although it was still interesting and fun, we did not see a lot of insects and the like, which would have made it even better.
Day 3 - work in Rawhaw Wood
his was my favourite day as I went to Rawhaw Wood and met the loveliest people on earth, Hugh and Carolyn. Firstly, I was taken on a little tour of the area in which we did a little bit of bug hunting which ended up in us finding a little Toad! It was adorable.
Also, throughout the tour I collected a lot of peacock feathers which were fantastic.
After my tour we collected all the gear from the house and we headed on our way to a little area with a dried-up pond. The task? To dismantle the top half of an elm that had fallen into the dried-up pond as the pond will fill up again over the autumn and winter months. It was hard work; it was very hard to saw through the wood and once or twice I had to rip off thicker branches that the saw could not get through!
But even though it was hard work it was real fun and I enjoyed it greatly. I learned a lot about balancing the commercial use of coppicing and conserving the habitat and environment at the same time. I even learnt how to use a Kelly kettle which was interesting - it was quick to boil the water and easy to use. The hardest part about this day was dealing with the ivy covering the elm. It was awful! The ivy was so intwined in the elm it was extremely hard to take off and we had to rely on a mixture of saws and brute strength to rip it off.
Sadly, we were not able to finish but we did get very close!
Day 3 was definitely the day which required the most energy and work however it was also the day that I enjoyed the most and opened up another career choice for me to investigate!
My work experience was an absolute blast - it was so informative, but also fun and active too. Plus, I got some amazing photos of a butterfly I had never seen before!
I loved every second I spent doing the work experience, except maybe the honey tea! If any young people are reading this as a means of gauging whether to choose to do their work experience here, I could not recommend it highly enough ,and I want to give a big thanks to all those who helped me throughout my placement - Sophie, Susannah, Barrie, Hugh & Carolyn