PEATS Student Reports

This page is where you will find reports and photos from participants about their experiences on our PEATS placements.

PETS is the predecessor project to PEATS

Placement: Slovenia Host: Jarica

Harri Williams, 2018 participant

“I learned a great deal about ecology and conservation, botany, the local flora and fauna; gained skills in crafts such as basket-weaving, straw-weaving, candle-making, pottery. I have improved my ability to identify many different plants. insects and birds; aside from learning a great deal about the biology of the place, I also feel I have benefited hugely in terms of personal development, as I come away from the placement feeling far more confident in myself and more adaptable to new situations.”

John Hart, 2017 participant

“Walking along rivers and around oxbow lakes allowed us to see and learn about some ecologically important environments. I enjoyed learning about important aquatic plant species, like the carnivorous bladderwort Utricularia, which uses pockets of low pressure to suck invertebrates into its digestive areas. We learned that the desire of Austrian companies to build hydroelectric dams threatens the ecology of the river Mura and that farming practices are causing pollution and evaporation of oxbow lakes (by removing the trees that formerly provided shade). A change in legislation could help protect these habitats but the Slovenia government will not pass any laws that could potentially  slow economic growth (sound familiar?)/ Although it was sad to learn that many of the natural spaces in Prekmurje are under threat, I loved visiting them, learning about new species and talking about what could be done to protect them.

During our stay in Slovenia, we spent three weeks living in the city of Murska Sobota, in the agricultural region Prekmurje. Our hosts, Erna, Branko, Tim, Uroš, took us all over the region, teaching us about the area’s culture, history, biology and ecological management. Being a horticulture student, I was keen to be shown plant species that I had not seen before, especially those of special ecological importance. Branko was perfect for this, and also taught us about bird and insect species with great passion and enthusiasm. I particularly enjoyed learning about important hay meadow species and the relationships between them.”

Rosie Parsons, 2017 participant

“From picking up the language and understanding the differences in local dialect, to learning traditional arts and crafts with straw and corn husks, learning about the management of forests and hay meadows as well as the management of stock owned in Slovenia. I found it fascinating learning about the flora and fauna there and what an experience it was to see it all first hand! The buildings particularly in the upper regions were so beautiful and so much more plasing to the eye! Even the flats in the Murska Sobota were made to look nice with hanging baskets and flowers to add colour and life. The scenery was absolutely stunning throughout Slovenia and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet such kind and intelligent people.”

Chris Butler, 2015 participant

“It was a really interesting programme and the host organisation did a wonderful job of arranging everything and making it a very fulfilling experience – they could not have done any more to provide an excellent programme and a very warm welcome. The sending organisation were extremely well organised, efficient and helpful. I feel privileged to have been able to participate and it offered many benefits and insights to my professional practice.”

Placement: Germany, Woodland Management Host: Bildungshaus Heideland

Sonja Salminiitty, 2018 participant

“During my training period abroad I did traditional hay meadow management, landscape and sustainable rural development, controlling invasive species such as prunus americana, and reviewing drought control as well as forest fire management. I also participated in community environmental work within the nature park, maintaining built heritage, bird ringing with wildlife specialists, and German language courses.

We had an excellent person called Peter Kaiser and he was very knowledgeable about the history of Berlin and the Berlin Wall and other historical events and the environment. He was very interactive and very keen to tell us everything he knew about woodland management. Secondly he was very helpful just in general and a lovely person. The other people we worked with again were very knowledgeable and taught us everything about traditional hay Meadow management too using a chainsaw properly and cleaning it out efficiently”.

Colin Hardacre, 2018 staff participant

“Everyone was very welcoming, helpful and eager to share with us their natural and cultural treasures. The accommodation was comfortable and provided a great location for travelling around the area. Our guides/translators, Maxe and Stephanie, were an absolute asset as most of the group were relying on translation materials; and they were able to provide a personal perspective on the places we visited and things we saw. It was great to see how Erasmus+ projects are used to benefit a diverse range of interests and specialisms in a way that knowledge and experiences can be shared.”

Ben Nicholls, 2018 participant

“I’ve learnt so much and now have a better understanding towards the environment and how people are trying to maintain its historical history and the natural wildlife. Overall I’ve learnt a whole new Outlook on Forestry and how the systems works. Spending this amount of time in another country gives you a different aspect on life. For me I now want to learn German and study there in future.”

