Hello all, myself and Tom (who will introduce himself next time!) are the latest Skills for the Future trainees to begin work at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. We are training in Heritage Landscape Management, which encompasses all sorts of things from habitat management, wildlife conservation to farm work. No two days are the same! We began our schemes, which are funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in October and they run for 18 months which will see us having plenty of opportunities to see, do and learn as much as we can!
I love working outside and I had been volunteering for Norfolk Wildlife Trust for 9 months and looking for a job which would allow me to learn skills needed for working outside in the environment. When this traineeship came up it was just what I had been looking for and it has turned out to be a great opportunity. The environment has always been an interest of mine. I graduated from the University of East Anglia in Environmental Science and have always been interested in Natural History and the conservation of the environment.
We are primarily based on the farm doing day to day jobs there, but we can be asked to work all over the museum site from the orchard, the gardens and even centenary wood. We even helped during the cleanup operation when the steam exhibition in the museum flooded!
Learning new skills is a challenge which I enjoy applying myself to. Once a week myself and Tom both work towards a Level 2 Diploma in Work-based Environmental Conservation and we have already gained a few skills in the short time we have both been on the farm. Hedgelaying is one of the skills which we have been practicing over the last few weeks and its beginning to sink in, hopefully! Constructing a chicken run is something we have also been involved in helping students from Adult Education. Work like this give us the opportunity to not only help out around the farm, the chickens were in much need of a new home, but also to work with a wider range of people.
Tom and I also go out on placement once a week to gain experience form other organisations. Tom is currently with Norfolk Wildlife Trust at Foxley wood, while my placement is with the Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe Moor. It is very interesting seeing how another organisation manages the land for the benefit of the local wildlife. Balancing how one shows visitors to the site what wildlife is on the reserve and not disturbing the animals is interesting. They use quite a few cameras allowing visitors to get close without the birds and other animals being disturbed.
Some of the work we have been involved in since mid October has been preparing hedges for hedgelaying. This has involved trimming the hedge back so that it can be worked upon but also removing any unwanted material. Some of the hedges which are suitable for laying have fences running through them and so we have been dismantling them, often with the help of a tractor! In preparation for the Apple Day event a new gate was required for the exit to the overflow car park so one of the first jobs Tom and I were given was to help install it. We seem pleased with our efforts.
One big problem with the farm in winter is the river side board walk can get very slippery and dangerous so it has been decided that netting needs to be installed on the boards. And so over the winter months Tom and I with help from the volunteers on the farm will be laying the netting down on the board walk so that people can enjoy the walk around the farm in all weathers.
Over the October half term we held a few interactive sessions on the farm which involved visitors, adults and children alike, discovering more about owls and what is inside the pellets that they produce. Everyone enjoyed pulling the pellets apart and finding mouse, vole and shrew bones along with all manner of other things that the owl has eaten. However, the adults were often more squeamish that their children!
We have also been on a few training courses such as a chainsaw course and an abrasive wheel course and we are looking forward to doing our tractor course in the coming weeks. These courses are very interesting with lots to learn and will help us to develop our skills required for the world of conservation. Part of our work on the farm is with the agricultural Entry Level Stewardship that it is part of. We have been learning about the regulations surrounding farming and what ways we can deliver effective environmental management to our farm. It has been very interesting and informative to understanding how land management is used in the agricultural landscape today.
All in all it has been a very busy yet exciting first couple of months here at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, it has been great fun and we are both looking forward to everything that is yet to come in our traineeships!
Hannah and Tom