Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Youth Rangers Conquering Wales

On Saturday the 3rd of November  the Wye Valley Youth Rangers took part in a walk that circumnavigated the boundaries of Wales. They joined forces with Youth Groups from across Wales, who each took a leg of the Coastal footpath or the Offa's Dyke Path and walked at least a 5km section, before passing a flag onto the next group to move the walk on around Wales.
Up for a challenge the Youth Rangers walked the route from Bigsweir into  Monmouth aproximately 6 miles.
Well done everyone we made it despite my lack of concentration on the route!
Well done to Poppy, Meg and Jet who made it too, and had to suffer the indignity of wearing t-shirts to prove it.
Conquering Wales - earned the t-shirt to prove it! 

Redbrook the mid way point.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Messing About on the/ near the River

Kate Humbles inspects a tiny pair of paddles?
Monmouthshire Show 2012
The Youth Rangers attended the Monmouthshire Show in August supporting the AONB unit in publicising the AONB farming awards. The group interviewed the winning farmers and gathered film footage. Dave Jackson form Wildwood coppicing also led two green woodworking workshops for the group. Everyone managed to make a small spoon or were they tiny paddles?!
Looking at river invertebrates
Fly fishing training with the Monnow Rivers Association
Saturday September the 29th the group gathered on the banks of the Monnow. We undertook a survey of river invertebrates and discussed some of the issues which can affect the water quality of the river, and in turn the fish populations.
Tuition in fly fishing included a comprehensive explanation of the types of flies that are' tied,' and the menagerie of animal fur and feathers that are assembled and used to recreate a realistic looking lure or fly. It appears that roosters are breed specifically with the desired neck feathers to replicate distinct species of invertebrate!
Two fish were caught a Salmon Parr by Les and a small trout by Owen.
Our thanks to Frank and Justine and to the Monmouth Angling Association who allowed us access to their fishing spot.
Finally the last spot for messing about on the river took place at Piercefield and Lancaut on the 13th of October.The group under took vegetation management at Lancaut and navigated the 8 miles around to Lower Wyndcliff, passing through Valentine Morris's designed landscape, and increasing their knowledge of the Picturesque movement and the Wye Tour.
 The scree and rock fall at Lancaut


Piercefield House

Monday, 16 July 2012

Open Farm Sunday

Welcome to Mabley Farm

The Wye Valley Youth Ranger group visited Mabley Farm on the Woolhope dome in Herefordshire to assist with Open Farm Sunday, an annual national event to showcase farms and farming. Mark O’Brien and Liz Vice who farm the land at Woolhope are the current holders of the best farm in the under 100 hectare category of the Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards 2011. The farm operates an extensive organic system supporting a huge range of wildlife whilst enhancing the landscape.

 Covering 75 hectares in total, with two substantial areas of woodland, an area of traditional parkland and several hay meadows, Mabley presents quite a challenge.  Liz and Mark also graze and manage a Herefordshire Nature Trust Reserve, Wessington Pasture, a remnant of traditional Herefordshire grassland.

We started our tour at the village hall and walked across a large field that was restored to meadow by Mark around eight years ago. It now boasts a wealth of flowers including hay rattle and knap weed, and on our visit the sun peeked out and brought the grassland alive with butterflies and bees on our visit in sharp contrast to nearby arable fields.

We continued into Wessington Pastures and meet a volunteer who was checking the nest boxes on the site. She shared with us some footage from her camera that she had minutes ago captured, of 3 strong and healthy kestrel chicks from one of the specialised nest boxes on the site.

The farm has built up a stock of longhorn cattle, as well as Wiltshire Horned sheep. We got close up to the herd and inspected this year’s calves. Mark explained how the animals fell out of fashion, as they take a long time to mature for market. The Wiltshire Horned sheep unlike commercial flocks, do not need shearing as they shed their wool naturally, a cost saving plus to this unusual breed. Mark said of his animals;

‘The pedigree cattle and sheep are sold as quality breeding livestock. The organic Longhorn beef from animals raised exclusively on an extensive grassland system has supplied London restaurants, but we prefer to sell our beef, lamb and mutton locally to selected pubs and restaurants and also through our box scheme to individual customers.’

