July/August National Citizens Service challenge – young people get claggy in the clay

yellow aspen leaves close up

This summer, two groups of young people age 15 and 16 from the National Citizens Service volunteered to carry out conservation projects on the nature reserve. This was a great opportunity to develop new projects which we had been unable to carry out due to the huge amount of work needed to get our new garden into shape. A total of 25 young people attended the two events.

The first group built a new auditory trail through the Whispering wood and the second group built a reptile and amphibian hibernaculum in our new garden to provide safe hibernating habitat.

sun shining through aspen leaves

Summer in the Whispering Wood

The first group did some fundraising and presented us with some much needed new equipment including 2 each of garden spades, garden forks, trowels, small forks and 4 pair of secateurs. The Friends of Barnet Environment Centre were delighted with this gift and also extremely grateful for all the hard work the young people put in to create these two wonderful new features.

The Whispering Wood is filled with aspen trees which make a beautiful, restful sound when the leaves blow in the wind. Even the gentlest of breezes creates a lovely, gently rustling. Children say its sounds like waves rolling up a beach, or they say how peaceful it is. During the spring and summer the wood is also alive with the sound of bird song. The new trail winds through this beautiful wood and will provide a lovely peaceful experience for all who use it. We have named the trail the “Whispering Walk”.

woodland path bordered by logs

The Whispering Walk takes shape

The young people had to mark out a winding trail through the wood and then set about removing all the bramble from the path. Removing bramble is a tough job at the best of times, but doing it in the middle of a wood makes it doubly hard with all those tree roots to contend with. They slogged away at it and eventually had the path cleared. Next they had to level it, and finally they had to collect branches and lay them around the edges to create the path border. Our own volunteers are now busy shredding fallen wood to create a soft bark surface.

two men cutting logs

FOBEC and NCS volunteers work together

The new hibernaculum will provide a safe place for frogs, newts, grass snakes and slow worms to rest up for the winter. To build it, the group had to dig a pit 2m x 1.5m and 0.25m deep in pure clay! This was a really tough job, but they stuck at it. While the pit was being dug half the team had to collect branches, logs and brushwood from all over the reserve and transport it to the garden. When the pit was ready it had to be filled with layers of branches, brushwood and logs and then topped with clumps of soil.

pile of logs and earth two metres across

Our new reptile and amphibian hibernaculum

This brilliant wildlife feature will also provide habitat for other creatures. Beetles will love it’s nooks and crannies and a whole host of invertebrates that help to break down wood will colonise the hibernaculum. In fact, while we were building it we came across a beautiful violet ground beetle and several other species of beetle too.

beetle with violet edge close up

Violet ground beetle

All these invertebrates will provide the reptiles and amphibians with a convenient source of food. Small mammals such as shrews and voles will also nest and hibernate in it and they will be able to feed on the slugs and snails making their home in the hibernaculum. A complete ecosystem built in a day!