Ryan Gledhill, accompanying person for the 2015 group

“The group was involved in many different tasks during the 4 week trip from woodland management to heritage restoration. The students all had experience in certain areas within land management but excelled in the challenges they faced in undertaking jobs they had little or no experience in. Some of the tasks assigned to the team included restoration of a Germanic longhouse, Heathland management, learning from a local forest manager and wetland manager, removal and processing of storm damaged trees, and taking part in a wood carving festival.

The wood carving festival seemed to be the biggest highlight for the team. It is one of the biggest events for the local area and the team was involved in setting up the festival as well as taking part in the competition itself. It gave the team a great opportunity to learn skills they may never have had a chance to otherwise, as well as meet new people. This year one of the students even won an award for his carving.

It was a fantastic trip for the team who all got along very well and showed great initiative to work together, share and exercise what translations they knew and had learned when working with the local people, and made the whole experience something to remember and be proud of.”

Placement: Czech Republic  Host: Apple Farm

Lauren Maslin, Josephine Bridgman and Sabika Asif 2015 Participants

Please read the pdf available to download from the right hand side of this page.

Chris Hinchliff, 2015 Participant

“Working on Apple Farm was great fun and informative. Rudolf, Veronika, and Krystina were all extremely kind and helpful. I learnt a lot about land management techniques appropriate for a small scale organic farm, as well as about tree and herb identification and uses. The work was really enjoyable and involved splitting logs, making hay compost and mulch piles, scything, coppicing, pruning, weeding, and fruit thinning and picking. The location was beautiful and I liked watching sunsets around the open fire, and walking through the surrounding forests. As well as work and learning we were also given many cultural experiences including fascinating trips to Kutná Hora and Prague. It was a great way of meeting new people, learning new skills, and experiencing a new culture. Also the food was great.”

Nuri Silay, 2015 participant

“The receiving party (Rudolf Zidek) was a great host. We were a group of 8 students, with all different needs and expectations. He always tried his very best to make sure each and every one of us were happy and had what we asked. He was a great teacher and a great friend at the same time. The activities he provided, the accommodation etc was all great.”

Zora Kizilyurek, 2015 participant

“During my stay, Rudolf our host, was very nice to us. He was not too strict, allowed us to live according to our interests, did not put pressure on us. But at the same time, he was serious when it was necessary such as activity times. He done his best to make us feel comfortable and happy during one month. For example; we needed a fan as it was hot in the beginning he bought one, we could only eat halal meat so he paid for it separately. I dont think anyone can do this job better than him as he is very experienced. During the stay mainly Veronika helped him, she did not speak to us a lot but she was doing her jobwell. Farm is a bit away from the bus stops and the town but again Rudolf done his best to take us either to the town or to the bus stop. Cultural trips were good as well. I only did not enjoy Kutna Hora trip a lot as I think more things could be done that day. Also, tutors were very good at teaching. It is obvious that they are good and they have a good knowledge in their areas. I have learned practical things that I can use in my daily life and in overall i think Apple farm taught me the importance of organic and clean food. So from now on I will be more careful with what I eat and I could find out how difficult and at the same time interesting to grow up vegs and fruits.”

Michael Holland, 2013 participant

“Everyday activities were a combination of the care of the orchard and vegetable garden, maintenance of the land and buildings, gathering and storing of firewood, excursions and teaching and training in horticulture, handicrafts and art. Specific activities undertaken were the following: moving winter firewood from the barn to the wood store Land Art guided walk in the meadows and forest gathering winter firewood guided walk to Polička and return by bus laying tiles cutting and splitting firewood lesson in Czech history, culture and language lesson in growth and pruning of fruit trees mowing grass in yard with push mower guided tour of Litomyšl and trips to swimming pool art project mowing with scythe basket-work with straw and raffia and with willow and raffia grouting tiles pruning and weeding fruit trees weeding and mulching soft fruit tidying barn, sweeping its floor and dismantling one of its internal partitions moving a pile of old bricks and using it to make hard-standing tree identification walk followed by a discussion and revision rebuilding dry-stone wall trip to Polička for shopping and music festival lesson on planning and planting hedges and demonstration of hedge-laying lesson on organic horticulture making compost vegetable gardening and harvesting vegetables identification and uses of herbs picking fruit stoning cherries for jam identification, picking and use of mushrooms fixing stairs in the barn applying lime to stems of fruit trees visit to orchard in Jimramov visit to open-air museum Veselý Kopec visit to Ležáky visit to disused quarry to swim lessons from visiting lecturers on integrated pest management, botanical nomenclature and garden design lesson on root stocks, propagation and grafting sight-seeing visit to Prague carving wood making pizza in wood-fired oven making items from clay trips to Litomyšl to visit Portmoneum and hear concerts cleaning the house.”