We continued on to a wet meadow bordering the small country lane. This remnant of marshy meadow offers a sanctuary for the Southern Marsh Orchid in which to flourish. On our visit the orchids were flowering in great profusion, dotting the grassland with spires that ranged from purple to pink.

During their time on the farm, Liz and Mark have felled a conifer forest to restore a more open broad leaved habitat with woodland glades, offering nectar and foraging for bees and butterflies. The SSSI woodland is now coppiced on a rotational basis producing good quality material for hedgelaying and green wood workers.

There was a lot to take in. We stopped for lunch and then the Youth Rangers split into four groups and were each assigned an area to talk about. At 2pm the farm opened to the public and the visitors were escorted around the farm with Mark as the main guide. The Youth Rangers assisting the tour, were stationed at strategic locations along the way, they pointed out interesting t flora, and were able to remember some facts and figures to relate to the visitors. More stops were made to examine livestock and the charcoal making on the site, with our Youth Rangers providing a wealth of interesting information. Then it was time for tea and cake, and the brewing of water with the Kelly Kettles. Thanks to Mark and Liz for a wonderful day, and well done everyone you were brilliant.

To find out more about Mabley Farm, please follow the link to the web site.

Identifying orchids

 Brewing up


The Longhorn Cattle

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Do you know your boundaries?

Saturday 28th of April

The Youth Ranger Team gathered at Meend Farm Penalt for an action packed day of filming and farming. The group split up into two teams the first group focused their efforts on re-instating a section of collapsed drystone wall, under the direction of  expert tutor Chris Hodges,  a member of the Drystone Walling Association.

The second group gathered film footage of the 'wallers' at work and interviewed Chris, finding out just what it takes to be a drystone waller. By lunch time the footings of the new wall were in place, and we adjourned to the barn for a well earned lunch break out of the drizzle and cold north easterly.

In the afternoon the teams swapped roles. The film crew explored  traditional  boundaries on the farm and interviewed Tim the farmer. He explained how to lay a hedge, a traditional means of boundary mangement that was once widespread in the countryside. The group examined a recently laid section of hedge and Tim explained how this was achieved and the advantages for livestock and wildlife.

The group also met the animals at Meend Farm, including the Herefordshire cattle, two breeds of pig Saddle Back and Berkshire  and bottle fed the orphaned lambs.

At the end of the day the film crew, returned  to admire and record the 'wallers' handi-work.

A great day despite some trying weather conditions!

Thanks to all at Meend farm including Tim, Sarah, Ludo, Lee and Kate.

Lunch time for lambs

New friends in the mud
Boundaries back in action

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Birds in Boxes

Update on the occupants of the nest boxes the Youth Rangers and Volunteers construcuted and installed back in the spring.

Monday 14 of May 2012 Newly hatched Blue Tit chicks

Check back for an update on the birds progress.

Rock on!

Saturday the 24th of March

Youth Rangers meet at the Forestry Commission car park near the little Doward campsite for an exploration of the landscape that focussed on geology.

Our guide for the morning was Nic Howes he led us on a walk through geological time, spanning the Lower Carboniferous era that was from 359 to 327 million years ago. Throughout the walk Nic made links from the geology to the shape of the land and to human activities in the area.

We started at the ‘youngest’ rocks of the Crease Limestone (Gully Oolite) and visited King Arthur’s Cave that is cut into these on the western side of Great Doward. We crossed to the Little Doward and looked at the cutting made through the Crease Limestone by ironmaster Richard Blakemore’s workmen. Blakemore was a wealthy landowner who created a ‘Picturesque’ landscape with carriage rides and footpaths all over the Little Doward. There is a limestone pavement on top of the Crease Limestone just above the cutting; it is a miniature version of those that are found in Yorkshire and in the Burren, Ireland.

Following a carriageway downhill and westwards we passed a large cliff in the Lower Dolomite Limestone, a quarry in the Tintern Sandstone and then reached the impressive Quartz Conglomerate cliff with its bright pebbles, deposited after floods about 350 million years ago; at this point we had almost reached the base of the Lower Carboniferous rocks.

