My Wild Life
I’ve come to know Poor’s Allotment well over the years, whether it’s through walking the dog or my voluntary work with the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA).
SARA is one of the most diverse search and rescue organisations in the UK, with 180 operational volunteers. We run lifeboats on the Rivers Severn, Usk and Wye, undertake cliff rescues and work with the police to carry out land searches looking for vulnerable and missing people. I became involved with the organisation because I enjoy doing things outdoors, and it’s a way of giving something back.
SARA uses Poor’s Allotment to practise land searches, both during the hours of daylight and in the dark.
The reserve has relatively wild heathland, along with woodland and gorse areas. It offers a variety of different terrain and is great for practising navigation and search techniques.
Poor’s Allotment isn’t huge, but when you’re there it seems like you’re in the middle of a large remote area, partly because of the big views across the Severn Estuary to the Cotswolds. It’s easy for somebody to ‘disappear’ and be quite hard to find.
It’s a reasonably exposed site lying on the upper edge of the Forest of Dean escarpment, and it’s striking how the temperature at Poor’s Allotment can sometimes be several degrees lower than in Chepstow just a couple of miles away. In addition it’s a wonderful place to see wildlife: in spring there’s a blanket of bluebells, the colour and smell of which are amazing, and it’s great to see their number increasing as a result of clearance work carried out by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
Muntjac and fallow deer, badgers, foxes and endless rabbits are a common sight and it’s great to see adders there in summer: if you respect them and give them their space they won’t trouble you, and generally we make enough noise that they will have slithered out of the way by the time we reach them.
Other places I enjoy visiting include the Lancaut peninsula, which lies right next to the river and is incredible, while my home on the edge of the Forest gets a fair share of wildlife. We have bats roosting in the roof, foxes and stoats, and tawny owls nesting in the trees. Earlier in the year they were quite noisy.
I grew up in the Mendips and came to the Forest of Dean 35 years ago. Every morning I get up and look across the River Severn. It’s beautiful.