Sebastian Austin, 2012 participant

“Having the experience of working on an organic farm in the Czech Republic has given me a great opportunity to show future employers that i have gained knowledge from such an interesting place, which will hopefully put me above others who would be going for the same role.”

Placement: Cyprus, Eco Tourism and Conservation Host: Hylates

Alastair Hogg, 2017 participant

“My team spent the month of July visiting various sites all around Cyprus, with a focus on heritage, conservation and eco-tourism. This included environmental centres, geoparks, monasteries and archaeological visits. we also spent a couple of days a week repairing various nature trails around the island. The placement allowed me to learn about the ecology of Cyprus and the differences between such a hot and dry climate, to the climate of my home in Scotland. The placement also allowed me to learn a deeper history of the ancient civilisations that lived on the island, along with these interesting subjects, I was also exposed to the rich culture of the island, and had ample opportunity to try the delicious food and drink produced on the island, whilst learning Greek throughout the month. Particular highlights include the Troodos Mountain Botanical gardens, and witnessing the difference the centre is making to the huge site of the old asbestos mine. The receiving organisation was very helpful and provided lots of information and assistance throughout the month. The other students on the course were great as well, and the variety of different sites visited was incredible!”

Georgia Gilbert, 2017 participant

“During my training period, I was able to meet an amazing group of people who I will keep in touch with forever. I’ve learnt parts of a new language which I aim to continue to learn now I’m home. I undertook work on maintenance trails, building steps and pathways, making them more accessible for people. I learnt so much cultural and environmental information about Cyprus and how they’re trying to preserve their environment so birds and plant species can continue to survive. I have also learnt about the traditions in Cyprus, how to cook traditional Cypriot meals and activities such as basking, which they’re continuing to teach to their relatives to keep the tradition going.

Future participants, make the most of the time you have out there. Ask local people what’s good to do on weekends and evenings – a month goes by incredibly fast!”

Paddy Rushton, 2015 Participant

“I did this 4 week course in July and had a great time. The accommodation was comfortable, the host was friendly and the other members of the group were friendly and good fun. The work was interesting and quite relaxed. We mostly spent time on a number of nature trails installing fencing, benches and signs. We went on lots of cultural trips to Paphos, Troodos Mountains and Nicosia which was good fun and interesting. Although we were kept busy we also had lots of free time to explore Cyprus. We ate out at local restaurants lots and tried all sorts of Cypriot food. A lot of the spare time was spent at the beach relaxing and enjoying the weather. We were lucky to be given a rental car for some of the time so we could explore other parts of the island including a memorable weekend in Ayia Napa. On other evenings we went to local bars and into Limassol where we particularly enjoyed Guaba beach bar. I had never been to Cyprus before and enjoyed it much more than I expected. I met some great friends and would recommend this to anybody.”

Bradley Bingham, 2014 participant

“Great overall benefits not just practically but on a personal mind level as well. You now have a clear indication as to how much work you can do in a foreign country especially in the heat of the day. Can bring back new skills to England and carry these tasks out here in a much more confident way than before. A great cultural experience. Would recommend taking working gloves with you Bring long trousers for working and shorts for spare time. Thorns get in your legs etc.  Try learning as much Greek as you can, people respect you more and are therefore more willing to helping you out.”

