Stories and Project Examples

Wildlife Warden stories

Shira Rüb

I was raised in North-West London, with Golders Hill Park on the edge of Hampstead Heath just a few steps away. With its ditches and woods it was our playground. My mother always fed the birds, was interested in all wildlife, and encouraged our curiosity. There was never any revulsion for insects or slimy things, just a wish to observe and make space for them. Injured birds were nurtured back to health if at all possible, and I still have a shameful memory of mistakenly letting a sparrow out of the cage from which it was soon to be released having recovered from a broken wing, and it getting caught by the cat. Each Spring we would go to the ponds on the Heath to collect frogspawn, putting it in a fish tank and waiting impatiently for the tadpoles to emerge, when a tiny piece of liver would be tied to cotton and hung over the side. The excitement of the legs developing and the froglets getting ready to leave the water was intense, especially as we knew they must be carried back to the pond before they started hopping around the dining room!

I was one of four children but a friend, Judy, was an only child and her parents would regularly invite me to join them on days out and even on one occasion to go with them on a holiday to Wales. I was about 7 years old and the experience of being in a little cottage in a field miles from anywhere is with me still. I have a vivid memory of driving out to what was then the rural backwater of Hemel Hempstead and seeing cows for what felt like the first time (Judy’s father sang ‘We are the Ovalteenies’, from the advert for the milk drink).  I felt a real yearning to leave the city and live in the countryside, pleaded with my mother that we move out of London, and she would gently explain that it was because of my father’s work. I had to be patient enough to wait until I went off to university and in that first Spring, seeing a bluebell wood for the first time on a walk out of campus, was a magical experience. Moving to Devon to do my professional training in 1981 I was at last able to make my home in the countryside and my passion for the natural world, which I believe should be the most important thing in human lives, has been able to find its expression. This is why the Wildlife Warden scheme is so important to me.

Project Examples

Habitat creation at a cemetery

Christine Callard, a Wildlife Warden for College Ward (Newton Abbot), gained permission from Teignbridge District Council to create a wildlife area at Ogwell Cross Cemetery. A native, species-rich hedge was planted with help from Ogwell Wildlife Wardens. Native spring-flowering bulbs were also planted as well as a variety of wildflower seed, including yellow-rattle, which is now established. With help from a friend and TDC, Chris designed and installed an information board. She also installed bird boxes and a bench so that visitors can sit and enjoy the wildlife. Many thanks to Cllr Janet Bradford, Cllr Jackie Hook and Cllr Gordon Hook for providing funding for this project.

Wildlife gardening scheme

Chudleigh Wild (who are members of the Wildlife Warden Scheme) launched their wildlife gardening scheme in February 2021. At the time of writing (June, 22), over 100 households have signed up to the scheme. To apply, households must prove that their gardens meet some criteria from each of the categories in the table above. Households that meet the criteria receive a hand-made plaque to display on their garden gate. Wildlife gardening schemes are a brilliant way to engage communities and help wildlife on a large scale. UK gardens cover an area larger than all of our national parks combined!

Chudleigh Wild was inspired by Devon Wildlife Trust’s wildlife gardening award, which at the time only covered Exeter. DWT now have a county-wide scheme. Check it out here. It is worth promoting in your local area!

Turn the Tide event

Dave Hutton and Scott Williams, Dawlish Wildlife Wardens, organised a very successful, large event for members of the public with help from the Town Council. The event was part of the jubilee celebrations and had an environmental theme. Local organisations held stands at the event, including the Wildlife Warden Scheme, Devon Wildlife Trust, Dawlish Against Plastic, Sustainable Dawlish, Shores of South Devon, Recycle Devon and many more. There were events and activities for all ages as well as talks and live music. Here is a link to the event’s Facebook page.

County Wildlife Site surveys

The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre provided training to Wildlife Wardens in how to complete CWS surveys. With this training, Wildlife Wardens will survey Unconfirmed Wildlife Sites to see if they qualify for CWS status. Areas that are designated as CWSs have great wildlife value, and this designation provides recognition of this. Although CWSs have no legal protection, the Teignbridge Local Plan acknowledges that they are important, and the local planning authority takes them into consideration when making decisions.

Other survey examples

Many of our Wildlife Wardens are involved in various Citizen Science projects.

Water quality kit

One of the most popular surveys is the Westcountry Citizen Science Investigations. Over 15 Wildlife Wardens have signed up to this and are monitoring the water quality of rivers and streams. Volunteers take measurements of phosphate levels, water temperature, Total Dissolved Solids and turbidity.

Ann Sullivan and Janet Miller, Bovey Tracey Wildlife Wardens, got in touch with the head ranger at East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve and have since helped to survey hazel dormice using footprint tunnels. They have been out with a licensed dormice handler to check nest boxes, and were lucky to find a couple of nests.

Desk-based projects

Some Wildlife Wardens prefer to get involved in desk-based projects. Here are a few of examples.

Wildlife Wardens from across Teignbridge write frequent articles for their parish magazines, local newspapers and social media pages. It’s a great way of reaching the public, and is used to promote wildlife gardening, promote citizen science projects, raise awareness of issues and celebrate wildlife sightings.

Paul Havemann, Julie Gregory (Shaldon Wildlife Wardens) and Flavio Winkler Ford (the WW coordinator) wrote a 17 page complaint to the Marine Management Organisation about their decision to allow the dredging of Exmouth Marina and the deposition of sludge into Lyme Bay. We were concerned about the impact that the sludge would have on marine life, local businesses and bathing water quality.

Many of our Wildlife Wardens respond to local planning applications, and ACT provides support and guidance on this. With the help of Wildlife Wardens and their local knowledge, ACT responded to all stages of the Teignbridge Local Plan consultation.