Steart Marshes project fantastic opportunity for Countryside Management students - Bridgwater & Taunton College

Managing our wildlife habitats is a challenge. WWT’s exciting project at Steart Marshes involves turning hundreds of hectares of the Steart Peninsula into new saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands that will become much-needed habitat for wading birds and wildfowl, and for rare water voles and great crested newts.

For myself as Programme Manager of Countryside Management courses at Bridgwater College, this fantastic project gives our students a great opportunity to take part in a series of activities which not only broaden their practical skills, but also enables them to work in real-life situations alongside our WWT partners.

We are really at the start of this project and over the years the reintroduction of the sea into this area will dramatically change the nature of the area. With this change will come new wildlife and the return of habitats to support a wide variety of birds and animals.

Already salt-marsh plants are beginning to recolonize the areas which have been inundated by the sea, and birds and animals are returning to the flooded areas. The additional benefit of the project will be the reduction in risk from coastal flooding to neighbouring Bridgwater.

Like all wildlife management projects, Steart Marshes presents the challenge to recreate natural landscapes through human intervention. Massive earth moving activity has now become new landscape. After human intervention, we can then leave nature to take charge (with a little help from us!)

Already my students have engaged in aquatic planting up to their knees in water, ensuring that native plants will recolonise the ditches and creeks. Next year they will work alongside Adam, our PhD student currently undertaking his thesis on the site. Who knows what exciting data his research will turn up!

It’s an exciting collaboration with WWT. Increasingly we look for proactive partnerships with national organisations which enable us to actively engage in local projects which benefit students and the community alike. It’s good for our students to know that, even if only in a small way, they have contributed to the local community and the preservation of wildlife and the countryside.

Alys Laver, Reserve Manager, is pleased to have Bridgwater College on the doorstep of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Steart Marshes Reserve. It gives both of us the ideal opportunity to work together for the benefit of both organisations.

Steart Marshes is a fantastic learning and training space offering a wide array of exciting projects for the students and the lecturers to get involved in. The Reserve, in turn, not only gets assistance with the practical work on site, but students have the opportunity of work experience and placement opportunities, the best way to learn about what a job in this sector involves. Furthermore, a monitoring project has recently given WWT the means to provide training to students and staff over the next few years at the reserve. The findings of this project will provide vital data at a baseline level, to assist in the evaluation of the success of the Steart Marshes scheme.

Are you in a position where you have more spare time available or are thinking about a change of career? How about a part-time or full-time course in Wildlife or Countryside Management? Whatever your learning requirements, we have courses ranging from beginner all the way to professional and university level. Bridgwater College offers a variety of options regardless of whether it is for hobby or career.

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