Work experience with the Heart of the Cotswolds Ranger Team by Nat Smith

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The week started with a muddy situation as the tenant farmer managed to get his vehicle stuck in a swamp of mud. We eventually dragged his vehicle out and were soon back on track with our jobs for the day. We drove over to a field of cattle. When we got there I saw the cattle chewing on the green grass. Approaching them calmly, we eventually got them into their pen by using cattle food to lure them in. We checked that all the cattle were present and correct and then moved them to their next grazing site in two trips using a trailer. After that we traveled to three different areas counting and checking the cows.

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We started the afternoon by picking and pulling small balsam out of the ground. I began this task thinking that it would be easy but as time goes on you get tired of the continuous picking. I managed to finish and I was relieved! The reason we do this is because the plant is an invasive non-native species. To end the day we watered a collection of juniper plants, an evergreen shrub and also a priority species in the UK.

I began day two by cutting the lawn, which didn’t last long as we got news that a branch off a tree was overhanging a public footpath. This needed to be sorted straight away as it could endanger the public. As we arrived I could see the sights of Crickley Hill with the fog hiding the views of further land. We came across the overhanging branch with Martin the Ranger already there. I was given safety equipment to wear. My task was to keep public users off the track, so they were not endangered if the branch fell. Whilst I was doing this I watched how the Ranger was cutting the branch off the tree safely. I learnt that if a tree only rots inside, the outside can remain strong and standing.

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After that we returned to Ebworth and started a new task of preparing a gate for May Hill. We started the task by bolting the hinges onto the gate, I had the fun of heat branding the gate after practising on smaller pieces of wood. As I was going to do it for real on the gate I felt the pressure of getting it wrong. When I applied it to the gate I felt relieved but then I realised that I had to do it on the other side! I finished the day by helping read the energy and heat meters and uploading them to the system. I compared them to the last month and looked at how much renewable energy and fossil fuels this area uses.

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Throughout the third day we continued with the small balsam picking which took up most of the day because there are so many of them! They seemed to be everywhere, this is because the small balsam seeds off the plant are washed down the slope and grow where they end up. We finished the day by packing up fencing gear which was used to separate the tenant’s cattle from the local school during a family camping night.

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To start the final day of the week I continued with cutting the grass while the Rangers prepared for the day ahead. We were going to Woodchester Park to cut down a tree overhanging a path and to clear out the spillway to get the water flowing further downstream. As we arrived at the car park we collected the ticket machine money and replaced the wet leaflets with new ones.

After that we drove through the woods, whilst driving down there we came across another fallen tree which was over hanging a ditch. We turned our attention to that and cut it down so there was no risk to the public. We carried on our drive through the woods. I could see the lakes that were aside the track we were traveling down.

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Finally we arrived down to the spillway. We eventually got down to the bottom after clearing our own path through the overgrown vegetation either side of the spillway. We got straight to work and put the ladder down the 7ft drop to the base of the spillway. The water was very cloggy and brown and full of wood and rubbish. As I went down the ladder I stepped off into the water not realising that it would be so deep. I climbed back up the ladder because it was too deep and I didn’t want to risk water flowing over the top of my boots.

As a team we began lifting sticks, logs and rocks up and out and I carried them up the bank to be stacked clear of the overflow. Three hours later we had finished the job and the water was now a lot shallower, clearer and flowing as it should be. Before leaving we went over to the fallen tree overhanging the path. I stayed clear as one of the Rangers cut it down. When that was done we traveled back to Ebworth. When we got back I wanted to finish my job of cutting the grass so carried on with this, I thought I did a good job of the mowing. Now I’m back in the office finishing off my blog.

Work Experience Ranger Nat

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