Our NatureScot student placement scheme provides great opportunities for recent graduates to get invaluable work experience that puts their new skills into practice.
Fraser Wilson studied Countryside Management at Scotland’s Rural College and is now working with our NNR team, assisting reserve managers in looking after Caerlaverock, Cairnsmore and Kirkconnell Flow nature reserves. “I now spend my working life doing something that I love and that I am very passionate about”, says Fraser, “allowing me the opportunity to constantly learn new valuable skills every day, across a wide range of topics….
One job that the reserve team and I have been doing recently is some path work improvements at Kirkconnel Flow NR. We recently took delivery of 15 ton-bags of wood chippings, which seeing first thing in the morning knowing it all had to be emptied….by hand, was quite a daunting site!
Thankfully we have what we call an “Iron Horse”. A very handy piece of machinery which is basically a tracked platform with a small engine which can help lift heavy loads across wet and uneven terrain. Perfect for Kirkconnel Flow as it is typically quite a wet site thanks to the ongoing peatland works onsite.
The plan, which seemed to work the best, was to manhandle each bag separately onto the back of the iron horse, ratchet it down and then take it further into the site where we planned to spread it over previously identified problem areas of the path.
We had to be careful with how we utilised the material as there was nowhere near enough to do all parts of the paths, instead we focused on some of the worst areas, which were footfall hotspots, mostly around the main areas of the path loop and entrance to the bog itself. The longest piece of muddy path was around 60 metres and took six bags alone!
Two days later and the worst of the paths were greatly improved. We deliberately filled in the centre of some of the longer parts of the path and left the edges bare, partly due to lack of material but mostly because we hoped that by making the centre of the paths more appealing to walk on then the edges will be less likely to be trampled on by visitors, hopefully helping them regenerate, in turn preventing the paths from increasingly wearing away wider and wider.
It was a very long and slow process to get each bag out to the intended area, one by one. The iron horse is far from quick but without it we would likely have had to wheelbarrow individual loads out across the reserve, something which would have literally added days onto the job time and would have been so much more labour intensive.
What was particularly nice about doing this job is that with the better weather coming in, the reserve has been getting busy and we were stopped by a few members of the public who wanted to say that the paths were looking great and that they have really seen a lot of improvements to the reserve, as a whole, over the course of the year. It’s lovely to get nice feedback like this and it really motivates you to get other tough jobs like this done.
Visit the NatureScot website for further information on our placement schemes.