A new 48 acre nature reserve at Elvetham Heath, Fleet, will be opening soon and Laura Willing has been appointed as the warden.

Laura (25) will be working with young visitors as well as doing conservation work. She said developers have already done much of the work of laying paths and boardwalks over wet areas.

She was glad that some residents are already using the walks, which meander through three types of area: wet woodlands, heathland and rough pasture.

Some of the pasture is covered in bracken and Laura has already had this treated with a herbicide. The poison is taken down to the roots, so that the pervasive fern will not come up again next year. Any re-growth will be treated again next year, leaving lots of open space for heather to grow.

One of Laura's jobs is making sure no plant dominates the site, crowding everything else out.

One of the entrances to the reserve is at the "village pond" created at the heart of the new estate. Classes of schoolchildren will be able to do their pond-dipping there, identifying the insects and water creatures they find from nature sheets.

The reserve will not only be home to deer, badgers and foxes. Snakes are also being encouraged. Large mounds have been specially constructed to help snakes to breed. The huge hibernaculums are made of logs piled up and covered with earth. Pipes provide entrances so that snakes can crawl into the middle and hibernate.

Laura said she loves her new job and had always wanted to work with animals. She studied zoology and became interested in conservation as well. She has worked to save loggerhead turtles in Greece.

She said there was a lot of competition for jobs as rangers and she advises youngsters who want similar careers to do voluntary work. "The more experience they get, the better," she said.

Laura hopes that local people will become voluntary wardens, helping to keep a general eye on the site. Anyone who would like to get involved can ring her on 01252 623443.

Although the official opening is not until October, people are welcome to visit the reserve.

PICTURE: Laura Willing at the new reserve. The large dark mound behind her at the base of the trees is a "hibernaculum" for snakes.