The start of winter…

I was particularly busy at work during the latter part of 2011, and with the run up to Christmas I found it particularly difficult to find time to keep the blog updated. Since it’s been a while since posting I thought I’d do an update on some of the stuff I’ve been up to since the start of winter…

Workwise, taking out a large stretch of European Gorse at Beacon Hill, a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) on the Durham Coast, kept me busy (and warm) over much of December – I spent at least 9 days cutting this out by hand (which is INCREDIBLY sharp to the touch and resulted in lots of thorn-based injuries). The gorse in this case was encroaching on a habitat of higher conservation value (Beacon Hill is made up of magnesian limestone grassland – a nationally scarce habitat which supports a rich variety of wildlife), and because it was over represented and inappropriate for its location, it was necessary to reduce its coverage.

Gorse cutting at Beacon Hill

Continuing to take out Rhododendron at Penshaw Wood also kept me busy through December…

Burning Rhododendron at Penshaw

Through work, as required to complete a qualification in Countryside Management, I also have to carry out (and document) a number of estate skills. These include constructing structures like gates, bridges, steps and paths as well as boundaries such as fences, hedges and drystone walls. I got to grips with a couple of these in December including a section of stock fencing I put up at Port Mulgrave on the Yorkshire Coast (which was very rewarding on what was a blusteringly windy day by the end of which I felt like I had been physically beaten).

Putting in a fence post at Port Mulgrave

A nice way to finish work before the Christmas break was installing a bench at Roseberry Topping dedicated to a local woman, Dorothy May Evans. A quote engraved on to the bench read ‘UNTIL THE GREAT DAY DAWNS’.

Bench with Roseberry Topping in the distance

Christmas and New Year came and went pretty fast. As well as eating ridiculous amounts of food over the Christmas break I also tried to get out and spot some wildlife after purchasing a new and snazzy scope (a Nikon ED50).

Unfortunately I didnt get a chance to spot a Badger before the year was up but I did get to see quite a bit at various reserves including a close-up view of a Marsh Harrier at RSPB Saltholme which finished off 2011 nicely…

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