Richard Laurence, 2014 participant

“Immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible. Try all food and drink offered to you, even if you don’t like it! it can be deemed rude not to. Learn as much of the language as possible and frequently put it into practice. The local people, especially in the small villages welcome it so much, and as a result you will make great friends, and the people are much more likely to help you out. Don’t be afraid to spend some free time on your own, spending the whole four weeks with new people day and night can become a little tiring. Lots of visits to various parts of the island every weekend. Visits were made to various beaches, a trip to Limassol from Miliou village in the first week. We visited the Tombs of the Kings in Pafos. I spent a great deal of time learning and practicing the language with local people, who in turn allowed me to pick fruit from their fruit trees. I tried as much local food as possible including souvlaki and souvla. Stopped at many small villages en route to cities or beaches, including the deserted city of Souskiou. Drove the scenic B6 road towards Lemesos, stopping atvarious lookout points, and also to see various points of the Afrodite trail. Spent time re-visiting Miliou village after we had moved on to the next accommodation place, as we had made good friends there in the owners of the local tavern. Visited Pomos. Spent much of the last ten days in the Limassol district, heading out to local bars, beaches and restaurants.”

Shannon Burdett, 2013 participant

“Everyday activities included venturing around the host country and being shown things of interest to us, such as turtle beaches, forests, medieval ruins and we also met some locals of the places we visited and saw their culture and their religion first-hand. We worked at a forest school, helping to manage the weed population and on a nature trail for a combined 6 days in total. Be prepared to live like the locals and to see the side of the country that normal tourists wouldn’t usually see.”

Kirsty Bailey, 2013 participant

“I have learnt what it’s like to live according to a different culture from my own, as well as experience the country as an inhabitant more than a tourist. I have also learnt how to live with people who you are spending 24 hours a day with. I have learnt many skills and have had great experiences that will influence my life when it comes to making decisions and choices. I expect my professional career to be enhanced by this experience as employers will see the value in my spending a month away as an environmental volunteer. I feel more confident in myself and in my job prospects. We went to the local beach almost every afternoon, we ate out a few times, we went to Limassol a couple of times and did some shopping, we went food shopping, we went to local attractions such as monasteries, temple ruins, castles etc. I went scuba diving when we visited Paphos one weekend. We read books and played cards.”

Kathleen Troke, 2012 participant

“I met some fantastic people and learnt a lot about the natural and cultural history as well as the natural environment of a  country that previously I knew little of. I was introduced to new areas of conservation work that I was unfamiliar with in practice before so this has extended and improved my knowledge. I have travelled a fair bit before but with every new adventure I think you are put slightly out of your comfort zone which is always good to challenge you and wake you up a bit to something different. I enjoyed all aspects and am very grateful for the opportunity I was given. We visited archaeological sites, the local beaches, villages and towns. The local bars had some events such as local music and some not so local music so the group would occasionally go for dinner or to a local event. Enjoy the wonderfully friendly and kind locals and learn from them. Do your best to get aquainted with the local language and eat as much as the local fruit as you can.”

Portia Minshull, 2012 participant

“HYLATES LTD are forestry consultants who also provide heritage training and who’s projects involve communities in the area. Our tasks included the construction of a nature trail at Koilani village, which involved digging out a path through a wooded area (Health and Safety lesson was given before hand). We also worked at a forest nursery were we replanted young trees that had out grown their space and pulled weeds from around the saplings. We were also taken to see sites of environment interest such as National Parks, Visitors Centres and botanic gardens as well as sites of cultural interest such as World Heritage monuments, archaeological sites and monasteries. We had weekends free so we visited areas that were not in our programme, such as Pafos and North Nicosia. We also explored the village we were staying in and befriended some locals. Do not forget sunblock and a hat! And remember to be open minded. You are in another country and they may do things differently than you are used to, but that does not mean they are wrong.”

Kelly Woods, 2012 participant

“I have expanded my knowledge, skills and experience within the countryside management industry. I have improved my confidence with future employment and within myself. I have experienced living independently and found it very useful for the future. I expect this experience and great opportunity to contribute to future employment.”

Placement: Cyprus Host: Kato Drys Community Council

Patricia Sellam, 2017 participant

“I had a wonderful time in company of skilled and lovely people. The overall experience was positive with the learning of new skills. the adaptation of the programme was great because it was dependent on the skills of the students. For example, as an ecologist and my skills in mapping, I had the opportunity to conduct surveys while using a drone to take pictures of the sites and map these data. It was a great opportunity to exchange skills and learn from each other”

Sam Colley, 2017 participant

“We did drystone terrace building, fencing without wire, terracing, bee keeping, pointing a church ruin, lime burning, we visited a silversmith and a plant nursery, and did an orchid survey with a drone. Also, I looked after silk worms we had been given, which meant feeding them once a day and cleaning them out once a day. I feel all these things mentioned have increased my knowledge of practical conservation work. One of the key experiences was surveying as well as fencing without wire, which is a transferable skill which I can take back with me”

Lucy Elloway, 2015 participant

“My work placement with Grampus Heritage exceeded all my expectations, our hosts were attentive and our accommodation was lovely. I have learnt many creative skills that were relevant to area we were based in. I believe that these practices gave me an even deeper understanding of the village’s history and culture and greatly enriched my experience. I would recommend these placements to any person who is interested in working in a interesting environment abroad and who is keen to learn and value traditional skills.”

