When we arrived at Lower Sharpham Farm last week to commence a 12-week nature conservation traineeship with Ambios, we were slightly anxious amid a Covid-19 riddled world. Yet, we were not without a smile.
Our group, consisting of four girls from England and France, had been asked to arrive one week early in case of a national lockdown. Without hesitation, we had packed our bags, booked our travel tickets and hit the road.
Upon arrival to the farm, we were all required to undergo a week of quarantine. Although this was initially difficult as we could not properly socialise with the others, we passed the time by reading, exploring, taking photos and appreciating the stunning natural beauty of the South Devon countryside. Whilst settling in, we were treated like royalty by the group of French volunteers already working on the farm. They spoilt us by cooking delicious meals and going out of their way to make us feel at home.
During the week, we also learned about the history of the Sharpham Estate. The estate was purchased in the 18th century by a wealthy naval merchant called Philemon Pownoll. As Pownoll allegedly made his fortune illegally, we found ourselves wondering whether there is any hidden treasure buried amongst the hills!
On Tuesday, our training finally began. Led by Mike and Jack, we were introduced to nature conservation, rewilding and the basic principles of ecology. During one early morning walk, we were fascinated to learn about plant identification. Valuably, we have all learned how to identify Hemlock Water Dropwort, the UK’s most dangerous plant! Often mistaken for parsley, one mouthful of this plant is fatal. We should all take Ellie’s advice: “never munch on a hunch”.
All in all, we are very happy to be here and are looking forward to what the next few months will bring!