Countryside Skills trainees – a great team!

The weather has been smiling on us for the past 9 weeks as the 8th team of Practical Countryside Skills trainees come to the end of the course. What a great few weeks it has been too! The team has been hard at work making a fantastic contribution to nature spots around Oldham and Rochdale.

Irkside Nature Reserve

Their first major project took place at Irkside Nature Reserve in Middleton. Here they were involved in finishing the fence work planned on site to protect the newly laid hedge created by the previous PCS team to allow it to grow and flourish. A day of sunshine, hitting fence posts into the ground and tinkering with monkey strainers to put the stock netting on saw the fence finished. Many thanks go to Mike from our Contracts team for overseeing this and helping the volunteers to get the fence completed.

Irkside fencing
Part of the fence at Irkside created by Countryside Skills trainees

Mandale Park

The team have also been heavily involved in the BMX track project at Mandale Park which is being designed and created in partnership with local riders, Rochdale Council and Groundwork. The team have made a fantastic contribution to making the area around the track look brilliant but also to make it safe, just in case one of these fast pedalling BMXers come round a bend too speedily and come off.

They have mainly been involved in clearing the woodland space immediately next to the track to create firm sight lines for cyclists and to get rid of any hazardous overhangs. The work they have completed has been nothing short of marvellous. Especially after the tree fellers came in to clear the larger trees around the track. The day the team came after this felling had taken place the track looked like the set for the next Jurassic Park film, perhaps after a Tyrannosaurus had stormed through taking trees out left right and centre. The trees on the ground or threat of dinosaurs in Rochdale was of no great concern to the volunteers who over the next few days set about getting the area in tip top shape for the unveiling of the BMX track.

In soaring temperatures the team cleared the track and created some of the finest dead hedges you could hope to see. All this left the track clear with a neat and naturally crafted barrier round the track. The team also redirected a footpath through the woodland using some of the chippings from the trees that had been chopped down to put them into good use again on site. They cleared up the entrance stairway to the start of the BMX track and found time to plant some tree saplings with a local school group on one of the woodland perimeters elsewhere in Mandale Park.

Countryside Skills trainees at Mandale Park
Countryside Skills trainees at Mandale Park

The team will be following up their work and finishing the job in their final week of the course by seeding the area around the track with a grass and wildflower seed mix. The project is due to be finished by the end of July and their work is on target to meet this. The work the team has done has been brilliant and a special thanks from the team goes out to Bob Bevan of the Rochdale Council Countryside Rangers for his support and guidance during the project.


Jubilee Nature Site

The team have spent a day over at Jubilee carrying out some general maintenance. They have done a litter pick and cleared obstructions round the site pathways. Previous seasons of balsam removal was followed up to keep on top of it. It was great to see some of the work from previous teams was making a difference with regard to this invasive plant as there was nowhere near as much of it on site.


Boarshaw Clough

The team also tackled balsam on Boarshaw, doing a full day pulling it out of the ground and tackling a large patch next to the amphitheatre area. They also did some work maintaining the pathways around the lodge, filling in potholes and taking out overhanging branches. A fallen tree was blocking the way and the team set to it removing it as an obstacle. A part of fence was also repaired to encourage people to use the access gate and stop them using the cut through. The team also set about removing the vandalised habitat bench and restore the natural materials making up the bench base back into the woodland.

Team members tackling the roots of the fallen tree to clear the footpath.
Team members tackling the roots of the fallen tree to clear the footpath.


What’s next for Countryside Skills?

The current team are almost finished. They will be spending their last week with a stint on Mandale Park. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable few weeks on project and all credit goes to the team members of PCS team 8. It has been an absolute privilege to work with this group of volunteers who have made such a difference to local green spaces – I am sure their work will not go unnoticed.

The next team will be starting on Tuesday 27th August and it is an opportunity for a new group of green minded individuals to make a difference to local nature spots. Click here for more information and to register your place on the next course.

By Matthew Lynwood, Education & Communities Project Officer.


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