Placement: Slovakia Host: Ipel Union

Savannah Brownlow, 2018 participant

“The placement allowed me to gain a lot of practical and hands on experience within the field of conservation and ecotourism and allowed us to gain skills that would be hard to gain in the UK, such as being involved in bird ringing, dam building and vegetation clearance. I think everyone who attended this placement gained a lot professionally and personally”

Natasha Fletcher, 2018 participant

“I have learned about native wildlife of Slovakia, in particular the waterfowl that migrates through the area. I learned how to take wildlife photography, and how to document different types of species in the area. We restored furniture, helped clear-out a museum being built, and learned a lot about the Hungarian/Slovakian border, the Ipel River, and it’s history. To see and experience wildlife in an intimate way was an incredibly positive experience. Learning about plants, animals, and insects was thoroughly enjoyable and enhanced my understanding of wildlife back home.”

Rena Booth, 2018 staff participant

“I was involved in knowledge transfer of good practice, training and cultural exchange. I also participated with the host and other members of the training team in the facilitation of cooperation across our respective regions; and shared in discussion of ideas on the value and complexities of similar challenges in training, cultural heritage and career progression.

Specific activities at the Poiplie Ramsar site in the Sahy area included:

– Biodiversity survey at the ‘Ricefield’ along the Ipel river and adjoining nature trail to this area;

– Survey and assessment of the habitat and maintenance of about 7km of trails for nature conservancy and ecotourism through the Turkey oak forest Somos Hill;

– Bird survey and ringing at Tesmak with members of Birdlife International (Dusan Kerestur, Marian Mojzis and Ivan Gajdacs) – for e.g. kingfishers, warblers, waterfowl;

– Bat detection at Tesmak and Kingfisher centre;

– Biodiversity survey at the Surdocke meadows along the Ipel river and adjoining nature trail to this area;

– Helped to develop a protocol for biodiversity survey of the area for future student groups;

– Diversity of fauna at the Kingfisher centre;

I also had a lesson in basic Slovak.”

Richard Nokes, 2017 participant

“During this time I worked with a variety of people of a variety nationalities including Slovakian, Hungarian and British. Over the course of these activities I acquired practical skills related to these activities but, perhaps more importantly, my interpersonal and transferable skills such as team work and adaptability where strongly developed.

The key experiences I will take away? mainly meeting new people in new places doing new things and all that these entail.”

Lina Tembo, 2013 participant

“i gained biodiversity recording skills and how to survey. i also learned how to create, maintain and mark up a path pay. My course is very informative but it is more theoretical than practical. this has given me the chance to improve my practical skills. i have also learned how to present your self professionally (particularly in another country). (we did) A lot of reading, watching old DVD’s found at our accommodation, listening to music and eating fruit (after exploring every inch of the town we stayed at there was nothing else). We organized outings amongst ourselves (going to a folk festival, Visagrade and Budapest). play to your strengths and don’t be afraid to go exploring. you will regret not going and you will be bored. also by a lot of water and carry repellent.”

Philippa North, 2013 participant

“Everyday activities: 8:15 start. went to the hill to make a path. tended to finish at 3pm. task was to make a path for customers, which involved tree cutting. Ida was in charge. other activities included path signing. the last week was for surveys, which was very interesting! activities involved using GPS and map to locate streams and then see what we could find. weekends we had off and Ida was more than happy to take us places and show us around. Take games etc to do in the evenings. learn a bit of the language before hand.”

Carys Braidwood, 2012 participant

“Learning Hungarian, local cultural techniques, surveying reptiles and amphibians, interpretation boards and helping on their reserve. Doing this gave me more life experiences and knowledge about culture and conservation in other countries. It has given me more self confidence and inspired me to do more volunteering abroad and at home.”

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.