Meet Beth Heasman, Countryside Warden for West Cornwall

Hi,

My name is Beth Heasman, I am one of South West Lakes Trust’s Countryside Wardens for West Cornwall. After studying Conservation and Ecology at Tremough campus in Penryn, I spent a few years volunteering and working for various organisations – I joined the Trust in 2015.

 

One of the great things about being a countryside warden is that the role varies from day to day as well as through the seasons. From maintenance and presentation, angling, education, conservation and running volunteer groups – life never gets dull! I look after the 7 most westerly of South West Water’s reservoirs – Stithians, Argal, College, Cargenwen, Drift, Bussow and Boscathnoe. These sites vary a lot in size, visitor numbers and the activities that go on there, but they all have something special about them.

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At this time of year, the bulk of the site maintenance work involves keeping them looking neat and tidy for the visitors. This involves keeping footpaths clear and accessible and cutting the grass in the amenity areas. At Stithians Lake we have a busy campsite and I was very excited that for this season we have a new ride on lawnmower with a grass collector which leaves it looking very neat! Over the winter, we take the opportunity to carry out safety inspections of everything across the sites from steps and stiles to benches and signs and create a list of maintenance work to be completed before the next season.

Before starting this role, I knew very little about angling but I’ve enjoyed learning a lot from my colleagues and anglers at the lakes. As well as talking to people and writing the weekly catch reports for Stithians, my favourite part of the angling aspect of my role is overseeing the fish stocking of the rainbow trout at the game fisheries – as a non-angler myself, I have never really had the chance to see fish up close!

One of my favourite parts of my role is having school groups and running engagement events to get people outdoors, visiting the lakes and up closer to nature. One of my regular school groups is Penryn Primary Academy. Their school is walking distance from College and Argal and they have done a range of activities from nature walks and pond dipping to creating art at the lakes. During the school holidays we put on family days at Argal and Stithians where we run a range of wildlife activities including bug hunting, pond dipping, bird feeder making and nature crafts. With the help from local interest groups, we have run some specialist wildlife events which have proven to be really popular – bat walks at Argal, bird walks at College, Argal and Stithians as well as a fungi walk at Drift. I always love going along to these and learning from the experts.

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My background and main interest is in conservation. I really enjoy working on and implementing the conservation management plans for the sites with the help of volunteers, without whom we would not be able to deliver the great habitat management work we do. It’s great to see the benefits year on year of all the practical tasks – an area of thick brambly grass that we cleared in the Stithians Nature Reserve area is now awash with marsh orchids, in an area cut and managed for reptiles we have found adders and lizards. Other tasks that our great team of volunteers has worked on at Stithians in the last year is scything the hay meadow to promote wildflower growth, re-roofing the bird hides at the Nature Reserve and planting over 1000 trees from a hedgerow project funded by the Woodland Trust. Not only do these things help improve biodiversity and conservation at the lakes, they are great for people too – for the volunteers that enjoy working on the projects and the visitors who can enjoy watching wildlife in the countryside.

  

So as you have read, the life of a warden is very varied and interesting, you never know what you are going to come across and there is always more to learn! I hope to bump into you at one of the West Cornwall lakes sometime soon.

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