Meet a Countryside Ranger

Did you know that there are forty local countryside rangers looking after our outdoor sites in Wales? We asked Gwen Potter to reflect on a summer’s work looking after our beautiful Ceredigion coast.

Ceredigion Ranger, Gwen Potter, with local schoolchildren

Ceredigion Ranger, Gwen Potter, with local schoolchildren

The best thing about this summer was taking our team of local long-term volunteers to enjoy the fruits of last winter’s labour at Cwm Sodden, near Cwmtudu. Through one of the worst winters in living memory, this dedicated group worked incredibly hard to clear scrub from old woodland meadows and coastal heath. It was a real pleasure to see their amazement at how the wild flowers had returned to the meadows and the heathland plants were thriving – the whole place was buzzing with insects and birdlife.

We’ve also had a lot of help from visiting volunteer groups and individuals. These included student groups from Swansea, doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and from as far afield as the Basque country. I’ve also been greatly helped by having a full time volunteer, Kristina, and our Passport To Your Future Apprentice, Richard, both of whom are better rangers than me by now!

We’ve been working hard at eradicating invasive Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam at several of our sites. The areas that were done last year needed very little work this year and because we managed to get rid of it all before it flowered, it should become less of a problem in the future.

It’s also been a fantastic for spotting wildlife as we went about our work.  As well as the usual seals, we saw dolphins galore and even a basking shark visiting Mwnt.  It was especially good for invertebrates. We saw far more silver washed fritillary, dingy skipper and pearl bordered fritillary butterflies than last year, as well as moss carder bees and elm feeding moths. Two highlights stand out: an unexpected marbled white butterfly and a migrant hawker dragonfly.

I’m really pleased with how our events went this summer. The bush-craft and beach fun day went well and I’m currently getting ready for a wild foraging walk on the 24th of September at Cwmtudu. I’m also working on a coastal wildlife tracker-pack which will be available for families to use next summer. All in all, it’s been a great summer; but now, as winter approaches, the real work starts.

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