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Wild Youths

Youth Ranger in action Youth Ranger in action

Author Tom Forward

Gatwick Greenspace Partnership Community Project Officer

What a year it has been for both our Wildlife Rangers

(12-16s) and Youth Rangers (16-25s) groups! These great young people have been out there in all weathers and got hands-on in 20 different practical projects which reflect the ‘people & wildlife’ focus of our work. I won’t list everything we’ve done but to give you an idea…

  • Building a wildlife pond
  • Laying a hedge
  • Surveying for reptiles, small mammals, dragonflies & butterflies
  • Removing invasive species from woodlands
  • Clearing birch and willow scrub from heathland
  • Creating a woodland path way
  • Constructing wooden saw horses
  • Managing a Forest School site to make a safe and sustainable setting for our Nature Tots
  • Visiting school groups
  • Harvesting wild flower seeds to bring on in our wildlife garden and plant out in local school grounds
  • Using organic methods to grow fruit and vegetables

Examining the catch in a mammal trap Examining the catch in a mammal trap

However, for me there were some stand out highlights and achievements this year to reflect on. Firstly, on a bright and chilly day in March the Youth Rangers set up base in one of the conservation areas belonging to Gatwick Airport and assisted the site ecologist Rachel Bicker with a small mammal survey. This involved checking longworth traps, processing any small mammals and constructing stands for selective live trapping of harvest mice. The Youth Rangers learnt how to set and check traps, and identify and record species (we caught bank vole, wood mouse, yellow-necked mouse and common shrew) while also gathering biometric data. Secondly, the Youth Rangers managed to plant an incredible 150m of native hedgerow in on a nature reserve in Capel in one session! An outstanding achievement!

We had fun with the Wildlife Rangers too and our final session of the summer holidays involved an evening firing up the earth ovens we had built to cook pitta pizzas, while enjoying using bat detectors to pick up common pipstrelles overhead and checking the Robinson’s MV trap to discover what moths were about.

Motivation to join our groups is varied whether it’s to gain valuable practical experience to enhance prospects of a career in conservation; complete volunteering or skills elements of Duke of Edinburgh awards; carrying out tool safety and habitat work to support Environment BTech studies in college; giving something back while in between jobs; or a placement as part of a university course, the young people we work with are gung-ho and not afraid of a bit of graft.

Our Wildlife Rangers meet up Fridays weekly during the school holidays squeezing in 12 sessions each year and the Youth Rangers meet Wednesdays weekly during term time for 35 sessions annually. Young people attend from across the Gatwick Greenspace project area and get stick into tasks at our base in Tilgate Park and at sites belonging to our partners too.

So here’s a BIG THANKS to all of you who joined in and worked really hard this year! I am already looking forward to 2015!

For more info on how to get involved please visit Youth Groups page at www.gatwickgreenspace.org.uk

Youth Rangers tree planting Youth Rangers tree planting

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