It was 2 months ago now that Chris and I received the fantastic news that the London Borough of Sutton (LBS) had accepted us onto their ‘Biodiversity Graduate Training Programme’, based at the Sutton Ecology Centre. Two months on, spring is on our doorstep and Valentine’s Day would have marked our first 4 weeks with the LBS Biodiversity team. So before the mad rush of the surveying season begins, we would like to reflect upon our first month as Biodiversity Assistants.
My first few days at the Ecology Centre were fairly quiet. Most of my time was spent drudging through all the necessary forms and papers needed to enroll myself onto the programme and being introduced to the (what seemed complicated at the time) online work system. However, once that had all been explained and quickly forgotten about, I was given a fleece, some gloves and a bunch of keys for the tool shed and off I was out with the SNCV on their weekly task days.
The first few weeks were spent coppicing and felling in Ruffet and Bigwood, a small patch of woodland which Dave advised me is the ‘’best quality woodland in Sutton’’. The woodland took the form of two halves, one of which was managed for wildlife and the other which was unmanaged and had reverted to high forest. It was interesting to see how the two woodlands differed in their structure and biodiversity and offered a great chance to begin contemplating ideas for management plans, which I would get the chance to undertake later on in the programme. It was in this wood that I felled my first tree, and although a few weeks were nowhere near enough time for me to become a pro, it was enough time for my shoulder to suffer the consequences of being unused to so much work!
Little did I know, those first few weeks spent coppicing, tough as it seemed, were a walk in the park compared to what was to come next! The following week we visited Anton Crescent wetland and it was here where I learnt how to lay a hedge. After a short talk and demonstration by Dave, who made hedge laying look a lot easier than it was, I had a go myself. I quickly learnt that hedge laying requires a great amount of skill and that I had a long way to go if I wanted to enter one of the National Hedge laying Society’s competitions!  However it is a great skill to have and understanding the science and ecology behind the practice was fascinating to learn.
After the cold snowy weather fell behind us, tasks took a much lighter form and I spent my time taking part in activities such as scrub bashing, litter picking, pond clearance and fencing.  We had a few patchy days of sunshine and it was great to see how quickly flowers began sprouting up. Patches of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) soon began to carpet the floor outside the Ecology Centre and I made my first wildflower ID of the year.

First flower ID of the year: Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

First flower ID of the year: Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Now that spring is upon us I am extremely excited about what the year has to bring.  Just a month in and my position at the Sutton Ecology Centre has taught me many skills as well as giving me the chance of working with a great team!
Hi all, my name is Chris Drake and I am the Volunteer Biodiversity Assistant at the Sutton Ecology Centre.
Since starting my placement, 14 Jan I have gained experience promoting our Garden Wildlife Showcase Event, to be held at Wallington Grammar School Saturday 27th April 2013.
I am very excited to work with a dedicated team, who is keen to promote Wildlife Gardening to the local public.
With my passion for local wildlife, I am very privileged to be given the chance to invite large organisations like:   Surrey Wildlife Trust, RSPB and GIGL to come and speak for Wildlife Gardening.
With the show opened to everyone, I am very excited about the prospect to allow everyone the chance to survey their back gardens.
Since starting in January I have helped organise a number of events: Breakfast with Birds, Hedge laying and Bird Box building. From the picture you can see my dab hand in bird box making!
Chris Drake, Simon and Habiba Preece 2

Chris Drake, Simon and Habiba Preece 2

Thanks to the London Borough of Sutton, these events have been a real eye opener for me. I have witnessed firsthand, local communities getting stuck in! and enjoying the moment. It’s a real privilege and opportunity for me to work with people who care about wildlife.

Become a volunteer
Sutton nature events