Teignbridge Wildlife Wardens enjoyed their first Big Gathering on January 29th, as 50 of the 100 plus team of wardens came together in the Teign Valley, writes Scott Williams. They convened at Oxen Park Farm, Higher Ashton, on a cold Saturday morning.
The venue is the location for Teign Greens, local food growers, and On the Hill Camp, a great organisation that educates school groups, universities, adults and families to live healthily and in harmony with nature.
This was the first time the Wildlife Wardens had had a chance to come together since the scheme was set up more than two years ago, so it was a happy occasion. However, the gathering’s mood was slightly tempered as it was also an opportunity for the wardens to say farewell to Flavio Winkler Ford, the scheme’s co-ordinator, who is moving on to a job in Scotland.
Flavio said: “We never managed to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Wildlife Warden Scheme in October, so we organised a big gathering in January. There is a lot to celebrate! We now have over 100 Wildlife Wardens, and we are really proud of everything that you have achieved.
“Audrey was awarded Radio Devon’s Make a Difference Award for her work on the WW Scheme, and the Devon Local Nature Partnership awarded the Teignbridge Wildlife Wardens the ‘Special Award’ at their Community Wildlife Awards evening. Ogwild and Exminster Green Spaces also won awards. Well done everyone! Your hard work is being recognised.”
Host for the day, Jo Clark, made everyone welcome as they gathered in one of Oxen Park’s spacious rooms. ACT’s Audrey Compton spoke briefly about hedges and the new ones that she and John had planted last summer at their Teign Valley farm, and managed to keep alive in the drought.
Audrey had also invited two interesting speakers to further the group’s hedge and tree knowledge. First up was Shira Rub, a Wildlife Warden from Ashton, who spoke about her work surveying hedgerows. Then Dominic Scanlon spoke about trees and hedges. Dom works for Aspect Tree Consultancy and has also worked for Teignbridge District Council. He spoke about the importance of trees and hedges, and planting new ones, as well as legislation such as Tree Preservation Orders.
There was then a moment to thank Flavio for all his great work in the last few years and wish him all the best in his new role.
After a delicious homemade hot soup, there was an opportunity to enjoy a tour of Oxen Park Farm with Jo and Dom to see the ponds, a charcoal maker (Jo brought it from nearby Embercombe), new fencing, not to mention some beautiful countryside.
The farm has thousands of new tree plantings, and the group learnt about the problems of local deer who like eating new saplings. They also heard about and inspected old deer park walls, found an ancient oak and saw the new orchard – word is the inaugural Wassail will be next year!
The venue proved to be a perfect location for the gathering, and the range of homemade cakes the Wardens contributed were well received. The first Big Gathering was a great success and it’s hoped it will now (at last) become an annual event.
The Wildlife Warden Scheme is run by Action on Climate in Teignbridge’s (ACT) Ecology Group, supported by Teignbridge District Council, Devon Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and Devon Biodiversity Record Centre. Founded just before the pandemic the volunteer, parish-based, Wildlife Warden Scheme was started to help our wildlife survive and thrive and to mitigate the Ecological and Climate Emergency.
Scott Williams is a Dawlish Wildlife Warden and publisher of Reconnect magazine