Butterflies,dormice and fungus-work experience with the Heart of Durham Project

Anne Porter Heart of Durham, News


Joseph Garnett a sixth form student from Wolsingham School has spent a week gaining work experience with the Heart of Durham Project as part of his final “A” level year. rimg2524-custom

Biology is one of Joseph’s favourite subject areas which led to his choice of work placement with Durham Wildlife Trust. This week he has been busy logging transect results sent in from teams of volunteers who, throughout the summer months, have been recording butterfly numbers at various sites through County Durham. One of these butterflies is the small pearl -bordered fritillary butterfly, one of County Durham’s rarest butterflies, and one which the Heart of Durham is particularly interested in. Since 2011 its team of volunteers have been carrying out extensive landscape scale conservation work to help protect this butterfly and increase its favourable habitat.

So from spread sheets and graphs to a day’s workshop learning about all manner of fungi, followed by a day checking dormouse tubes at Hamsterley Forest and a final day working on habitat improvement works on a site that had the first recorded sighting of a small pearl- bordered fritillary butterfly in 2016 the week has been varied.


Fairy Inkcap fungi found whilst doing the dormouse tube checks at Hamsterley. Putting the fungi workshop knowledge into practice.

“I have found my work placement at Low Barns to be an extremely worthwhile experience and have learnt a great deal”. Said Joseph “I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and have experienced what an active and fulfilling job an ecologist has. I have gained knowledge of the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly and learnt of the commitment of conservationists that are working to protect them, it has been a great pleasure to have been involved in the conservation of one of County Durham’s rarest butterflies. I know my time here was well spent and will benefit my studies as I have a greater understanding of the intricacies of sampling and have developed better   understanding and appreciation of organisms, especially after my fungus workshop day”.

Whilst dormice where allusive during our time spent at Hamsterley I still believe the time was well spent and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to have worked in such a relaxed and refreshing environment.


Checking a dormouse tube for signs of occupation. Here a squirrel has hidden acorns in the tube

Working with Anne Porter has been a great pleasure and she has taught me a tremendous amount about the work of Durham Wildlife Trust and has kept me very busy during my time here. After spending less than a week with the Trust I know I intend to offer my services to Low Barns as a volunteer in the future as it was a fantastic experience. Time spent here has reinvigorated my interest in research biology and I know the experience will be of great benefit to me in the future”.