Looking after our growing band of volunteers is an integral role at the Heart of England Forest. Jonathan recently joined the charity as our Volunteer Manager, moving to the Midlands from Essex where he’d worked as a Country Parks Ranger. We caught up with Jonathan to find out more about him and his role.
What are your main responsibilities as Volunteer Manager?
I’m responsible for developing and implementing the volunteering programme across the charity. I lead volunteers in practical management tasks, contact volunteers regarding opportunities, and ensure that volunteering within the Heart of England Forest is safe and well managed in all areas.
What particularly appealed about working at the Heart of England Forest?
I’ve worked for several organisations that manage woodland and the surrounding habitats, but never for an organisation creating and developing woodland. Our current levels of forest cover in the UK are very poor, so the concept of creating woodland is a wonderful idea.
I love the concept of re-creating a forest that once stretched throughout the area, and the scale of the work completed and the vision of the charity is inspiring. The staff and volunteers I met during my interview solidified my opinion that the Forest would be a brilliant place to work.
What does your typical day look like?
My working week varies quite a bit with my time split between being in the office and out with our volunteers. My time in the office is spent planning and organising future volunteer sessions and working on the wider volunteer strategy We have exciting plans to widen volunteering to cover all aspects of our charitable work, from forestry to finance and surveying to social media.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent with our regular volunteer groups, working on various projects across the forest. The rest of the time I can usually be found out in the woods undertaking planning, leading corporate volunteer groups or assisting with events and education sessions, such as our new Young Foresters club. I certainly keep busy!
What does the future hold for Forest volunteers?
In the coming months I am looking to develop our volunteers further, giving them the chance to master new skills and the opportunity to lead each other on volunteering tasks. The amount of land we have to manage and survey is constantly growing, so upskilling our volunteers will allow us to get out into more of the Forest more often. It’s an exciting concept and will really diversify the range of projects which can be undertaken by our volunteers.
I’m excited about introducing Volunteer Taster Days across the Forest. Volunteering with the Heart of England Forest isn’t just about planting trees – there are many other opportunities to get involved. I’m always looking for new ways to introduce people to the Forest, as well as helping current volunteers do something new. Taster Days may focus on one topic, for example biodiversity survey work, or cover a variety of Forest tasks such as roving reporting or managing our tree nursery. They’ll provide a relaxed setting for volunteers to try various tasks and hopefully fuel a new passion or interest.
What are the best things about your job?
My favourite days are those which I can spend outdoors with volunteers. I love sharing the experience with others and passing down skills and knowledge relating to the natural environment, plus taking on board new information from others. It really makes my day.
Get ‘hands on’ and volunteer in the Forest
Do you fancy joining Jonathan and his merry band of volunteers? Whether you have spare time in the week or occasionally at the weekends, there are lots of volunteering opportunities in the Forest. No experience is required, just plenty of enthusiasm!