Like the majority of wildlife enthusiasts, I was incredibly excited when I first heard of the proposed pine marten reintroduction to the Forest of Dean and Lower Wye Valley. As a Forest Ranger living and working within the region, I understood many of the benefits that this rare native mustelid would bring back to the woodlands. Consequently, I immediately began to look for opportunities to become involved and to deepen my level of understanding.
In time, I became a core volunteer within the pine marten feasibility group and under the direction of Dr Andrew Stringer, helped to collate a range of detailed information. This included involvement with squirrel damage assessments to trees, habitat suitability surveys, fox density studies, road mortality risks and public consultations to gauge opinion on the proposed reintroduction. It was an exciting phase, and I learned a lot from these experiences.
Simultaneously, I utilised my position as a Forest Holidays Ranger to raise awareness of the ecological role of pine martens through regular guided walks and presentations. I was keen to fund raise in support of the project and motivated by discussions with Andrew, I signed up to run a series of endurance events that would replicate the distance of the marten translocation from Scotland. This provided an opportunity for individuals who attended walks and talks to donate directly towards the project should they choose.
I dived in at the deep end and completed the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra marathon as my first event. Taking a steady pace throughout, I completed the 43.5 miles in just over 8 hours and felt surprisingly fresh afterwards. It felt good to get the first event done and just a couple of weeks later I was lining up for my second, the Forest of Dean Spring Trails Half Marathon. Converting from ultra-pace to a faster sharper pace was quite challenging but I gritted through and completed another 13 miles towards my overall goal.