Sunday was a hive of activity in the Weston Valley, in our Field of Dreams area of The Donkey Sanctuary. A group of enthusiastic volunteers from Exeter University’s Conservation Society came along to participate in a range of practical tasks to help with our management of this area.
The first task was to grapple with a scrub invasion in the neighbouring Westernhill Plantation field, cutting back 15 year old willow and hazel that had run riot over a long-forgotten fence. By getting the volunteers to do the preparatory work, pulling out the scrub and exposing the old sheep wire, our fencing team will be able to go through and put in a new stock-proof fence in extra quick time allowing the charity to commence grazing of this area.
The second job was a mopping-up exercise following the heavy rainfall of last autumn. In the November flooding a huge quantity of stone chippings and flint was washed out of the public footpath leading down from the Sanctuary towards the coast, and with some of the students we looked to manually rake and shovel the stones back into a tractor.
The path has long been repaired, being such a hazard the maintenance team quickly replaced the washed out stone with new. But the spoil of gravel remained where it was jettisoned in the field. With the grass being so wet, attempting to use a machine to remove the flint would have lead to a huge mess so it was deemed appropriate to get in some manual muscle.
I was amazed at how much was there! We filled a small tractor trailer in a little over an hour, with well over a tonne of stone, and we had only addressed a 15 metre stretch of the problem area. Fortunately the students left full of enthusiasm for the day and were particularly pleased that their hard work earned them a visit in to Shelter One to have a cuddle with our Events Team donkeys. So I am confident I’ll be able to call upon their assistance in the near future and get the job we started, finished well before Spring.