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Calling for volunteer surveyors at Rushmere Heath

Chris Keeling SBG Projects Officer

The Green Light Trust is an established and successful environmental education charity which uses the Power of Nature to transform lives. Since its formation in 1989 the trust has helped thousands of people, both children and adults from diverse and challenged backgrounds by using nature to build health and hope with conservation projects at locations around East Anglia.

Craig Spence has contacted Suffolk Bird Group on behalf of the Greenlight Trust’s Rushmere Heath project where volunteers are working to restore heathland by opening up areas of gorse scrub, and seeding cleared areas with heather. I joined Steve Fryett of SBG to meet Craig and discuss what they hoped to achieve through working with the SBG. I had been invited by Steve to join the meeting with my SBG projects officer hat on, and also because of my previous experience of heathland management and restoration projects with English Nature and Natural England.

Craig and his volunteers are keen to know how best to approach scrub management and maintain a balance between scrub and open areas as a mosaic of heather and acid grassland. Steve and I emphasised the importance of surveys to identify species presence and distribution across the site and to provide a baseline to monitor change as management progresses. Craig has e-mailed to say that there is a great deal of enthusiasm among the Rushmere Heath volunteers since our meeting and the binoculars and bird books have been very much in evidence.

If you would like to help with bird surveys it’s entirely up you which standard survey methodology you adopt, whether you choose to carry out breeding bird transects point count’s or simply recording casual observations is entirely up to you. But most importantly, if you are happy to share your knowledge and field skills with the Green Light Trust volunteers please do give some thought to coordinating your visit to days when the volunteers are working on the heath. Don’t worry if you can’t spare any time this summer, we also need to know what species make use of the heath over winter.

And it’s not just bird surveyors that we need, but also anyone who can give their time to carrying out butterfly transects and perhaps introduce the Rushmere volunteers to moths with moth trapping evenings. If there any of SBG members particularly those who live in or near Ipswich would be willing to give some of their time to help with bird surveys, butterfly transects, and perhaps moth trapping evenings please contact Craig Spence at while also copying me in at

As SBG projects officer I have agreed to act as liaison between the SBG and the Rushmere Heath Project. Please can I ask that you copy me in when contacting Craig so that if necessary we can coordinate surveys and survey data to ensure that management including scrub clearance is targeted appropriately. And do please remember to send your records to both Craig Spence at the above e-mail address and also Steve Fryett at

Craig is also asking if there are members of SBG who would also be interested in helping with surveys at Castan woods which is their main Ipswich site behind Martlesham park and ride. Craig describes Castan Woods as mostly secondary mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, predominantly birch, sweet chestnut, sycamore and oak with some pines. Each year Craig and his volunteers complete some coppicing while in other areas they have also carried out some re-planting. There are groups of volunteers there every week day, and lots of opportunity to undertake surveys that will inform appropriate and beneficial management.

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of all of us to mental health issues and the importance of nature in healing and restoring our sense of wellbeing. This is an opportunity for SBG members to help people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with nature while helping to restore and enhance wildlife habitats around Ipswich.

We really hope you can spare the time to help the Green Light Trust to restore the link between people and nature, while helping to restore a link in our fracture heathland habitats. We look forward to hearing from you.

Chris Keeling

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