Diary of a Warden – Part 3: Standing on tiptoes
7th June – 4th July – In the early evening on 27th it was extremely hot. Mercifully, there was a cool wind. And so it’s been every day and evening since. I’m an outdoors type, but maybe I wish I was a bit more hard core. Fortunately, heathland has beautiful woodland edges and sheltered glades in which to escape the sun. My go-to place seems to be a shady place on Caesars’s Camp beneath an oak tree, and it’s where I was on the 27th, cooling down, metaphorically and literally speaking, following a rather challenging day.
The challenges come in many forms; from dealing with vandalism, litter, stray dogs and public perception of heathland management, to being almost knocked down and winded by wonderfully exuberant dogs, as well as trying to gain support for our project. I faced all of these in one day, which to be fair, is unusual. But it did keep me on my toes. Just wish the heat hadn’t been so intense.
And on the subject of intensity, the recent heathland fires across our Special Protection Area seem to be dividing opinions. I can imagine the devastation for wildlife, not to mention the terrifying heat and smoke for those involved (fortunately we have Health & Safety policies in place to protect wardens, so we don’t get directly involved with fighting fires), but there are people with the opinion that we should just let heaths burn uncontrolled, and I spoke to a few of them this week. Hmmm, I wonder, if they had relatives living next to Saddleworth Moor would it change their opinion? We have a charred (sadly, dead) snake in our office in a jam jar, which serves as a reminder of the devastating results of fires.
All these thoughts were running through my head, as I stood in the sun-dappled glade beneath the oak tree. And during this quiet down time, a female roe deer appeared through the bracken, coming so close that I could almost touch her. She had a tiny fawn by her side. The doe sniffed the air, hesitated, flashed her black eyes then turned and fled with the little fawn following. I felt elated to be part of her world.
I combine this feeling with having made someone else happy earlier in the day. I’d stopped to chat with a mum pushing her daughter in a push chair. The little girl had tears in her eyes and was turning a delicate shade of red because she’d caught her finger in a gate. I gave the mum a Greenspace booklet and the little girl a mini-beast puzzle sheet, and in no time at all the two of them were smiling. Thanking me, the mother called me “a star”.
Then there was the joy at having seen some beautiful and rare butterflies: Silver-studded Blues, tiny butterflies with gorgeous underwings, and a Grayling, which has the most amazing camouflage. Plus witnessing some amazing views across several counties, although in a ferocious wind I might add – had I unclipped my hair, I think it would have taken off into space.
I can conclude. On most days there are plenty of things to make me happy as a warden. Generally the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Oh, and my tip for the day…three’s a crowd!