Animal care students at West Nottinghamshire College, Mansfield, enjoyed learning in the great outdoors while contributing to an important environmental scheme.

Working with college staff and rangers from Forestry England, they cleared a 600-metre stretch of drainage ditch by hand at Silverhill Wood, Sutton-in-Ashfield, as part of an eight-week social action project.

The learners, who study the Intermediate Skills for Working in Animal Care Industries course, spent one day each week removing trees and overgrown vegetation too big for tractors to clear.

This vital work ensures rainwater can flow freely, preventing footpaths becoming waterlogged at the picturesque woodland.

Students learned how to sympathetically remove trees and vegetation and safely use equipment, as well as practice manual-handling techniques. They also got to see activities that rangers undertake as part of their regular duties.

Amy Chandler, community ranger at Forestry England, said: “The ditch had to be cleared before the machines could be brought in to tidy everything up. If we don’t keep the drainage clear, we’d have flooded footpaths and the trees would die – so it’s important the water flows off the site and down into the pond.

“The students had to use shears to cut down brambles, so we could get to the bottoms of trees like Willow and Alder that like to grow in the wet ditch. They also used saws and loppers to cut down trees from inside the ditch and then had to drag all the vegetation up out of it.

“They did a brilliant job. It took a lot of hard work and they can be very proud of what they accomplished.”

Student Chloe Geering, 18, said: “It was a very good experience. We learnt how to cut down trees properly and use the correct tools. We also removed dead grass to make the area look neater and better for the public.

“I’d love to work with animals one day but if that doesn’t happen, I’d like to do something like this instead. I love working with nature, so this has given me a back-up plan.”

Fellow student Ceejay Radford, also 18, said: “I’ve gained more leadership skills and knowledge about the general maintenance of woodland areas.

“I like being outdoors, removing overgrown trees and having fun at the same time. It’s very satisfying to see how much we achieved.”

Animal care teacher Stacey Allcock said: “The students loved learning new skills, which developed week on week, and enjoyed seeing the difference they made to the woods.

“They also widened their knowledge and gained valuable insight into other land-based careers like conservation and working in the forestry sector.

Hopefully, this is the start of a longer-term partnership with Forestry England. Amy has already visited the college to give an industry talk to students about what the organisation does and how she began her career with them.”

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