Grass Roots Open Writers

Liz Jury 
 08 July 2013

My favourite places

I live on a farm in the middle of the countryside. It is very peaceful and beautiful place to be. There are cows, sheep, horses, chickens, all the usual farm animals to look after, there is always plenty to do here, never a dull moment. It is an organic farm, which means that there we do not use any chemicals. I Due to this, the wildlife here is thriving.

When I do get a few minutes to myself, I have a favourite place to go to on the farm. I saddle up my horse, Chelsea and take her up to this special place. It is a wild flower meadow high up on a hill. It is a bit of a climb but it is well worth it. Once we reach the top of the meadow, I stop and take in the view.  It is idyllic looking down over the wildflower meadow,  a vibrant mixture of colours sunshine yellow sunflowers, cornflowers, and my favourite bright red poppies. I like  to take in the aroma of the wildflowers. It is so peaceful here, all I can hear is the sound of Chelsea contently grazing and the sound of the stream that runs along the bottom of the meadow.  

Beyond the wildflower meadow I can see rolling green fields. I can just about see the sea in the distance, it is almost the same colour blue as the sky. it is hard to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. There is nobody else here, just me and Chelsea, just for an hour or so it is like noone else exists. I can sit amongst the wild flowers and eat my picnic.

All too soon it is time to leave this magical place, there are chores to be done but i know we can always return here anytime we want. I never tell anyone where we are going, it is our special secret place.

By Elizabeth Jury

My experience as a whale and dolphin conservation volunteer

I have completed a BSC degree in animal management. It was a three year course and we went on lots of different animal based trips and outings. I think the best trip that I went on as part of the course was one of the best holidays I have ever been on. We went to Tenerife for 2 weeks to work as volunteers for the Atlantic Whale Foundation.

For the few days we were based at the site at which we would be staying for our time there. We spent those first few days being educated on whales and dolphins. A lot of people didn’t like this and found it boring but I was fascinated and wanted to learn more about these beautiful creatures. We were also taught to some basic Spanish phrases. This part of the trip was essential to prepare us for what was coming next.

 We were given information packs and thrown in at the deep end. We were sent onto whale watching boats. Our role as Atlantic Whale watch volunteers was to talk to anyone that would listen, try and educate them on whales and dolphins, and answer any questions that they had. Most people we found were very friendly and interested in what work we were doing.
The main species we saw on our regular trip were bottle nosed dolphins and Pilot whales. If we came across any whales or dolphins, it was all hands on deck.  It was amazing to see them as their dorsal fins gently broke the waters surface. They would pause for a moment as their blow holes opened to let the air in, then closed before they went back under the water. They would arrive in groups, sometimes there would be small groups of 3 or 4 but there could be up to 20 in a group. Sometimes if they were feeling playful, the dolphins would jump out of the water with a flying leap, sometimes somersaulting mid air before crashing back into the water with a huge splash. It was truly amazing to watch their acrobatics.
Volunteers had to take pictures, it was particularly important to focus on the dorsal fins as the dorsal fins are completely unique to the individual. Every fin is different as  they all have marks and injuries from attacks from other whales or dolphins and, or just other marks. Some have bits of their dorsal fins missing.  We also had to try and encourage people to send their children to our club for kids.
When we were not working on the boats, we were either sited near the boat ports where the Atlantic Whale Foundation volunteers were running an educational club for kids, trying to educate the younger generation about whales and dolphins, and teaching them how important they are. It was important to target children as if we can get them interested, they would pass their passion down to future generations.
Either that or we would be sited at the Atlantic Whale foundations main base. At the main base, they have a computer system with pictures of all of the known whales and dolphins in the area and have given names to them all. Our job, with support from  more experienced volunteers was to match up pictures taken by volunteers from the whale watching boats with pictures on the system so we they could record which dolphins and whales had been seen. This information is important as it helps the Atlantic Whale Foundation with ongoing research projects into things like behaviour and the impact of boats.

I really enjoyed working for the Atlantic Whale Foundation, it was a very memorable experience. I didn’t want to leave. All of the older, more experienced volunteers were so approachable and friendly, I learnt a lot from them. The end of the volunteering came too soon, I didn’t want to leave this beautiful place. I hope I can go back there someday and help them with the invaluable work that they do to conserve these fascinating  creatures .

By Elizabeth Jury

My favourite holiday

I couldn't believe it!! we were finally here !!! I didn't think this day was ever going to come but here we were just landed in Johannesburg airport South Africa. We were going to have the holiday of a lifetime on an African Safari in Kruger national park.

It was mainly for my benefit really, I have always had a rather unusual fascination you see. Ever since I was a child I have been obsessed with elephants. I am interested in African wildlife in general but it has always been elephants in particular.  I used to collect everything I could to do with elephants and watch them for hours at the zoo. And now, after 26 years of waiting I finally had my chance to see them in the wild.

We were met at the airport by our guide, Pete. I was bubbling with excitement, not long now and i might be face to face with my childhood obsession. I was a little disappointed when Pete said that the park was a four hour drive away. My disappointment didn't last long. The route to the park took us up through the stunning drakensberg mountains. The views were breathtaking.

When we finally arrived at the park, Pete asked us what we would like to see as we had a few hours before dark. Leopard I answered just for a joke. I knew that leopards were rarely seen. Sure enough Pete explained this was unlikely. He drove on, just around the corner. Pete had to eat his words. He stared open mouthed.  There, at the side of the road in broad daylight was an adult male leopard. Eventually, Pete drove on. You are very lucky, exclaimed Pete that's the best leopard sighting i have had in 30 years doing this job.  I think this is going to be a lucky holiday laughed my mum

We hadn't got very far before Pete was forced to grind to a halt again.  This was the moment I had been waiting for. There, blocking the road was the most magnificent animal I had ever seen. It was only our first day, and here was my first elephant. It was a huge adult male eating from a tree. When he moved, Pete laughed I didn't think he was ever going to move. It turned out we had been waiting 20 minutes.

Mum turned out to be right, it was a very lucky holiday. Over the next few days, we saw giraffe, rhino, buffalo and hyena to name a few. My favourite was a herd of elephants with young. The babies were running around, playing together. It was by far the highlight of the holiday for me. All too soon it was time for us to leave the park. We moved on to the garden route. Along the garden route, we visited an elephant sanctuary. We had the opportunity to touch them and even got to have a ride on a bull with a guide of course. I definitely preferred Kruger though, nothing could top seeing them in the wild where they belong. I would love to go back one day, this was my favourite place

By Elizabeth Jury


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