Going on an adventure in Devon

In this week’s blog post Iris Golsteijn, from the Netherlands, talks to us about the adventures she’s had in Devon as an Ambios nature conservation trainee…

“There are certain field trips that trainees get to experience during every 12 week nature conservation traineeship with Ambios. Fortunately, our group was able to experience two of these within the same week.

The first trip was the visit to Dartmoor National Park. Regardless of the season, Dartmoor is beautiful and mysterious. As a small group of little hobbits, we were exited to start our big adventure. I deliberately refer to the quote from Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, because Dartmoor really reminds you of the landscapes that are similar to the ones from Middle Earth. It is a real Lord of the Rings landscape. Vast plains, giant rocks, steep cliffs, wet blanket bog and the centuries old oak forest, which for me was the highlight of the day. Thankfully, the weather was quite good. It was dry and the sun was shining, although there were times when it was foggy as well. This gave that extra touch of mystery, especially when Jack told us the story about the dragons. Did you know dragons still exist in Dartmoor? This is the only place in the United Kingdom where you can still see them. Unfortunately, we did not see them, because of the fog.

Our second adventure was a two-day visit to the Barn Owl Trust in Ashburton. The first day consisted of various presentations about the work they do at the Trust. The message we received at the end of the presentation really touched me and I still remember it. This was that the things you have to cherish most in life are: 1. Family, 2. Friends, 3. Environment. The last one, for me, is especially important, because if our generation does not take care of the environment and nature, then our grandchildren will never be able to enjoy it as much as we do now. There should be more people in the world like David from the Barn Owl Trust! We ended the first day with a tour of their estate. On the second day, we helped Rick and Matt (two other members of the Barn Owl Trust) with cutting the blackthorn. This is a very important job, because it is the host plant for the brown hair streak (butterfly). At the end, we were allowed to watch how the owls were fed. This was a very special experience.

During the other days of the week we had to be quite careful. There were several storms across Devon. Sometimes the weather can be quite haunting, but in general the climate is very pleasant. This provided us with the opportunity to work on our personal project. Everyone has a personal project that you work on during your stay at Ambios. The advantage of these projects is that Ambios will work with you to find out your personal interests and they will help you to pursue your dreams in this way.

My project is all about designing a Bee Bank for the orchard. The Bee Bank is especially designed for wild solitary bees and bumblebees that are very good at pollinating fruit trees. This will help contribute to the conservation of the wild bee population at Lower Sharpham Farm, and their orchard will be pollinated in a natural way. I have been a beekeeper for half a year and I am specialized in keeping honey bees. The reason that I was interested in this project was because I wished to broaden my knowledge about several types of bees, other than just honeybees. This reminded me of David’s statement; if we do not take care of nature, the bees will become extinct. When the bees become extinct, many crops, fruit and vegetables will also become extinct, because they will be no longer pollinated in a natural way. So if you want to keep a healthy and varied diet, then we also have to be careful with nature.”

Iris Golsteijn, 23, Netherlands