Being simultaneously sad but incredibly happy at the same time is an odd feeling but that’s whats currently going on in my head now that I’ve been offered a permanent job! I’m sad to be leaving my traineeship early and missing out on a few things but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of being a ranger at the Marble Arch Caves Geopark in West Fermanagh, one of the most bio-diverse areas in the whole of Northern Ireland. So this will be my last blog and I wanted to fill you in on all the stuff that I’ve been up to before I head off into a new world of bogs, mountains, forests and lots of limestone!
I’ll start off by talking about an event I organised at the National Trusts Crom estate where I have been undergoing a placement. Not everyone in the UK will have known that Moth Night ran from 10th-12th September this year but I’m sure you will have worked out from my previous posts that I was well aware indeed! Moth Night celebrates moth diversity and tries to encourage people to record moth species in a coordinated event across the whole of the UK. I decided that it would be a great idea to organise an event to celebrate Moth Night at Crom which is one of the most moth diverse sites in Ireland. It would be a great opportunity for the local community to get out and learn all about the wonderful world of moths in an amazing natural setting. To try and get the attention of the local community I went out to 3 of the local primary schools to give talks about moths which went down incredibly well. I passed out the information about the event and talked to the teachers about how great it would be for kids and adults alike. I planned the event with the help of Malachy Martin the conservation warden at NT Crom estate and couldn’t have done it without the help of local volunteer Victor Johnson. I thought it would be a great idea for my fellow Natural Networks and Natural Talent Trainees in Northern Ireland to come and support with the event and hopefully learn something about moths in the process. So both Ruth Linton and Anna Hart made the long journeys down to Fermanagh with the prospect of a education room floor as accommodation. I was expecting a few people to turn up on the night since the weather was poor and it was about moths after all! Myself and Victor had got up early on the 11th to empty the traps and make sure we kept everything for people to see later on. Low and behold when the time came there were 42 people sitting waiting for me to give a talk about moth diversity in Northern Ireland! Now 42 people in S Fermanagh for an event about moths is absolutely mind blowing! It turns out that visiting the local schools was the best decision and the children were so excited to hear more about moths that the parents had no choice but to come along. There were moth traps, moth colouring, moth crafts, a moth talk, moth releasing, moth holding and about everything moth you could ever imagine. Ruth, Anna, Malachy and Victor engaged and enthused everyone and with their help the whole event went even better than I had hoped. Everyone loved it and I was so pleased that so many people had come from the local towns and villages to learn about these fascinating creatures open their eyes to whats out there on their doorstep. It was such a success that the National Trust have decided to do it again next year!
I also went on another TCV training course on woodland invasive species which was incredibly interesting. I have worked with any number of invasive species in the past number of years from balsam and bracken to knotweed but if I’m honest I didn’t really know that much about them. I knew how to identify them and what to do to them when you see them but nothing about their ecology, best management practice and even legislation. This course was a great chance to really improve my knowledge of invasives which are a real problem in Northern Ireland. With Knotweed, Balsam and Giant Hogweed clogging up many of Fermanaghs rivers it’ll be incredibly useful to know as much as possible for my future career.
The last thing I want to finish before I leave is something I’ve been planning in Lough Head Park in Lisnaskea for some time. This park has been a great resource for me throughout my traineeship, giving me a stage to engage with the local community with events such as a dawn chorus and wildflower walk being organised there. I wanted to leave something with some longevity at Lough Head and I thought a mini meadow and some bird boxes would be a great idea. I managed to salvage some timber with some help from fellow TCV colleagues and this has been placed safely in the hands of the Oak Healthy Living Trusts Mens Shed group in Lisnaskea. Oak Healthy Living are a great group that work with those who have problems with addiction, disability, depression and gives them opportunities to meet people and engage in activities to alleviate their problems. The Mens Shed group gives local gentlemen the chance to learn skills in woodworking and create incredible pieces of furniture and art as well as a chance to socialise. I asked them if they fancied building me some bird boxes to put up in Lough Head Park and they jumped at the chance. I was hoping for some simple bird boxes but from what I’ve been told they’re going to a bit more fancy than that! The other thing I wanted to create was mini meadow in an area of the park that is a little featureless. So with the blessing of the park owners myself and the CAT team set to work on an area in the corner of the park. First strimming it down as close as we could get and then using a turf cutter to try and remove the top soil. Let’s just say that taking an area of rank grass and turning it into a meadow is no easy task. The seeds will be sown and we’ll have to wait until next year to see if anythings taken. The seeds have been collected from local sites so its as local as you can get!
I just want to finish by saying that I’ve really enjoyed my time as TCV Natural Networks trainee, its had its up and downs but I will take an incredible amount of experience away from it, not to mention a chainsaw qualification 😉 I have learnt so much about everything from how to organise events, engaging with communities, environmental education, practical conservation and most importantly for me about conservation in Northern Ireland. I will be taking all of this newly gained knowledge and experience into my new job and won’t forget where I learnt it all! I’ll leave you with another photo of the stunning place that it Fermanagh.