My First Week ….
My First Week as an Assistant Relief Ranger
At the end of July, I began working in the Clwydian range and Dee Valley AONB with the countryside team of Denbighshire. Known as the gateway to Wales, I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful, diverse area to spend my work days and build new skills.
Joining during the last few weeks of any possible Himalayan Balsam removal, I was shown the extent of the problem at some of our sites and how to correctly dispose of them – the job itself was incredibly satisfying but sometimes getting to these “forests” of Balsam was trickier than first thought. Wellies were a must and getting wet was a guarantee but in the heat of the summer and following a nationwide lockdown, there was no better way to spend the days. This particular activity was a great chance to get to know my new colleagues as it was always quiet when no machinery was needed. The areas targeted were along the River Dee, a very tempting sight after a long day, in fact, one hot day we spotted a single stray Himalayan Balsam plant alone on an island and a work colleague didn’t hesitate in taking those boots and socks off and wading through the shallow water to pull the final plant.
Whilst controlling the spread of a highly invasive plant species, we also had to take care and manage our busier sites, such as the Horseshoe Falls just outside Llangollen which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Weir directs 12 million tons of water from the River Dee to create the start of the canal which goes all the way to Chirk over two aqueducts, all built by Thomas Telford. Although only small, the site itself is a haven for water sport activities, dog walkers and people walking the canal. Managing the site during the weekends and hotter days was a chance to meet the local people and assist visitors. Typically, the weather in North East Wales is not very predictable and with this job being my first experience working outdoors every day in all weather, coming prepared for everything quickly became ingrained – waterproofs, extra layers, lots of water and of course sun cream always at hand.
What has been most enjoyable about my experience so far is the feeling of accomplishment and the thought of making a difference to an area I have grown up around. One day in particular reflects this as two years ago I witnessed the fire spread on Llantysilio mountain which burned for over a month and destroyed about 250 hectares of heather, bilberry and gorse. During my first week I was able to aid in the restoration of the mountain, spreading out piles of heather to scatter the seed – these piles were so big that it took two of us over 2 hours to completely spread it out in a thin covering over the affected area. Every day I feel so privileged to be able to spend my time helping toward the management of such an amazing place.
Emma Watson, Assistant Relief Ranger