On the weekend of the 23rd and 24th September, we hosted a ‘wild weekend’ here at Rutland Water for young people – members of our 2 youth groups, ‘Wild Skills’ (13-18 year olds) and ‘Wild Horizons’ (18 – 30 year olds) came along, and we were lucky to be joined by ‘Keeping it Wild’, the youth group from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (13 – 25 year olds).

The purpose of the weekend was an important one – the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), based in Newark, wanted to quiz young people interested in wildlife on how the Wildlife Trusts could improve their youth engagement strategy. So Becky Corby, leader of ‘Wild Skills’ and ‘Wild Horizons’, and Laura Bacon, leader of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s ‘Keeping in Wild’, got their heads together to plan a weekend that would meet the aims of RSWT and also be great fun for our 3 combined youth groups.

We started on Saturday morning with a focus group, led by Beth Rowland from RSWT. Members of all 3 youth groups contributed some excellent ideas, letting Beth know what they think the Wildlife Trust does well and not so well. They then had a questionnaire to fill out, this time from another Beth, Beth Searle of Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, currently working on the ‘Wild Trax’ youth engagement project. Both Beths found the input of our youth groups really useful and were able to go back to their projects with lots of new ideas.

Members of 'Wild Skills', 'Wild Horizons' and 'Keeping it Wild' contributing their ideas at the focus group

Members of ‘Wild Skills’, ‘Wild Horizons’ and ‘Keeping it Wild’ contributing their ideas at the focus group

After a bit of lunch we then started on the afternoons activity – building duck traps for the bird ringing group. Having never built a duck trap before, I was expecting we’d be building a smallish contraption – I was completely wrong, duck traps are huge! Luckily we had Reserves Officer and Bird Ringer Lloyd Park to guide us, along with long term volunteer Dave Cole.

Lloyd Park explaining how to build a duck trap

Lloyd Park explaining how to build a duck trap

We divided into 4 teams, each team building half a duck trap. Everyone worked together brilliantly and within 4 hours we had the frames for 2 whole duck traps. Thank you to Lloyd and Dave for all their help and their hard work, preparing the timber in advance.

Hard at work on the duck traps

Hard at work on the duck traps

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

A group photo in front of the completed traps

A group photo in front of the completed traps

Members of ‘Wild Skills’ and ‘Wild Horizons’ then went home for the day, whilst the ‘Keeping it Wild’ gang settled in for a night at the Volunteer Training Centre, making their own pizzas and turning the training room into a cinema for a movie night.

The next morning the Rutland youth groups joined the Nottinghamshire group again for another morning of activity. The under 18’s went with Education Officer Joelle Woolley, who led a fantastic morning of bat box checking. Participants got to carefully climb ladders and check if there were any bats in the bat boxes around the reserve. If there were bats present, then Joelle would retrieve them so we could gather information from them before returning them safely to their box. If there were no bats present, the ladder-climber had the less-than-enviable job of clearing out the box, using a scraper and a brush to remove any bat excrement! Thank you to Joelle for providing us with a great opportunity to see these wonderful creatures up close, and for helping us learn the different ways to identify our native bats.

Clearing out a bat box

Clearing out a bat box

Not too happy about being woken up!

Not too happy about being woken up!

The bat box checking team

The bat box checking team

Whilst the under-18s were getting familiar with bats, the over-18s joined Reserves Officer Fran Payne for a morning of meadow management at our Lyndon Reserve. Whilst Fran cut the meadow, our youth group members helped rake and remove the cut vegetation. This helps maintain the nutrient-poor soil which wildflowers thrive in, as vegetation is removed before it rots down into the soil. The group were lucky to also have an impromptu bird-ringing demonstration from local bird ringers Candice and Garry, who had been at the site since 4am ringing birds and kindly showed the group what they were up to.

The meadow management team

The meadow management team

After lunch, members of all the youth groups returned home. We all had a brilliant time and are hoping to visit the Nottinghamshire group again soon as members of all 3 groups got along so well. Thank you to all involved for a great weekend, it was encouraging to see that the future of wildlife is in such great hands!

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