The Trust is supported by more than 1000 volunteers every year. Maria Solé from Spain is working with our Tayside team on a year-long Eramus+ funded European Voluntary Service placement and explains what experiences she has gained during her placement.
I arrived in Scotland at the start of November and on my first day with the Trust we went to Balgavies Loch reserve, still one of my favourites so far. Since then I’ve been travelling with the practical team led by Duncan Budge and taken part in various jobs on different wildlife reserves, some involving power tools and some others just a hammer.
Practical work has given me a different perspective of conservation. When I studied Environmental Biology in Barcelona I learned on paper about the things you should do to manage a site, but getting to actually do those things has really helped to enrich my knowledge.
We work with tools and it’s often very hard work, but since November I’ve learned how to cut down and plant trees, fix a fence, build a bridge and trim a path. Despite the cold and the rain in Scotland I’m happy to work outdoors, especially because I come from a big city where contact with nature is scarce. And every day at work can be an adventure.
I’ve seen wild deer crossing in front of the van when going to Keltneyburn, I’ve fallen into the peat bog in Red Moss of Netherley (and laughed even more when another volunteer sunk up to their chest!), I’ve worked with a t-shirt on in the middle of January, and enjoyed ice-cream in St. Andrews on a sunny day.
I’ve spotted dolphins at Seaton Cliffs Wildlife Reserve, learned about different species of birds at Loch of the Lowes, and had many more memorable experiences. I haven’t finished my placement yet, but these little things are the ones that I’ll miss the most when I return to Spain in October.