Volunteering with Avon Wildlife Trust - Oliver Evans

Over the last academic year (2017/18) I have been volunteering at Avon wildlife trust at two different branches, Feed Bristol and the pollinator corridors team.

I participated in a number of activities including preparing for events, the removal of undesirable species, the improvement of wildflower meadows, land management and general wildlife friendly agriculture. The process at Feed Bristol was enjoyable and the group there were very welcoming, within a short period I felt part of the team and took pride in helping improve the green space and help manage the food crops and wildflowers. The work is done with care and the leaders there take time to explain the reasons for what you are doing and how they relate to ecology and conservation.

The pollinator corridors team were also welcoming and engaging, explaining the reason for tasks and taking care to teach skills such as when using tools with particular health and safety implications such as scythes. We used scythes to remove bramble and dense vegetation on a wildflower rich meadow in Somerset.

I learnt valuable skills at both projects, such as ecologically sound land management and gardening to enhance biodiversity. I got an insight into how large conservation groups such as Avon wildlife trust run on ground level and engaged extensively with the project leader and team leaders at both branches.

I learnt knowledge of the wild flowers we have in this country, including the ecology and the taxonomy. Also why wildflowers such as red Campion (Silene dioica), woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) and red clover (Trifolium pratense) are so important for pollinators such as bees, beetles and wasps, as they provide them with an important food source in return for pollination and keep the soil healthy.

I further enhanced my skills in time management and organisation by aiming to complete certain tasks within a time frame. Working in large groups for both projects I gained an appreciation of unity and teamwork when working towards a common goal. I gained skills in land and habitat management, knowledge of pollinators, wildflowers and landscapes. I gained practical skills in pollinator conservation and wildlife friendly agriculture.

The social wellbeing and outdoor education events were a rewarding aspect of my time with Avon, at the feed Bristol site we worked with disability groups to engage them with nature and improve mental and physical well being by involving them in the outdoors. Young children also came in with their parents or schools for wildlife education and to keep them in touch with different habitats seldom seen in the inner city. Working with disability groups and young children was a particularly gratifying moment considering I have very little prior experience in that regard.

This experience also provided me with a worthwhile and enjoyable opportunity to make a positive conservation effort in a practical way, benefitting local wildlife and landscape.

I believe that working for more than one organisation allowed me to experience different sets of skills and knowledge useful in my future career.

My experience with Avon Wildlife Trust gave me an opportunity to further enhance my skills and knowledge within ecology and landscape conservation as well as time management. By working in large groups for both projects I gained an appreciation of unity and teamwork when working towards a common goal. In all I felt it was a very worthwhile experience that I believe will contribute to my future prospects.