Hampshire Wildlife Trust and the Winnall Moors reserve rely on the assistance of volunteers, who help to survey, supervise and maintain the environment: ‘Lookers’ keep an eye and account on the cattle brought onto the moors in the spring; Dave, the Winnall Moors volunteer Warden keeps a daily watch on the reserve with an ear always listening out for bird sounds and the elusive Otters.
Work parties help to carry out essential work in the public area and larger area of the reserve. I have had the pleasure of joining these volunteers on cold winter mornings and sunny June afternoons, I have also sheltered with them under trees and a corrugated barn roof, when thunderstorms approach and rain pours down (rain cascading on folded metal is a percussive delight, which makes the rain feel even wetter and you feel even drier).
On a very hot afternoon in June I joined a work party as they cleared the paths through the moors, which had been narrowed by encroaching grasses. Normally the combustion engine looms at the periphery of the moors, in the form of a background low-fidelity roar blowing in from the A34 and M3: the persistent sound of business being done. But the 2-stroke engine of the grass cutter is far more evocative, a nostalgic oily rhythm, mowing up memories of Sunday afternoon lawns and for me, the narcotic scent of Swarfiga and dad repairing his car. Accompanied by the raking of cut grass, the approach of the cutter is sonically akin to the arrival of a train in sparsely populated early morning railway station.
Even more beguiling is the sudden stop of movement, as a volunteer finds something interesting. The cutter’s engine is left to idle, as all the volunteers leave behind the progress of work to take a moment to be fascinated by a large white caterpillar.
Rachel Remnent (Winnall Moors Warden) provided the wonderful photograph of said caterpillar.