There are five teams in the BWH Environment Group (BWHEG) and some people are in more than one team. Most tasks carried out by the teams directly relate to project aims of the Forgotten Landscapes Partnership Scheme and the BWHS Management Plan.
Practical Conservation Team
This team carries out a wide range of countryside and rights of way management in a group of about 6 people, usually every other Wednesday and Saturday and sometimes on other days of the week too. To name just a few, these tasks have included:
Helping with controlled burning to manage the important moorland habitats of the landscape
Managing the invasive bracken to clear paths and make way for more heather
Putting in new signage for walking trails
Planting a new reed bed habitat
Dry Stone Walling Team
The dry stone walling team has been gradually building up through a training programme overseen by trainer Martin Rathbone on behalf of the Forgotten Landscapes Partnership (FLP). The team is made up of people who have achieved or are working towards the standard of level 1 in the Dry Stone Walling Association Craftsmanship Scheme.
The aim of FLP dry stone walling activities is to repair as many walls as possible that form high priority common land boundaries in the scheme area. With these important landscape features restored, livestock management should be easier for commoners (who possess rights to graze the commons). With increased grazing the management of the upland heather moorland habitat on the commons should be improved. Achieving this through a dry stone walling training programme for local people means that this valuable heritage skill is kept alive at the same time. Dry stone walls are also beneficial to wildlife because they provide places for birds, reptiles and invertebrates to nest.
This new sub-group of BWHEG is open to all who are interested in learning the skills needed to discover and preserve archaeological sites that can be found in the World Heritage Site. At present the group meets twice a month for one indoor and one outdoor learning session, under the direction of a professional field archaeologist from Archaeology Wales. At the end of the FLP Scheme this group will between them have a set of skills in order to carry on with projects on other sites. Please get in contact if you’d be interested in joining in!
Wildlife Monitoring Team
The team is carrying out surveys throughout the year. Over the winter of 2011-2012 they have kept an eye on the numbers of red grouse, an important yet declining species which depends on the heather moorland habitat of the commons.
From March to June 2012 they recorded their estimated numbers of skylarks. This number will be a key indicator as to the health of the landscape ecosystem. Over the rest of the summer and into the autumn they looked at the effects of FLP land management on the moorland vegetation. Now winter 2013 has come around red grouse surveys have begun again.
Other Wildlife Monitoring Activities
Volunteer Rangers in the Practical Conservation team are carrying out other wildlife monitoring tasks:
• Monthly recording and photographing at the FLP reed bed creation site. Water levels, reed height, general natural history observations and any signs of mink (on a raft which has been designed to display their footprints) are recorded. If no signs of the non-native mink are found during the life of the FLP scheme, this data may form evidence for a case to introduce water vole in a future project.
• Monthly Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS) of Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve for the British Trust for ornithology. This takes place one Sunday morning every month.
Education and Engagement
Junior Rangers Team
Several volunteer rangers take part in running the Junior Rangers club which is led by the FLP Education Officer Ceri Cadwallader. The club, which is for 7 – 12 year olds, runs on the first Sunday of every month 10.30am -12.30pm. New leaders for this club are needed for the group to continue, please get in touch if you would like to find out more.
Guided Walks & Events
A few volunteer rangers help out with the FLP programme of events and guided walks. At the Garn Lakes Country Fayre, for example, this has involved helping to put the FLP stand up as well as talking to visitors about the scheme and promoting the Volunteer Rangers. Where guided walks are concerned, volunteers have prepared for and led guided walks or simply acted as an extra pair of hands (a seconder). We welcome enquiries about leading walks from anybody with enthusiasm and/or specialist knowledge in a particular subject.
Group members are also organising and leading walks for the first ever Blaenavon Walking Festival.