This week is Volunteers’ Week, an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering, and we are celebrating our amazing army of volunteers who help us grow the Forest.
From all walks of life, and with different motivations, our volunteers are united in their love of the great outdoors and desire to play a part in creating a Forest to benefit future generations.
Last year our volunteers spent an incredible 5,864 hours helping us with all aspects of creating and managing the Forest, including tree planting, wildlife surveying and assisting with our education programmes. This is equivalent to almost three full time members of the forestry team. So, why do our volunteers choose to give their time to help the Heart of England Forest?
We volunteer to help save the planet
Connor, supported by his mum Anne, joined our regular volunteers for the winter tree planting season. Driven by his passionate views about the environment, Connor was eager to plant trees to do his part to help mitigate climate change.
“Volunteering in the Forest has been such a positive experience. Everyone was so welcoming to us both” said Connor’s mum Anne. “Connor has learning difficulties and is not able to work, but tree planting gave him a real sense of purpose and his confidence has really grown. Helping the planet is something that is very important to Connor, and volunteering in this way enabled him to be proactive and do something worthwhile.
“By the end of the season Connor was happy to work alongside some of the other volunteers, which gave him some independence. He really enjoyed being with like-minded people too. It’s been fantastic seeing such positive changes in Connor and we hope to do more volunteering in the future.”
I volunteer to give something back to nature
Alan has been volunteering with us for three years, and it is his love of nature that brought him to the Forest.
“Why did I get involved in volunteering? For one thing, it is good to get out in the fresh air, meet like-minded people and it is good for the environment. But I also volunteer to give something back to nature in recognition for all the great times that I have had from it.
“My interest in nature and the natural environment started many years ago as a boy in the early 1960’s. My early years were not spent in the woods and forests, nor the rivers and open meadows, no, for me it was on the slag heaps, disused canals and waste lands of the post-industrial Black Country.
“You may think this a very unlikely place to start to learn about nature, but I soon got to understand that animals learn to adapt to what they have and make the best of it. Also, there was the chance to make a change, to clear streams and ponds of rusty metal drums, old bike frames etc. Even before this was done, nature was all around if you knew where to look.
“Three years ago, I turned up for my first volunteer day at the Forest’s tree nursery, and after being made very welcome found myself covering newly planted seeds with netting to protect them. Many great times followed, getting involved with woodland maintenance and tree planting.
“I am now involved in the biodiversity monitoring side of the Forest. Following training, a group of us started to survey butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles and plants, maintain bird and dormouse boxes and restore heath land. This led to a few of us being asked to give talks and practical demonstrations to the forestry team, our monthly Young Foresters club, and work experience children. I like passing on what knowledge I have to a new generation and anyone else who will listen!”
I volunteer to stay active
Claire, one of our newest volunteers, started volunteering in the Forest just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“It all began with a visit to the Garden of Heroes and Villains where I was totally blown away by the scale of the charity’s work and the beauty of the sculptures – all so different, but equally lovely.
“I have done a variety of volunteering jobs most of my adult life but most of all I love being active. I volunteer in a couple of National Trust gardens which satisfies my love of gardening, but a friend mentioned the work of the Heart of England Forest and the need for regular volunteers to help with planting, caring for and maintaining the woodlands.
“After only experiencing three days of volunteering in the Forest, I can tell it is going to be huge fun. On my first day, the weather was appalling – I think at one point the rain was horizontal – but the planting of saplings continued in an atmosphere of good humour, with us all united in a common ambition to plant as many trees as possible.
“My second day was pollarding elsewhere in the Forest, again supported by a member of the forest team and knowledgeable and good-humoured volunteers. How many times in life do you get the chance to learn about ancient activities that have been going on for centuries?
“A bi-product of volunteering is the people you meet. These people have had a lifetime of experiences in the world of work, often not associated with the work of the Forest, and they share their knowledge and experience generously and kindly.
“A volunteering day is never dull and often a huge laugh. Once the coronavirus lockdown is eased the joy of volunteering will be even greater, and I cannot wait to get back out in the Forest.”
Volunteer with us
Would you like to learn more about volunteering and helping to grow the Forest?
You can find out more and sign up for volunteering news updates on our volunteer web page.