Volunteering experiences: positive & surprising impacts. An account of my time with ‘Project Wildscape’

By James Caldwell

I came into contact with the Wildscape Project as I am a volunteer for a local woodland (Thorne Community Wood) and the team wanted to do some coring on the site to understand the prehistoric environment on which the modern woodland sat. According to many historic documents the woodland may have been a former mere prior to the large-scale drainage in the 17th century.

The exact position and nature of this waterbody is still considered somewhat mysterious and the Wildscape team wanted to get a clearer understanding by analysing the sediments.

Having worked on the wood for many years, myself and others volunteered our help in coring and navigating the site. The project introduced me to the long-term history of the woodland to which I was unaware of before and how rich a part it played in the legacy of my town (Thorne), with the area having even been a hunting site for past royalty.

A view of Thorne Moors & what the ‘Mere’ may have looked like. Source: Thorne Historical Society Collection (2014). Taken from an article by Martin Limbert

 

After our initial on-site meeting, I met up with Nika and Kim at a local pub to discuss the mere’s possible location. We considered the mere in relation to modern maps, lidar images and historic maps. Both Nika and Kim were enthusiastic about the project and happy to teach me in laymen’s terms the nature of their work, being very informative which helped me to gain an understanding in fields I was completely unfamiliar with.

The next day, we began coring various locations within the woodland, making for some good exercise in the area’s with tougher ground! After just one or two drives with the corer, I got to see first-hand, the nature of what we had discussed the day before. Grey and black sediments with very clear banding. Nika and Kim described the different colours, banding and density  and what this could tell us about how these sediments were deposited.

 

As well as helping with the physical side of coring, I am also an amateur photographer and the project has helped me in this regard as before it I would have never once considered taking pictures of what is essentially, dirt. However, much to my surprise, some of the samples we pulled up were not only informative but surprisingly pretty and made for great pictures, the project not only expanding my knowledge in areas completely new to me but helping me to re-evaluate my photography and the very idea of what is worth taking a picture of.

 

Lastly, having continued to assist in nearby sessions outside of the wood, I have gotten to meet so many great people through the project, ranging from locals to students from other countries such as the Netherlands. Everyone had their own reason for being there and was getting something different from it, be it academic or even recreational. It was wonderful to see so many people coming together, and each person bringing something new and useful to the group.

I would highly recommend helping out with any of the sessions or events near you, as you may be surprised just how much you get out of it.

 

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