Take a walk on the wild side

IF you love the natural world and walking and can spare a few hours a week, the Countryside Restoration Trust has the perfect volunteer role for you at its showcase farm at Bere Marsh near Shillingstone in Dorset.

It’s a great opportunity to get involved in the transformation project which is now under way at the 95 acre farm on the banks of the Stour.

Andy Fale, the CRT’s Dorset conservation manager, is about to launch a recruitment drive to find a small army of nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts to help him learn more about the wide range of animals, insects and plants that live at Bere Marsh Farm.

He needs volunteers who can set aside a few hours a week throughout the summer to carry out vital audits and species counts of birds, butterflies, moths, reptiles, wild flowers and mammals which abound in its fields and hedgerows.

“We are starting from almost scratch to rebuild the legacy left by Angela Hughes so it is vital for our conservation programme at Bere Marsh that we build up a sound picture of what we are dealing with,” says Andy. “Until we have that picture we cannot tailor our farming practices accordingly or work accurately on creating the right sort of habitats to encourage bio-diversity and species harmony and development. We need this help from volunteers to get us to first base in our long term plans for the farm.”

Bere Marsh is the showpiece of the CRT’s countrywide portfolio of 16 farms which have been taken over to save their ecosystems and habitats from damaging intensive farming. The trust, which takes a holistic view towards agriculture, uses both traditional and innovative methods of farming to achieve sustainable, economic food production while encouraging and providing safe homes for wildlife.

Andy will provide full training – amid Covid-secure conditions – for volunteers to conduct butterfly and bird transect walks, moth trapping and mammal and insect counts. He hopes to start the training programme at Bere Marsh by the beginning of April.

“There is nothing complicated or difficult to it and it will give those who volunteer a fantastic insight and focus to what is a spectacular farm and landscape. Who could ask for a better way to enjoy a weekly walk in the summer sunshine?”