I’m never one to shy away when a job needs doing and this week was definitely no exception. I have done many wondrous things on my time with the Nicest Job in Britain and am very proud that I have been able to lend my hand to any number of different challenges. So when the Scottish Wildlife Trust requested that I spend a week helping maintain their various and expansive grounds, I of course said yes.
That’s the thing with doing a job like this; you say yes. It’s become a yes year for me. Regardless of the task or the challenge set before me, my answer, without hesitation and in some cases thought, has been – yes.
From attempting to cycle 100 miles on 3 weeks training to stepping into an operating theatre to watch open-heart surgery; I never once flinched. I embraced every single opportunity with open arms always knowing that it would change and shape my opinion and even my life.
So many of us are scared to step one foot outside our comfort zone, hesitant on how it may make us feel, much more comfortable in the security of our own intricately woven safety blanket. But that’s the thing with hiding under the covers – you never see the light.
So, when I was asked to help lug 88 bales of hay down a pretty muddy single-track path to a farm outhouse at the bottom on a drizzly Monday morning, my response “when do we start??”
Climbing up the hill with wheelbarrows in hands to an open field in the middle of the pouring rain it did cross my mind as to what I was doing. I’ve never really been the outdoorsy type. The first and only time I went camping I absolutely hands down hated every moment of it. I wished and hoped to be at home under my duvet. But in the sprit of my week with the SWT I threw myself into this weeks challenge.
Yeah – it was pretty tough work, I will admit. I even got a little bit of a sweat on but, getting the hay to the bottom on Monday and tucking them safely in the farm house in front of some very happy on looking horses I knew that I had made a tangible difference to the days activity. I even almost fell asleep in the van on the way home.
Tuesday we headed over to one of the biggest and most popular of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s reserves. A marshy bog with a boardwalk, popular among walkers and cyclists alike. Good job I packed my wellies because we were heading into the bog to trim back some of the trees that had encroached their boarder. Whilst walking through the alien marshland with my shears in tow, I got stuck in a hole. It was like quicksand and my boot began to vanish. I cried out for help and the team of volunteers rushed over to pull me out. To be fair it was pretty funny. I was up for most things this year but if you had told me that I would almost lose my leg in Scotland I probably would have laughed!
Wednesday was by far the hardest and most physical day. Our sights were set for a distant field across a railway line, all very movie-esque. We had the job of cutting, raking and disposing of all the overgrown grass, old school style. It was in aid of encouraging wild flowers to grow to ensure that local wildlife could thrive. Whilst raking up I rescued a small frog, saw my first vole and narrowly missed a woodpecker swooping past.
You may think that my week was filled with task after task of mundane manual labour. Somewhat yes – but there was a reason for all of it. Ensuring that the highlands of Scotland continue to sustain and nurture a thriving wildlife community. The more roads we build, trees we cut down and emissions we put into the atmosphere, the more we lose our natural habitat. So despite all the hard work it wasn’t in vain.
My last day saw me at a national park just off the coast of Scotland; a picture perfect forest with a small stream and plenty of trees. Open to the public, we had the task of cutting back all the overgrown shrubbery on the paths. Luckily there were a good number of us so it only took a few hours, but the results were great.
I walk Freddie all the time, but never really appreciate the places we walk through. These wonderful locations across the country don’t just magically sustain themselves. Paths don’t keep themselves clear and natural habitats don’t become pretty by magic fairies. They are maintained and developed by an incredible legion of volunteers across the country working for conservation charities such as SWT. I take my hat off to them too, it’s tough work!
So next time you talk a wonderful stroll around a beautiful outdoor location remember, somebody made it look that beautiful for you to enjoy.