Over the past two years we’ve run a handful of larger events, aimed at engaging the public with different aspects of Smithills. The two big ones have been our bioblitz and the 120th anniversary of the mass trespass.
On both occasions it was our volunteers who supplied the much needed workforce to make the events complete successes. They were car park attendants, stall holders and walk leaders. Karen Jennings and Dennis Moffat made sure all the volunteers were fed and watered, other volunteers like Rob Ball ensured all equipment was accounted for and some cleaned and packed everything up afterwards.
We will be repeating both of these events on a larger scale and holding various new events in the future based on this initial success, so watch this space.
The event volunteers will also be vital during the tree planting season when we will need to organise the planting of 21,000 trees in March and April 2018 alone.
There will also be dozens of smaller activities, such as Nature Detectives and public guided walks led by Smithills volunteers. Volunteers like Keith and Pam Williams have been great at running several of these events in collaboration with the council-owned Smithills Hall (plus Pam always bakes excellent cakes for everyone!).
As part of the HLF project there will be training for the event volunteers in public speaking and orienteering skills to ensure all are completely comfortable in the role.
Species monitoring volunteers
A big part of the Smithills project is the monitoring and restoration of local biodiversity. But when looking after a 1,700 acre estate with only two and a half members of staff, checking what animals and plants live here is a tall order.
That’s where our volunteer species monitoring team comes in. From 2015 onwards, we’ve been running wildlife workshops in partnership with the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit to train our volunteers on wildlife identification and surveying skills. Today we have a Species Monitoring Group set up, with over 20 volunteers dedicated to recording the wildlife across Smithills.
This group is led by Stuart Fraser who runs wildlife work-parties throughout the year, looking at recording everything from owls to centipedes. As well as the walks we also have a volunteer dedicated to our trail cams. Chris Mather has captured video and images which helped confirm the presence of badgers (Meles meles) and stoats (Mustela erminea) at Smithills.
With their help it will be easier to track the positive changes our management brings to the 950 species currently living here. They may also be the first people to notice when new species arrive or return to Smithills. Animals we’re on the lookout for include the water vole (Arvicola amphibius), brown hare (Lepus europaeus) and hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus).