FDB Charity Working Days
FDB charity working days – with the RSPB
FDB now provides its staff with two ‘Charity Working Days’ a year each to use with a charity of their choice, and over the last 24 months, I have chosen to use my charity days to join the RSPB volunteering on Exminster Marshes.
Living and working in Devon means that we are surrounded by beautiful countryside, but all these vital spaces for nature require constant management to provide the habitat, food and shelter to keep the many and varied species that live there thriving.
The RSPB is the largest nature conservation charity in the country, and reserves are at the heart of their work. The local RSPB teams work hard to protect their reserves at Exminster and Powderham Marshes and with their regular work party volunteers to assist, they battle constantly to remove excess vegetation, repair and replace fencing and maintain the other infrastructure such as gates and stiles across their sites.
Led by a few RSPB resident workers, the volunteers are a great mixture of people from various backgrounds and with a whole range of experiences and skills to offer – ranging from us (no skills, but lots of enthusiasm!) to a retired farm manager who can be relied on to find to the best way to tackle any situations that arose.
It can feel a little daunting when you are faced with a whole line of wobbly fence posts that need replacing and some giant livestock closely monitoring your efforts, but the jobs we faced were always satisfying to complete and it’s not often you get to spend a day working in such stunning scenery.
It was hard work, but the camaraderie and end results made it all extremely rewarding.
Day 1 in late August 2018 was at Exminster Marshes, removing vegetation from beneath an electrified predator fence, that keeps larger mammals (e.g. foxes and stoats etc) away from areas that are home to ground nesting birds.
Plants growing under the fence can short circuit it and give opportunity for these predators to break in and steal birds’ eggs.
Day 2 in early October 2018 was at the Powderham side of the marshes and was spent digging out and replacing gate and fence posts on reserve land rented out to local farms for grazing – another way the RSPB can raise vital funds.
The current residents of the field took a great interest in the work we were doing!
Day 3 in May 2019 was near the railway line in a ‘restricted area for wildlife’ part of the marshes. Thirty stock fence posts needed replacing without allowing the fence to fall down at any time as there were cows with calves in the field that needed to be kept in!
After much carrying, bashing and hammering (and a couple of well-earned stops for coffee and lunch) all the posts were replaced and there was even time to repair a broken five-bar gate too.
Day 4 in early September 2019 saw 2 additional FDB staff members, Victoria and James, recruited to the cause as we set about chopping back a quarter mile of thorny hedge on the reserve.
The path has some of the best views on the reserve, so it was important to keep vegetation in check.
However, it was too narrow to use a tractor and machinery to do the hard work, so it was cut back to size using little more than hand tools and hard work. The results were well worth it though, but I don’t think we’ll ever look at a hedge in the same way again!
The RSPB Volunteers meet every Thursday at 9am at Exminster Marshes, and additional helpers are always welcome.
Please contact Rebecca.Longden@rspb.org.uk if you wish to join them for a day.