Helen Dewar

"I had high expectations of my work experience with BBOWT, after hearing from family and friends about what an amazing organisation it is, but the week surpassed these expectations to become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far."

Day one involved meeting the incredible people in the office, and understanding how these members of staff work together with the 1,800 volunteers to make BBOWT what it is today.  

I also had the opportunity to learn about the fascinating history of the charity, from its beginnings as a group of volunteers forming the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Naturalists Trust in 1959, to the present day.

Spending three days out on the reserves with the Oxfordshire reserves team, I learned so much about the work that they do and the wildlife that they support. The staff and volunteers were eager to teach me everything, from the plants of chalk grasslands, to how to use a scythe. Chalk grasslands, for example Hartslock nature reserve, have been called the ‘rainforests of Britain’, because of the huge number of different plants that live there. 

Hartslock

View from Hartslock nature reserve over Goring Gap by Craig Howes (craighowesphotography.co.uk)

It was great to see how BBOWT is looking to traditional ways of managing habitats to make their work more sensitive to both workers and nature, for example by using scythes when clearing areas of vegetation. The scythe is a beautifully crafted tool which offers an alternative to brush cutters. It is quieter, non-polluting and allows the animals to escape the undergrowth before it is cut. 

Working with the sheep at the Wells Farm and Hartslock reserves showed me how well BBOWT cares for the livestock that graze on many of the reserves; maintaining the balance between letting the animals be as wild as possible and keeping them healthy and happy.

There is nothing I can say that will show what an incredible experience this was, and I am looking forward to doing more volunteering in the future. The BBOWT team definitely haven’t seen the last of me!

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