This month's blog gives you a behind the scenes look at a typical working week for our hard working volunteer warden interns.

(Kirsty and Charlotte current Warden Interns c/o Kirsty Forrester)

Our general week:


Checks. Each Monday we walk the trails around the two RSPB sites we manage at Coombes Valley and Churnet Valley. We check for litter, infrastructure and hanging branches over trail amongst other things. We also complete routine checks including: play trail check, canopy walk way check, yurt check, ATV check, 4x4 check. Mondays are also a day to do chainsaw maintenance after using them the week previously.

(The Coombes Valley Trails that are checked each Monday c/o RSPB)


Tuesday work party. Every Tuesday our team of dedicated work party volunteers come and give us a hand. Whilst volunteers use hand tools such as bow saws and loppers, us interns spend the day chain sawing holly to clear as much as we can. This winter it is mainly holly clearance that we tackle on a weekly basis but we like to give our volunteers a variety of tasks to do. So, to mix it up, we work as team to do things such as scrub clearance and hay raking to keep on top of our site management plan and to keep everyone motivated.

(Work party and interns working hard in the rain hedge planting c/o Kirsty Forrester)


Chainsawing. RSPB Coombes Valley and RSPB Churnet Valley are both beautiful woodland reserves in North Staffordshire and are part of the Staffordshire Woods and Moors Futurescape. In 2014, the Forestry Commission awarded the reserves a Woodland Improvement Grant to clear 46.8 ha of holly to improve the habitat for birds such as pied flycatcher and redstart. This being one of our priorities for the site so we work tirelessly 3 days a week sawing the holly to clear enough to bring these special bird numbers back up.



Odd jobs. Thursdays are our day to get an array of jobs done from tree safety inspections to maintenance tasks such as making a corduroy path. Thursdays include a staff meeting once a month where all the staff get caught up with each other and to create our to-do lists. We get up to all sorts enjoying the diversity of jobs including pole sawing dead limbs off trees, fencing, path maintenance,  GIS mapping and helping our volunteers who come in twice a week to do jobs around site.

(Charlotte and Kirsty all geared up to do some pole sawing on the roadside boundary of the reserve (it’s a good job we don’t take ourselves too seriously) c/o Charlotte Ditchburn


Chainsawing. Fridays are our last day of sawing for the week (yay!). Fridays we go out sawing with our Site Manager and Warden to get as much holly cleared as we can. Work can often be hard on very slippery steep ground and it gets very cold in these wintery months. BUT It’s all totally worth it, it’s such a rewarding job and very satisfying seeing all the holly that we have cleared in one day you can immediately see the difference we have made. Our WIG project has been going on for 3 year and this is the final winter of the project. It has already been a success pied flycatcher numbers going up and redstart numbers having more than doubled with this being within the areas we have cleared of holly.

(Charlotte and Kirsty enjoying a quick break from holly clearance for a selfie c/o Charlotte Ditchburn)

Charlotte Ditchburn – Warden Intern


Graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Countryside Management in the summer of 2017. Completing student placements with the Northumberland National Park and the North Pennines AONB whilst at University. Fitting in volunteering with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Lake District National Park, Ramblers Association, RSPB and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust during my studies. Passionate about nature having lived in the Lake District all my life I love the outdoors and could never settle with an office job. I’ve been volunteering as a Warden Intern at Coombes Valley for 3 months now and having a fab time. I’m now qualified as a Tree Safety Advisor, chainsaw operator and to use pesticides. I love the variety of jobs we do as interns from chain sawing to engaging with the public through events such as the Harry Otter Trail at Coombes.

Kirsty Forrester – Warden Intern


Graduated from the University of Cumbria with a degree in Animal Conservation Science in the summer of 2016, having worked as an outdoors and high ropes instructor before this. Completing a 9 month university placement in Canada working on the Grizzly Bear research project enabled me to put a lot of what I had learnt at university into practice. I love the outdoors and hope to follow a career in the outdoors in roles such as a Warden. Since starting my internship I have gained many qualifications including: St John Ambulance First Aider, Tree Safety Advisor, brushcutter, strimmer, sit-astride ATV, 4x4 off road driving, pesticide (PA1&PA6) and chainsaw (CS30&CS31). I am thoroughly enjoying my internship here at Coombes Valley developing my skills set to enable me to get a job doing what I love at the end of it all.

Come and volunteer with Coombes Valley yourself:

Residential Volunteer - Long term placement - Coombes and Churnet Valleys 

People Engagement Volunteer - Events Helper, Coombes & Churnet Valley 

Valley Tots Leader, Coombes Valley 

Visitor Centre Volunteer, Coombes Valley