Heart of England Forest staff and volunteers at Coughton Park

 

The Heart of England Forest is grateful to all its volunteers for putting their heart and soul into helping to create and manage our ever expanding newly planted native broadleaved woodland.

Volunteering can take many forms, from planting the all-important trees, managing our mature woodlands, gardening at the Garden of Heroes and Villains, taking the lead in wildlife surveys, helping out at events, to leading a guided walk, taking and sending us your wonderful photographs, making cakes, helping with news articles….

As you can see there are never ending possibilities!

Here we asked a few of our volunteers why they chose to get involved with the Heart of England Forest and what they enjoy about volunteering.

Husband and wife Dave and Val Rawlings have been volunteering in the Heart of England Forest for a number of years now, and we asked Dave why they decided to get involved:

“I’ve always been an outdoor person and my interest in the Forest first came when walking a variety of dogs along public footpaths in the Studley, Spernal and Morton Bagot areas, and seeing the Forest being planted and growing in both age and size. On retirement in 2015, I started volunteering and turned up for a volunteer day where we were preparing for a large planting event. For six months, I did whatever was on the work list, and arrived home with tales of the day. In March 2016, upon her retirement, Val joined a volunteer day in Bannams Wood where she thoroughly enjoyed building wind-rows and burning brash as an entry to forest work.”

And what about the tasks they enjoy the most?

“Being fit and healthy, I prefer the heavier tasks such as woodland management (hacking, slashing, felling and dragging) and tree stake thumping, but not planting, it’s too monotonous! Val is happier to get involved with less energetic tasks such as distributing tree whips and tubes during planting season and general weeding/trimming at other times of the year. Val also supplies cakes on volunteer days. Helping at events such as our Bluebell Wood Charity Weekend at Alne Wood Park, is a favourite of Val’s, where she really enjoys taking money from people at the gate to support the charity’s fundraising!”

What would you say to encourage anyone thinking about volunteering with the Heart of England Forest?

“Volunteers by their very nature are people who care about nature and their surroundings. We have a great mix of people, with break-time discussions varying from music and sport to the merits of butterfly conservation and tree identification. The work undertaken is of the volunteers’ own choosing within the jobs laid out for day, with no targets or work time limits imposed. The day is very much a social get-together with people chatting during the course of the work. As a group, we now enjoy a Christmas and a Summer Luncheon, both of which have been very well supported.”

 

Lynn Merrick started volunteering after enjoying a walk in the Heart of England Forest, and became a Friend of the Forest after her Dad gave it to her as a gift. Lynn can be found regularly helping out in the Garden of Heroes and Villains.

“I volunteer because, well, it feels like I can give, in some small way, back to being outdoors in an environment I love. As a bonus, it’s a lot more fun than the gym, and the perfect antidote to a noisy classroom where I spend Mondays!”

Lynn adds, “There are many aspects to volunteering. I love gardening too, and recently have been helping at Garden of Heroes and Villains. A very special place, it changes all the time, and it’s good to come away seeing the plants emerge from the soil where weeds once were.”

We asked Lynn if she had any favourite activities:

“No favourites, but there are special moments. Like the moment I turned around in the garden on hearing movement, and a beautiful hare was staring at me. Having found a sunny spot in the Icarus garden, I must have disturbed his peace. Recently when helping at an open weekend, one of the best things was seeing the reaction of first time visitors as they walked around, and finding out that whilst they may have come from all over the world, they may also be from down the road in Stratford, and didn’t even know it existed.”

 

At least once a month we organise Saturday volunteer days and Kathy Cox is one of our regular volunteers. We asked Kathy why she decided to volunteer?

“Being an outdoor person, with a love of nature and sustainability, and a passion for giving back to the community, it seemed the obvious choice to get involved with the Heart of England Forest.”

Kathy adds, “The tree planting is what I enjoy the most. It’s great exercise, fantastic fun, as there are many laughs throughout the day, but it is also such a worthwhile task as it makes a difference for the generations to come, both for their enjoyment, and for the sustainability of the region and in a small way, the world.”

If, like Kathy, you would like to join in planting up the Forest then come along to our Volunteer Saturday on 25th November when we celebrate the start of National Tree Week by planting young saplings. To get involved please email volunteer@hoef.co.uk.

We asked Kathy, what would you say to encourage anyone thinking about volunteering with the Heart of England Forest?

“The best way to find out if it’s for you is to come along and see, just give it a try. The team at the Heart of England Forest is fantastic and great fun to work alongside. There are so many tasks to do that there is always something you can do regardless of your fitness levels and capabilities. Giving back to the community is such a rewarding thing to do. So not only do you get some exercise, if you are tree planting, but you also get that warm fuzzy glow of knowing you helped to make a difference.”

There’s a wide variety of opportunities to get involved with at the Heart of England Forest – from developing or learning new skills in forestry, wildlife conservation, social media or marketing – to enjoying meeting new people, making new friends and getting out in the great outdoors.

If you’ve been inspired by our volunteers then why not get in touch: volunteer@hoef.co.uk or 01789 778541. We would love to hear from you.