Peatlands, Poetry and Changing Perspectives: My time as an intern

02/06/2017 10:04am by Jenny Middlehurst

Peatlands, Poetry and Changing Perspectives: My time as an intern, by Rebecca Crawford

Having returned home to Caithness after finishing an internship with the Scottish Wildlife Trust down south  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to begin a new placement with the Flows to the Future Project. In March I took over from the previous intern Anna and moved into the field centre. My internship is, sadly, almost over so I wanted to take the opportunity to share my experience.

I have spent the last year or so volunteering for different organisations around Scotland to build up some work experience in conservation.  I was interested in applying for the internship with Flows to the Future as I’m fiercely passionate about promoting the amazing landscapes we have on our door step in Caithness and Sutherland. Coming to volunteer at Forsinard has certainly been a great decision as I’ve really enjoyed my time here and definitely learnt a lot!

Over the past 3 months I’ve been able to get involved in a range of different things such as poetry workshops, environmental education (both at schools and on the reserve), organising family events, artist workshops, practical reserve work, training courses and working with local museums.

One of my favourite projects was organising workshops with three local primary schools in Sutherland to produce some artwork to go into Timespan, a museum and contemporary art gallery in Helmsdale, as part of their Edge of Time exhibition opening in June. It was such great fun working with the kids to produce some Dragonfly models that will represent peatland ecology for the exhibition, which will run until September.

I’ve always had a keen interest in the arts, dabbling in painting and illustration since I was a teenager as well as a more recently in Scottish history, culture and folklore. This internship has been a great way to use my more creative side and link it with conservation. I think it’s important to incorporate arts and heritage into the way we engage with people about the environment. It might be a less traditional way of doing things but all these aspects of our local environment are so interconnected and it allows you to reach lots of different groups.

The new field centre is a lovely place to stay as it is also used by visiting scientists, artists,  RSPB staff members and volunteers who come up to Forsinard to work so it’s a hive of activity and a great way to connect with different people. You also become very connected with the peatlands, as the centre is located in the heart of the Flow Country. My earliest memories of spending time out in the peatlands was  as a kid accompanying my dad to work when he was the Halkirk postie, driving along the dusty roads and spotting lots of wildlife in between delivering the mail! I’ve been able to make the most of the lengthening evenings and get out around the reserve, taking my sketchbook with me. The landscape offers so much inspiration for paintings with its ever changing moods and colours – it never looks the same!

Most importantly, during my time volunteering for the project I have realised that the people engagement side of conservation is what I enjoy the most and is definitely the route I would like to go down in the future. Over the next year I will be moving onto two other placements with the RSPB on the Isle of Hoy and Isle of Coll. I am sad to be leaving Forsinard just as lots of exciting projects and events are being planned. However, I’m excited to build on the skills I’ve learnt here by keeping my hand in with arts, community engagement and youth work in other locations around Scotland.