Building a Boardwalk at The Avenue Washlands

Working for Nature Trainee Kayleigh Wright tells us all about her experiences on the project and the work she has been getting up too....

It’s been a month and two weeks since I started my traineeship with Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts Working For Nature traineeship programme, and already I've gained a great insight into practical conservation. My first new practical challenge was to help out with the volunteers, Brian and Angie and my supervisor, Alex at The Avenue Washlands wetland reserve to construct the foundations for a new boardwalk and pond dipping station. The reserves habitats consist of ponds, reedbed, grassland and marsh, that attracts a wide variety of wildlife. It’s an important place for water voles and great crested newts and birds such as skylark and yellowhammer.

My first task before arriving at the site was to help out my supervisor at the tool station to gather all necessary tools needed for constructing the foundations of the boardwalk. Many of the tools and equipment we needed I had never used before, nor had I even heard of them. So I was given a brief introduction into each of the tools and what we will be needing them for. Once the truck and trailer was loaded, off we went to make our way to the Washlands. 

My first day working on the boardwalk was hard. We were working in thick, clay like mud that made it difficult to shift when using a spade to dig holes big enough for the posts to sit and the space for the stringers to fit in. Keeping my spade close to the ground and using my knee to push force into moving the spade, helped me a lot when moving the mud. I was having a tough time sawing pieces of wood to be used as the cross-pieces for the boardwalk foundation. My arms were sore and I felt like I couldn’t get a rhythm going as the saw kept getting stuck in the wood. However my supervisor talked me through it and gave me some sawing tips to make it easier for myself. I didn't give up and kept on going.

The week after we were back at the Washlands again. I felt different this time round, I felt much stronger. I got myself into a sawing rhythm and managed to get more pieces of wood for the cross-pieces. My next task was to secure the cross-pieces into place using a drill and drilling in screws into each side of the wood. I hadn’t properly used a drill before and so the screws kept getting stuck in the wood. You had to put a lot of force into the back of the drill so that the screws could go all the way through, It took some practice until I managed to get it secure. 

By my third week working on the boardwalk, I felt much more confident using the tools and equipment needed for the foundations. I helped to cut the remaining cross-pieces to fit in between the stringers and secured the wood into place and my drill technique worked much better. We even had an audience of Highland cattle who were watching us from over the fence and seemed rather intrigued in what we were working on. There were times during the construction where I thought I couldn’t do a particular task, however I didn’t give up and each time I came back to that task I became better at it each time. The boardwalk is now complete, with the decking all in place. I look forward to taking a visit back to The Avenue Washlands one day, to see the boardwalk and pond dipping station in its brand new form.

Avenue Washlands boardwalk

(C) Kayleigh Wright