|Nine Months A Volunteer!|
|Main Featured Image central lake – Gazen Salts Nature Reserve July 2022|
|Duckweed Coverage on Central Lake July 2021|
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve – images Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Facebook page
|In May 2021 – Hundreds of saplings, seeds and seedlings were planted in the reserve by the volunteers.|
|Nine Months A Volunteer!|
|Central Lake March 2018 two years before the volunteers bagan to rebuild.|
|In the first nine months of volunteering with Gazen Salts Nature Reserve, from late June 2021 to late March 2022, the work that we undertook was primarily ground recovery projects.|
In the nearly eight years that the reserve had been shut down to the public, although there was a new warden in 2018 working with the conservationists, there had been no volunteers, and as such, no major clear-up work could be commenced.
In 2020 a new part-time trainee warden was appointed to take the place of the stand-in warden, and Tom is still with us today. However, now he is a full-time ‘apprentice’ warden learning the ropes through hands-on experience and being guided by the conservationists.
So when the volunteering task force began in May 2020, it was a fresh start for everyone involved. It was a whole 3 R operation – Recovery, Repair and Renovate with a twist. The latter ensures that the reserve is returned to its former glory but updated to reflect where we are in today’s climate.
This means, in essence, that all of us are responsible for the upkeep and looking out for it and educating and making awareness a priority for visitors. It’s not a hardship to perform, considering we all have spilt sweat, blood and tears here since we began.
However, for me and my first nine months, l saw considerable changes to an area that l had first-ever discovered purely by chance in October 2020. I remember walking through Gazen Salts that first Thursday back then, wondering what it would all look like if the lands were recovered and repaired, little knowing that l would be helping to make that a reality.
|Most of the works were swathes of brush and foliage clearance, clearing the central pond of common duckweed [Lemna minor], which had aggressively covered the entire lake in a tiny time frame early in the summer.|
We worked on various methods of organically clearing it up, including sending people out in a rowboat without using chemicals and then dredging it out with hand nets. We had to be mindful of the wildlife that we were netting up.
Thousands of Sticklebacks, be these the three [Gasterosteus aculeatus] or nine spined [Pungitius pungitius], frogs, water beetles, water snails, and so on, which all had to be put back in.
Of course, the conservationists were having a field day as they could start understanding what life the pond was catering to and began studies, which hadn’t been performed since 2010. So you can imagine the excitement. But then, l also have a fascination for bugs, so l was just as enthusiastic about learning.
That’s another beauty of the voluntary work l do there; l learn and acquire new knowledge and skills. I have always been a bug and animal guy, but invertebrates and micro life have been keen interests of mine since l was a youngster. The reserve is a fantastic outside opportunity filled with wildlife with its flora and fauna species, and it just gifts you if you let it.
We finally cleared the pond after about six, maybe eight weeks tops and even today, a year on our clearance work pays off as the pond waters are still free of duckweed. We do have a little help with this, in the form of a canal butting under the bridge, which prevents algae from entering the lake via the channels from the sluice gates.
|In the first few months of the volunteers commencing, hundreds of seeds and seedlings for bushes, trees and wildflowers were planted and sown — which continues even today. We are constantly working towards the end goal of recovery and renovation of what was once.|
Once heavily damp areas were opened, new pathways cut through the ivy-bound foliage. Hundreds of saplings and unnecessary shrubs were removed to allow sunlight to break into the darkness again. New life was being breathed in, which allowed flora and fauna to flourish again.
Fencing was either repaired or removed pending the area. The warden from ten years previously had closed much of the area off with miles of paling fencing, which has had to be removed to allow the reserve to be once more seen and walked through to enjoy by visitors.
In October 2020, on my first visit, l had only been able to walk for fifteen minutes before l ran out of pathways due to the denseness of the overgrown shrubbery and lack of walking areas. A year later, and by December 2021. The reserve had all of the original nearly two and a half miles of paths cleared and walker-friendly.
Chipping the pathways themselves would be a full-time job seven days a week and more during the winter months for four people, never mind the usual two to three carrying out the task on a Wednesday. It’s an ongoing task, one l personally glean a great deal of satisfaction from.
As long as people walk through the reserve, bark chippings as a task will need to be performed. It is something many folks perhaps don’t give a lot of thought to. They are seen but never noticed … until muddy boots are present, everyone is pleased with the bark-chipped pathways.
Benches which there were back in 2013, perhaps twenty or so throughout Gazen Salts, were in a sad and sorry state of repair before the volunteers began and have slowly started to be found again and repaired and recovered.
The truth is, whilst busy, the first nine months as volunteers were no more or less more active than we all are a year and some on. We never run out of tasks or projects, be this building refugia, microclimate environments, cutting back brush areas to reveal hidden ponds, planting seeds or seedlings, or clearing duckweed or Azolla.
From chipping the miles of pathways to repairing benches and fencing, pulling old fencing down and digging holes or cleaning bird feeders, taking ivy off the base of trees or just trimming back the weeds spilling over into the pathways themselves …. our jobs as volunteers are never dull or uneventful.
|Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve is about my time and stories of my work with this project.|
Hopefully, you enjoyed this introduction, and I’ll see you next episode. Thanks for reading.
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK
|Spring Time and Beyond – Next Episode|