Between March 2020 and February 2021 the Trust managed an Erasmus+ funded European Solidarity Corps project, helping young people from France and Spain gain conservation skills and experience through long-term volunteering. This project was greatly affected by the outbreak of coronavirus, but we were able to achieve a number of successes within tight restrictions.
The aim of the project was to improve employability, boost skills and environmental knowledge, increase awareness of different cultures and to foster a wider positive change by working alongside local community volunteers.
This would be achieved by undertaking outdoor practical management work on our wildlife reserves working alongside our Reserves Project Officers. Six volunteers started in March 2020 but unfortunately their placements were soon disrupted by lockdown.
Although restrictions meant that volunteers were largely confined to their accommodation, our Dundee-based volunteers were able to get involved in Osprey Watch (which had been transferred online) as well as desk-based data management.
Most of the volunteers chose to return home when this became possible. But from the end of June Valentin, a volunteer from France who was based in Irvine, overcame restrictions by cycling to his local reserves. This meant he could undertake a variety of practical tasks across the nine Irvine Greenspaces and he carried out dozens of different management tasks on these wildlife reserves during the 12 month placement.
These tasks included tree planting at Shewalton Wood, completing a sand martin bank at Gailes Marsh and removing Himalayan balsam at Oldhall Ponds. Valentin also completed various surveys including sand martins at Gailes Marsh, pollinators at Gailes Marsh and Oldhall Ponds and adders at Shewalton Wood.
He also completed a personal project surveying for water voles and otters at Shewalton Wood and eventually caught sight of an otter using a trail camera.
Valentin also contributed to our Connecting Communities to Nature and Nectar Network projects in Ayrshire and worked alongside volunteers from the local community helping them improve their own green spaces for nature, for example by sowing wildflower seeds at Irvine Beach Park.
Valentin felt his placement strongly improved his skills and aided development in practical skills, knowledge of habitats and managing wildlife reserves, and his use of English.
His placement confirmed he definitely wanted a career in the environmental sector. He felt more confident, more relaxed and he was happier with the slower pace of life brought by events in 2020.
Despite the challenges, all six volunteers who started with us have gone onto positive outcomes and are volunteering, studying or working. Valentin found work with ENVOL Environment, including surveying buildings for bats and identifying bird of prey nesting sites.
As an aside, Beth Harwood who was an Erasmus+ volunteer with us in 2019/20 started work this month as the Trust’s Reserves Project Officer in the North of Scotland. Well done Beth!
Thanks to Erasmus+ for funding this programme.
Volunteer Development Officer
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Between March 2020 and February 2021 the Trust managed an Erasmus+ funded European Solidarity Corps project, helping young people from France and Spain gain conservation skills and experience through long-term …