Elisabeth Baudoul is a European Solidarity Corps volunteer from Belgium. She started her placement in the North of Scotland in July and will finish at the end of October. She is working with our Reserves Project Officer, Beth Harwood and is undertaking a variety of practical management and species survey tasks on our reserves in the North of Scotland. Here is another of her blogs documenting her time with us.
When you think of conservation work you might have an image of working in the sunshine in a beautiful place, but the reality can be very different. Sometimes it is poles apart but it also creates adventurous stories you might tell your grandchildren one day.
A whole section of path underwater ©Elisabeth Baudoul
We spent the past week at the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve where our main work was to build a new wooden bridge, helped by Steve, the local ranger. The whole project was challenging, particularly because we had to carry the materials and tools to the site, located on a hiking path along Loch Arienas. We brought everything by boat (a rowing one!). After a first crossing, the wind started to blow strongly and we were not able to make the second crossing with the rest of the timber. Overnight, the strong winds turned into a storm and the water level rose so much that our trailer with the rest of the wood was partly under water and not easy to reach anymore. Fortunately, the boat and the timber were safe and we managed to row the boat to the trailer and bring the wood over safely on what turned out to be very still water. What an adventure!
The bridge needing TLC ©Elisabeth Baudoul
As you see, the Scottish weather can be very challenging, even unpredictable sometimes, and to deal with it is an important part of the job. To be hardy (or to pretend to be!) is also very helpful while working outdoors here.
Sheets of rain coming across Loch Ar whole section of path underwater ©Elisabeth Baudoul
After this tricky delivery, we finally got started. We hiked 45 minutes every morning and evening to and from the site on a muddy and flooded path. We took apart the old bridge and built up the new one, step by step. The project requested accuracy and a lot of problem solving. The ability to work above a torrential river, keep ourselves dry from the regularly scheduled showers and make sure no tool fell into the water was also a desirable skill.
Developing new bridge building skills ©Beth Harwood
We came back every day very wet and exhausted. But we met stags three times on our way, watched a Dipper feeding, witnessed a family of Whooper Swans land on Loch Arienas and glimpsed a Hen Harrier soaring over the landscape. The autumnal patchwork of the landscape and a warm pizza on the last evening was a really appreciated reward.
New bridge with sunshine! ©Elisabeth Baudoul
After five long days of hard work, we were proudly able to say: HABEMUS PONTEM! (We have the bridge).
Thank you to Beth Harwood for the huge learning in construction she patiently gave me. Practicing is the best way to get manual skills. Although the work conditions were extreme, it was a rewarding experience. I enjoyed it and hope to visit Rahoy Hills again one day.