Thursday, 20 February 2020

Powering Through Nature

SP Energy Networks Team by Steve Lyus

The SP Energy Networks team based in Prenton wanted to organise a corporate work day at New Ferry Butterfly Park.  As honorary secretary/ reserve manager, I normally take a day’s annual leave for this, but for the first time in 15 years, I took a ‘volunteer day’, taking advantage of the Liverpool University’s Staff Volunteering Framework, which now allows you three days volunteering for charities.

New Ferry Butterfly Park is a post industrial habitat, a classic brownfield site with a diverse number of grassland types; acidic, nutrient poor and calcareous grassland reflecting the former coal staithes, railway track beds and water softening plant from the days of steam power. These open mosaic habitats are a great benefit to butterflies and other insects.

Eight eager volunteers came from SP Energy Networks. They were greeted with a hot drink, a briefing and signed the risk assessment which they had been sent prior to their visit. No escaping from risk assessments even on a volunteering day, our safety co-ordinator would be proud!

Clearing over grown garden spreading onto the path. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Then they split into four groups, one putting in fence posts, another creating a large dead wood habitat pile from a clump of large birches cut for safety reasons. The third was removing some unwanted shrubs which were taking over the path and the fourth group removed turf and birch trees over laying the railway track beds. The turf removal process is a rapid way of a creating wildflower patch by re-starting natural succession and allowing carpets of bird’s-foot trefoil to develop which is both the larval and adult food plant for the common blue butterfly.

The volunteers all got a good work out, knocking in posts using a post driver, swinging mattocks, sawing, wheel barrowing turf and other unwanted materials, using loppers and muscles they never knew they had. Justin, the team leader, surprised himself with the ease he could remove the sizeable birch saplings just using a mattock. In his report he had to put some figures in, such as how much material had been removed. I reckoned 400kg of turf was removed.

Justin triumphs over the birch tree. Photo: Paul Loughnane

For ‘elevenses’ the volunteers were supplied with tea and homemade cakes delivered to them in a wheelbarrow. Following lunch they had a tour of the park, and its varied habitats and to see each other’s projects. They needed a recovery break anyway! After the tour, they eagerly went back to their projects again for another hour to complete them. The mixed teams of office workers and onsite engineers, who they rarely meet up with, had a chance to interact with each other in an enjoyable setting.

This corporate group of physically fit and keen young people enabled the park’s project to move forward with many jobs that never get started being completed. Other groups of volunteers are welcome to come to the park for a one off event. I would suggest September/October better than a cold January. Please contact me on for further details.

Paul Loughnane BEM

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