I arrived at the Avon Wildlife Trust office at 9.15am where the group congregated before heading out. I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, but this soon vanished as the group members were very friendly and happy to show me the ropes.
It was a group of mixed ages, genders and experience, from students to older people who had been attending for years. Our group leader, Rosie, gave us a quick briefing about where we were going and what we would be doing, then we all helped carry out tools and equipment (as well as essential tea, coffee and biscuits) to the minibus.
On this occasion we were to help with some clearing on the Northern Slopes. Spirits were high and everyone chatted excitedly on the drive over there. Upon arrival, we met up with a member of the Northern Slopes Initiative who gave a brief talk about the area and about what needed doing. He seemed very pleased to see us turn out in good numbers! After a cup of tea and a biscuit or two it was time to get started.
Some of the equipment was more difficult to use, so the more experienced members of the group grabbed the tree poppers and scythes, while the rest of us took up loppers. Gloves were provided, which I was relieved about. I had never done this kind of work before but it was amazing how quickly I found my rhythm and worked at a good pace.
I found that I got completely absorbed in the task. All thoughts melted away, I felt focused and present. It felt good to be outside working on the land with the sun on my skin and fresh air in my lungs. Being so close to the soil and plant life felt replenishing to my spirit and I felt a real connection to nature. It seemed like no time at all before it was time to stop for lunch. I found myself so uplifted by the work that I was unusually talkative to my fellow companions as we ate.
For the remainder of the day we cleared brambles, which brought with them more challenges than the small trees we’d been clearing before! I wasn’t without the odd scratch and bruise by the end of the day, although I hadn’t noticed them happening. As well as the clearing, we were also able to collect and remove a lot of the rubbish left in the area.
I worked hard but found that my enthusiasm and enjoyment took all the strain out of it. By the end of the day I felt wonderfully weary and my mood was buoyant. The work had been intensely satisfying and as we all clambered back on the minibus I sank into the seat with a gratifying sense of achievement. We got back to the office around 3pm and we all helped carry the tools back in.
As I made my way home, I felt a distinct desire to get out and do more of this kind of work. It had been a wonderful experience to take on the role as guardian and caretaker of a wildlife site in my city, knowing that my efforts would support the land and its wildlife, and be appreciated by local residents. Having done this myself, I feel confident in recommending this experience to anyone interested in conservation and communing with the great outdoors.