July has been a great month, although I think I have eaten my body weight in courgettes, beans, squash and lettuce all grown at the Tree Life Centre by our Grow Wild Volunteers. All of their hard work has really paid off and we now have an abundance of delicious organic fresh vegetables to take home. In fact we have so much that our volunteers helped us run a little market stall at the Tree Life Centre allowing the public to take home some of our produce in return for donations. Unfortunately the day we chose was a bit gloomy so we will save our next one for a sunny day!
In other news, I travelled up to Skelton Grange in Leeds earlier in the month for a Natural Networks meet up. We camped and had a BBQ and it was a really nice chance to catch up and hear what everyone has been up to. We had a skill sharing session where I learnt about snails, edible plants, bees and much more! By the way Skelton Grange Environment Centre is amazing! The volunteers and staff there do a great job of looking after the site (I was a little envious!!).
I also had to chance to join the Cirencester Green Gym for a day. This was my first Green Gym experience and after a quick stretch I was ready to help with mulching trees and cutting back some vegetation in one of the car parks. It was great having a tour of the very impressive hospital grounds – featuring apple trees, wildflower lined winding paths and woodland area – the perfect location for a mentoring meeting!
If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will have noticed that I talk about Forest School quite a lot – this blog will be no exception! Throughout July I completed my final few sessions which involved fire lighting, making willow crowns and toasting marshmallows. My Forest School assessor visited to observe my last session which was slightly nerve wracking but I passed, which means all I have to do is complete a mountain of coursework and I will be a fully certified level 3 leader! This should be a great addition to my CV and would not have been possible without the generous training budget provided as part of this traineeship.
We have been fortunate enough to welcome two corporate groups to the Tree Life Centre in the last month, from OVO Green Energy and Alliance. The group of OVO volunteers constructed a post and rail fence around one of our ponds and pizza oven. They also dug out our leaking pond and put a new pond liner down – these were both extremely physical tasks and they did a great job. The volunteers from Alliance spent the day rejuvenating our composting area, repairing and replacing the wooden pallets that form divides and even constructing some fancy hinged doors on the food waste section. They approached a challenging (and slightly smelly task) with a great can do attitude!
I have also been busy leading tasks with our weekly volunteers. Unfortunately the site was having lots of anti-social behaviour throughout June and early July so we have put up fencing along the front entrance of the Tree Life Centre as a deterrence. This seems to have done the trick as we have not have any damage since so fingers crossed it continues to work. As always there has been lots of weeding and watering of plants to do as well as potting on our wildflowers (at least 150 of them!) that were getting too large for their seed trays.
Finally, I have continued working with a local youth group – part of my project for my traineeship. I am leading sessions for them at the Tree Life Centre to improve their engagement with nature and the outdoors. We have been cutting wood using pruning saws and whittling spoons, cutting back brambles and last session we made a blindfold trail around the forest school area (basically a rope trail with lots of obstacles that you have to complete blindfolded only with verbal instructions from a partner). We also tried cooking pancakes on the fire, with interesting results! I am in process of organising some sites for us to visit later in the year to do some conservation work on – so watch this space!