We dropped down onto another track that took us back eastwards to find some old limekilns, restored and interpreted as part of the Overlooking the Wye project. Our route to the lunch stop at Biblins Bridge took us upstream along the right bank of the Wye. Soon after leaving Blakemore’s estate through a pair of old iron gates we had a chance meeting with Mark and Kath, who did our First Aid training earlier in the year.

In the afternoon the group meet with John Holden who led us in an exploration  underground. Our destination was the pancake cave system high above the rapids at Symonds Yat. The group all abseiled into the cave system and then explored the caves which have been mined in the past for iron ore.

A great day thanks to all our guides and to the whole group for great effort.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

That's Hedge-u-cation or there's a whole lot of logging going on.

Just some of the arsenal of tools
 On Saturday the 25th of February the Youth Rangers returned to Bracelands for a day with a green wood work/hedge focus. After an initial introduction to a range of green wood working/coppicing tools and a forthright explanation of the tools safe and intended use, the group split into two with half exploring green wood work skills and the rest of the group undertaking a hedge survey and completing the construction and installation of our bird boxes.
Unique recycled homes available now
The Green wood working group under the careful tutoring of Dave Jackson from wild wood coppice, spent the morning transforming an ash log, of especially difficult grain, into a set of spatulas to adorn the finest kitchens in the land. The young people used a range of tools in order to complete their hand made utensils, from the axe, to the carving knife, draw knife and the traditional shave horse bench.

How to ride a shave horse

While one half of the group were going out on a limb with the wood work, eight Youth Rangers undertook and OPAL survey of the hedgerow that bounds the site. The group looked closely at how to define different types of hedgerow, and to identify some of the common  species of plant and animal that find refuge within this important habitat. The construction of the next boxes begun in our first outing was completed, and then carefully located  within the surrounding woodland. Survey of the nesting sites will be undertaken later in the spring.

Thank you to Dave our tutor for the day and to Les for bringing the amazing two handled logging saw! More pictures to come on the face book page.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Look out Hollywood the Youth Rangers are coming.........

Setting up
 Saturday the 4th of February  was ...... rolling...
as the Youth Rangers got to grips with creating their own movie magic.

Nathan Williams, from Herefordshire Rural Media Company, was our tutor for the day. The group gained a range of new skills and experience.They were shown how to set up their kit, to frame and link shots and interview technique. The Youth Rangers worked in three separate crews and filmed a scene from Toy Story to practise their filming technique.
In the afternoon they undertook separate shooting assignments. Crew 1   interviewed local historian Liz and Jon Hurley along the Wye. Crew 2 filmed  Liz and Dave Berry in Period costume, capturing the flavour of the Wye Tour at the Kymin. We owe  Iris Price a great debt of gratitude for supplying all the costumes, that created an authentic flavour of the late 1700's.
At Monmouth Canoe Hire the  Crew 3 interviewed the owners Sue and Graham Symmonds, and took to the water complete with head cam!
We are  looking forward to the premiere....roll out the red carpet.

Nathan directing the action

Conservation and First Aid Training at Staunton Meend

Youth Rangers managing vegetation in one of the ponds at Staunton Meend
Sixteen Youth Rangers gathered at Staunton Meend on Saturday 28th of January. The pond was cleared of encroaching vegetation improving the habitat for a wealth of aquatic invertebrates and amphibians.

After exploring the Meend the group set to work removing birch saplings from the grassland. This proved to be extremely hard work, well done everyone for pitching in.
To find out more about Staunton Meend read the fact file on the main Youth Ranger pages.

In the afternoon we all took part in first aid training led by Mark Jessup from Wye Valley Emergency First Aid.

Discussing the contents of a first aid kit
A number of common first aid scenarios were discussed and we practised a ranage of  techniques to employ in common emergency situations.

Dealing with a casualty
This is what the Youth Rangers said about their day.......

We did a bit of orienteering and found the Buckstone which overlooked a beautiful view.
           I discovered all about the Meend and how the community are trying to make it a better habitat.
We discovered different types of leaves on our walk and identified what they were.
           We worked together in a team which helped to get to know each other better than we did before.

            We saw a woodcock which was great because I have never seen one before and would now be   able to recognise one again.

            From the first aid training I feel confident that if an emergency situation arose I would know the appropriate response to take, including not only personally playing a physical role in the situation, but also calling for help etc.