Meet Ashley Pinnock: dormouse monitor
In this series, we chat to the dedicated staff members, conservation partners and volunteers at PTES. We find out why each of them chose a career in wildlife conservation, what they find rewarding about their work and what they love most about what they do.
Dormouse monitor at Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex
Tell us about yourself and the site you monitor
I’ve been working for Essex & Suffolk Water for the last four years as their Conservation Advisor. I also lead the dormouse monitoring at our 48ha woodland site which sits on the west bank of Hanningfield Reservoir. We have two areas that we monitor with a total of 56 boxes.
What’s the most memorable day you’ve had looking for dormice?
A visit in November 2012, when I found my first dormouse. You never forget your first! It was a torpid dormouse which I was able to hold in my very own hands (see photo below): a magical experience for me.
How long have you been monitoring for?
I’ve been monitoring dormice for nine years now. Initially I was a trainee with Southend Dormouse Group, monitoring the population at Hadleigh Great Wood in Essex. That’s where I embarked on my journey towards obtaining my Natural England licence which I’ve had for three years. In 2018, after joining Essex & Suffolk Water, I began dormouse monitoring at Hanningfield Reservoir.
Describe your woodland and why it’s special to you?
The wood is a wonderful place to be. Unique in many aspects, it has no public access and covers the western bank of a large reservoir with other great habitats nearby including reedbeds, grassland, hedgerows and ponds. It’s mostly mixed plantation, connecting and buffering ancient woodland. Without visitors, it’s a very quiet and peaceful location where you’re always guaranteed fantastic wildlife sightings, whether it’s our resident pair of ravens, a marsh harrier, or – if you’re really lucky – you might catch a glimpse of the majestic purple emperor butterfly or an elusive otter. Being a nature enthusiast the woodland at Hanningfield is very special to me. It’s always full of surprises, it’s a diverse site and you never know what exciting wildlife you might find each time you visit
What are the challenges at the site?
The greatest challenge we face on site is poor woodland infrastructure including access to and within the woodland, this really impedes our efforts to manage the wood as effectively as we’d like. Deer and their browsing impacts on tree regeneration and woodland composition also present a challenge.
Tell us something about you we wouldn’t expect from a dormouse monitor?
In my earlier years I spent a winter season working in the Alps which enabled me to spend lots of time doing one of my favourite pastimes, skiing.
Can you help us reintroduce more dormice to the wild?