Ain’t no mountain high enough... for the Skirridians

Erecting a fence on the Skirrid, near Abergavenny

The Skirridians, our weekly volunteer group, were indispensable last year helping the ranger team carry out important work at many of the properties we look after. Ranger Abbi shares what they achieved in 2019, helping to protect and care for our places in Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire so that nature can thrive.

Our year started with burning brash to clear an area of Pont ar Daf woods, a perfect way to stay warm, which we then replanted the following week.  When the snow hit at the end of the month, their help was needed by our Access Ranger team to help cut 4000 willow stems at Garwnant as part of a partnership project with NRW, Dwr Cymru and local farmers.

Helping the access ranger team with willow cutting
Moving of stems for replanting
Helping the access ranger team with willow cutting

 

Spring

A regular task for our hardy troop of volunteers is carrying out drainage maintenance on our many footpaths.  We spend a lot of time clearing out drainage ditches and culverts, ensuring that they’re free of debris, to help reduce the water and maintain our footpaths.  Not content with just clearing the drains at the Skirrid, the Skirridians also helped clear culverts on the popular Pont ar Daf path up to Pen y Fan.

Every so often we have a break from the hard work and have a gentle day painting the metal railings on the Clytha Estate near Abergavenny.  Obviously, no volunteer day is complete with the obligatory biscuits and cake selection to share!

There’s always time for cake and biscuits!
All in a day’s volunteering on the Clytha Estate
There’s always time for cake and biscuits!

Summer

Erosion control is a big part of my job as Ranger and in May, for the first time, we airlifted scalpings up onto the ridge at the Skirrid. Seeing an increase in visitors enjoying the site, along with a dry winter and summer, the ridgeline path needed some attention. We lifted 70 tonnes to improve several sections of path, with the invaluable help of the Skirridians and working holiday volunteers. We have another airlift planned in 2020 to tackle the next sections.

The airlift helped us to lift 70 tonnes on the ridge
Erosion control at the Skirrid, near Abergavenny
The airlift helped us to lift 70 tonnes on the ridge

From March to September I carry out weekly and monthly butterfly surveys at various sites. The volunteers are a great help on the days of perfect butterfly weather, when many pairs of eyes are better than one. And in 2019 we had our first recorded white letter hairstreak on our woodland ride transect around Pant Skirrid. We have also been informally branching out into moth recording as one volunteer is a keen lepidopterist.

A welcome break for the volunteers in the summer sun
The Skirridians and the Skirrid Omega sign atop the Holy Mountain
A welcome break for the volunteers in the summer sun

Autumn

One task that is becoming notorious within the Skirridians is the yearly autumn red grouse count on Y Gyrn in the Central Brecon Beacons. Each year it always seems to be bad weather and this year was no exception. Despite the mist we did manage to see 15 red grouse.

Volunteers keen to help come rain or shine
Grouse count survey on the Gyrn, Central Brecon Beacons
Volunteers keen to help come rain or shine

Winter

The Skirridians finished the year off with one of their favourite and regular tasks chain linking bags of scalpings (sandstone gravel and dust) up the Skirrid to help maintain the footpaths.  We chain linked approximately 700 bags in 2019. We use this method as it can sometimes be difficult to transport materials to areas of our sites so has helped to lessen the load.

Many hands make light work
Erosion control at the Skirrid, near Abergavenny
Many hands make light work

If you’ve enjoyed catching up with Ranger Abbi and the Skirridian volunteers, come back for next month’s blog where Uplands Ranger Huw will share what he’s been up to.