New year, new hobby - volunteering for your local Wildlife Trust

Volunteers by Jess Gallagher

Despite starting the year with New Year’s Resolutions it’s easy to slip back into familiar routines. I’ve tried painting, joining a choir, Zumba classes, briefly at least. Then a few years ago I made a resolution that I’ve actually stuck to.

I decided to volunteer at a monthly volunteer group for BBOWT. It was close to where I live and just one morning a month, so the commitment wasn’t huge, but the rewards have been well worth it - eight years later I’m still there. 

Nearly 2,000 volunteers across Berks, Bucks and Oxon contribute 32,000 volunteer sessions every year. It’s an astonishing figure and one that shows the importance of the contribution that all volunteers make helping BBOWT to protect local wildlife. 

For example, some volunteers carry out hundreds of biological surveys on our nature reserves. The results help the Wildlife Trust to understand how habitat management work is improving the reserves for wildlife and what needs to change. 

It’s not just the wildlife that benefits; there are many bonuses for volunteers, too. Volunteering can help people stay physically and mentally active for longer.

Volunteer

My group of volunteers is made up of a whole range of people of all ages, from those in their 20s who are looking for experience in order to gain paid work in conservation to others who are retired and enjoying keeping busy and ‘giving something back’. 

We get involved in a whole range of activities over the course of a year. In winter, it’s often cutting things down which is important as the space created, and new growth that results, brings so many benefits for wildlife. 

We cut down shrubs and small trees in woodland to allow spring sunlight to reach the woodland floor, which encourages flowers to grow, bringing insects and birds too. 

Hedge-laying makes hedges sturdier as a barrier and thicker over time, providing nesting sites for birds, shelter for small mammals and, of course, flowers, nuts and berries as food for wildlife through the course of a year.

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In spring, we cart wheelbarrow loads of woodchip to make a seating area for an education area where BBOWT inspires thousands of schoolchildren about wildlife and conservation each year.

We help make habitat piles for wildlife, clear out clogged up ponds, and rake endless amounts of cut grass. It’s not just the thought that I’m helping wildlife that keeps me coming back. I’ve made friends in the group (and managed to encourage a couple of my friends to join us too). I get some exercise outside in the fresh air and I’ve learnt new skills – from identifying more plants and animals to the best way to rake a field.

Throughout Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire there’s a whole range of volunteering opportunities with BBOWT on offer. Getting out and about, hands-on and in the fresh air is what I love, but there are plenty of other ways to get involved, from helping at events, for example, to giving a hand at BBOWT offices or at visitor centres.

I’m sure that if doing something useful is one of your New Year’s resolutions then becoming a volunteer for BBOWT will be a resolution that’s easy to keep.

Find a volunteering opportunity near you