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Soldiers help with Southlands clean-up

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Lance Corporal Kallan Thomas cleans his chainsaw after working on scrub and tree clearance at the Southlands estate in Warwick (Photograph supplied)

Soldiers reinforced civilian volunteers as part of a drive to clear vegetation at an historic estate now designated as a national park, at the weekend.

About 20 troops from the Royal Bermuda Regiment teamed up with volunteers recruited by the Government’s Mirrors organisation, a personal development programme for young people, and Department of Parks staff.

Kim Jackson, the programme manager at Mirrors, said: “We want to kick off monthly community clean-ups of Southlands and get the public involved in community engagement, as well as learning about the history of the site.”

Ms Jackson added: “It’s a collaboration between Mirrors and the parks department and we asked the regiment for some support.

“They’ve been fantastic. We so much appreciate the regiment because they boost up the manpower.

“And, because they have people with chainsaws, that helps us enormously, as the volunteers can focus on picking things up and putting them in the trucks while the regiment does the specialist work.”

Margot Shane, the Mirrors office manager, added: “They’re half the people here, I think that says it all.”

Many of the soldiers involved have only just returned from the gruelling multinational Exercise Tradewinds held in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The volunteers targeted invasive species at the near 40-acre South Shore Road estate and cut back bushes and trees in the first of what is expected to be regular clear-up events at the estate.

Lance Corporal Orville Hall, of the RBR’s humanitarian aid and disaster relief specialist B Company, said: “I’m enjoying it. Our expertise makes a big difference and I was happy to help — I like helping out people.”

Colour Sergeant Harry Hunt, the RBR’s chief armourer, was the link between Mirrors and the RBR and helped organise the military contingent for Saturday’s clean-up effort.

He said: “We were happy to assist. It’s important because it allows Bermudians to see us working here as well as overseas.

“We also have a lot of useful skills that are transferable to a wide range of civilian applications.”

Colour Sergeant Hunt added: “It also helps us improve our initiative and teamwork, so everybody’s happy.”

Southlands, bought in 1913 by Scots-Canadian department store tycoon James Morgan, who turned it into a series of ornamental gardens and pools based on former quarries that dotted the area, was sold by Mr Morgan’s son after the businessman died in the 1930s.

The estate passed through several hands before it was acquired by the Bermuda Government in 2010 in a land swap with the Morgan’s Point site in Southampton to save the open space from a hotel development and retain it as parkland.

Lance Corporal Jiquena Furbert helps fill a parks department truck with chopped back vegetation at the Southlands estate (Photograph supplied)
Kim Jackson, left, and Margot Shane of Mirrors flank a Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier in a break from a clean-up at the Southlands estate (Photograph supplied)
Colour Sergeant Harry Hunt of the RBR at the Mirrors-organised clean up at the Southlands estate (Photograph supplied)
Volunteers and soldiers team up for the clearance of overgrown vegetation at the Southlands estate (Photograph supplied)