A lucky few of us met Julie at the Milking Parlour on a gloriously hot, sunny Saturday morning to hear about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running this enormous nature reserve with only a handful of staff. We began with a quick talk by Julie in which she ran us through the long list of daily and weekly tasks which must be carried out before even thinking of the many additional seasonal and ad-hoc jobs to be done. Emptying bins, checking animals, inspecting fences, cutting verges, opening the Visitor Centre, etc., etc. inevitably lead to clearing up after fly tipping, dealing with graffiti, helping rough-sleepers, and replacing damaged signage. All the unglamorous work of which most of us remain completely unaware!
Julie also explained the ownership of the Country Park and the way the various agencies work together - Council Officers, Rangers, Natural England, TCV, Groundworks, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Conservation Volunteers, VC volunteers, etc.. It is a real eye-opener to realise just how many people are involved in the life of the nature reserve, and what a job it is to co-ordinate it all and ensure its smooth running. Much of the money to run the County Park comes from Natural England via Higher Level Stewardship and without that the operation would have to be very drastically reduced.
After this thorough grounding in the administration of the Country Park we all piled into Julie’s Land Rover to see the theory in action in Ecclesbourne Glen. Here we were able to walk some of the paths currently closed by last year's landslip and to see the excellent work the conservation volunteers have been doing to clear paths and re-instate steps and boardwalks. The result will be the re-opening of many of the paths within Ecclesbourne Glen, and, most important, the option to follow a circular route around the Glen for the first time in a long while.
Enormous thanks to Julie for what was a fascinating morning. We had the opportunity not only to hear so much about the running of the Country Park, but also to ask as many questions as we wished and to see work in progress on the ground. If Julie finds time to offer the same event next year I would thoroughly recommend to anyone with an interest in the Country Park that they come along…