We have recently had two work placement students with us from Plymouth University. Rowena, who is studying for a Masters in Sustainable Environmental Management and did some work with us looking at visitor gifting, spent 12 days with us. Russell, who is studying for a MSc in Environmental Consultancy, was with us for 9 weeks, completing a substantial project and getting stuck in with many of the tasks that the AONB team do on a daily basis. Below Russell gives a run down into what he was involved with.
The AONB team with Russell and Rowena at Port Eliot
My work placement blog
I started my work placement with the Tamar Valley AONB on the 11 March 2014. I went straight into a team meeting and this gave me a brief understanding of the goings on within the organisation and a chance to meet the team. I felt quite nervous at the start but felt quite comfortable as the meeting progressed. After the meeting, I sat down with Sam (Mentor), Corinna (Manager) and Ben (Planner) to discuss my ideas for my project: to investigate the visual impact of renewable energy on the setting of the AONB. Then, Sam and Ben gave me a tour around the AONB including Kit Hill, Weir Quay and Calstock looking at the effects of visual impacts of renewables and building designs within the landscape.
On the 12th March I attended a World Heritage Site Panel meeting in Liskeard with Sam to discuss a range of issues associated with Scheduled Monuments and listed buildings. The majority of the people attending the meeting were representatives from Cornwall Council and the World Heritage Site team. I was not too sure what to expect at the start of the meeting or what the meeting was going to entail. Although this is not my topic of interest, I learnt a vast amount from the meeting, especially the issues arising from the winter storms and the damage it has caused to significant historic buildings. It has also given me an experience of the ongoings of the World Heritage Site, and how the meeting was conducted. For the rest of the week I did some research and planned how I was going to conduct the investigation for my project. This included a discussion with Ben, who provided me with a great deal of useful information and what I should be aiming to achieve.
In the second week, I was given a task to write a short summary of evaluation for Devon County Council about the CORDIALE project. At the start I had no idea what the CORDIALE project was, or the field trials that Tamar Valley AONB has delivered. The work involved a lot of reading and it was sometimes tedious. However, I felt that I learned a lot more about the AONB and what they have recently achieved. I was also asked to come up with future projects which the organisation can conduct, which I was thrilled about.
On the 18th March I visited the National Trust at Cotehele to meet Chris who is one of the gardeners there to discuss orchards and market gardening. Chris took Sam and I on the tour of the Tudor house and the gardens that have belonged to the Edgecumbe family for many years. We also visited the Quay and had a look around Shamrock, a historic boat with a significant past.
Inside Shamrock at Cotehele Quay
In the third week, I attended an invasive plant project meeting with representatives from Natural England and the EA. The idea of the project is to eradicate Giant Hogweed. We also had a team meeting on the same day and talked for a few minutes on what I have learned during my time so far with the AONB. On the 27th March I attended a meeting at the Cornwall Council offices in St Austell. A representative from the British Geological Survey gave a presentation about geo-mapping and the new data that has been collated during their investigation and how it can be used, which I found interesting.
During week four, I spent most of my time concentrating on desk based study work for my project. I also spent some time writing a case study to assess the feasibility of woodfuel at Pentillie Castle, which had been developed through the CORDIALE project. That week we also had a team-planning day at the Long Gallery in St. Germans, Cornwall. The idea of the day was to discuss different issues, future projects and improvements that may be needed, followed by a nice lunch and a tour of Port Eliot. I felt that I was more involved with the organisation and that my ideas and opinions were taken into consideration.
The week after I went up onto Kit Hill to sketch the landscape to get a better understanding of the typical special and distinctive features that are present within the Tamar Valley AONB. On the 8th April Corinna and I went to a renewable energy marketplace event in Exeter, organised by Regen SW. It was an amazing experience as I had a chance to talk to many different people from a range of backgrounds including environmental consultants, renewable energy experts, etc. It was also an opportunity to learn new things and a chance to make some new contacts. In the following week, Sam and I did some work to develop a smaller case study exploring tranquillity in Calstock village. We started from the west of the village and worked our way east. We measured the light, odour and the visual character of the area. This was conducted through personal judgement and was quite subjective. The activity provided me with new skill sets on how to assess the level of tranquility.
An old photo of Calstock from the river bank. How much has changed compared to today?
Towards the end of the fifth week, myself, Sam and Ben went on a site visit to assess the potential impact of an application for 1000 new houses at Saltash and 350 homes at Botus Fleming, Cornwall. It provided me an insight of how planners assess the landscape and visual impact of these applications. It provided me with more knowledge and experience on the methods used to assess planning applications.
In the sixth week, I focused on writing up my main project as well as the tranquillity project. I also designed a pilot study for my main project methodology to assess the impact of wind and solar farms on the setting of the AONB. It had not quite worked and needed to be revised. The week after, I attended the Tamar Valley AONB launch for a new Heritage Lottery Funded project, Helping Hands for Heritage. This was a fantastic opportunity to understand what the organisation is about and to see who the partners are. I was involved in some aspects of the day such as the discussion at the Partnership meeting before the launch. In the following week, I tested my revised methodology at Rezare and Trebullett, Cornwall. It showed that my methodology had worked but there were still some issues with it that needed to be improved upon.
I feel that I have achieved the goals that I set out before my work placement. The placement has given me some valuable skills and insights into the role of planning within an AONB. The organisation also provided me with a range of mini projects, conferences and meetings to attend. They ensured that I got the best experience out of the work placement and provided resources that were useful to me. Even though it was not my first choice in terms of work placement, I had a great time working for the Tamar Valley AONB.