Practical Conservation Volunteer, Wildlife Gardener, Educational Activities Volunteer and Holywell Warden
You get a real sense of doing something worthwhile and you’re always valued and thanked for your efforts.
I have been a member of NWT for many years and always had an interest in wildlife and conservation. One October day, a few months after I took early retirement from 40 years in the Inland Revenue as a manager and project leader, I saw an advert in the local press for help needed with the SENSE Project at Holywell Pond, which is near where I live. I went along on a taster practical task and became hooked.
I signed up as a Practical Conservation Volunteer and regularly go out on Tuesday task days doing an amazing variety of jobs, seeing many of the Trust's reserves and working with some interesting and fun people. I am never left to struggle with anything, and the staff are excellent at using your individual strengths as part of the team. Job satisfaction is guaranteed! You get a real sense of doing something worthwhile and you’re always valued and thanked for your efforts. I have also been involved with educational activities, and I regularly help out at family and community events. I have recently started volunteering with the Wildlife Gardening group and enjoy that too.
As part of the SENSE project in April 2009, the former Holwell Pond wardens group was reformed to provide a better link between NWT and the pond. As I had an interest, I became a member of the group. I regularly fill the bird feeders and have done several events to raise awareness of the reserve, and joined many task days to help improve the site.
Some of my female friends ask how I can work with groups of men and keep up. The answer is you don’t – you work to your own abilities and as part of a team. It’s not competitive; you contribute what you can. Volunteering for NWT has opened up so many positive things for me and keeps me fit. I know I am helping wildlife for future generations and have a great time with like-minded people.
Practical Conservation Volunteer and Weetslade Warden
There is also a lot to be said about enjoying a packed lunch with friends in the open, with some of the most spectacular views you will ever see.
I’m one of the many volunteers who gives a little time each week to help the Trust. I have spent the last five fascinating years come rain, shine or snow working on some of the best jobs I have ever had.
Six years ago I was offered redundancy, and when I worked out my pension I realised we could manage, and looked forward to having some time for myself. After about six months I was getting overweight, lacking exercise and going stir crazy being in the house most of the day, so I thought 'why not volunteer?' While listening to the radio one day, I heard a programme on volunteering and how so many charities relied on volunteers to keep going. The list of opportunities was huge, but I wanted to work outside so I looked into volunteering with NWT. This is it, I thought, a nice job out in the countryside conserving the environment, that will do me!
So what have I been involved with to make the last five years pass so quickly? Well, on the first day I started as a Practical Conservation Volunteer I was a bit disappointed. I was told we are going to dig over an allotment in Ashington. This can’t be conservation, I thought, but the plot was to be prepared for planting tree seed gathered from one of the Trusts many reserves. I soon cheered up, and the team was friendly and made me welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed my first day and made several new friends to boot. It’s never been boring on any of my days out, and there’s always something new to see or do. I still recall my first visit to Mill Burn; the task was to cut back the bracken that covers everything up. The route to the site involves walking alongside a shallow stream and on this morning the sun shone on the water, and it was like walking up a flow of liquid gold - breathtaking! I always took a camera on the tasks after that day.
In my time I’ve learned tree felling, fencing, hedge planting and repaired footpaths and riverbanks, built board walks, bridges and bird hides. I have also danced on Himalayan balsam and pulled out a million ragwort plants. There is also a lot to be said about enjoying a packed lunch with friends in the open, with some of the most spectacular views you will ever see.
There has also been plenty of learning opportunities. I have been on courses for First Aid and Brush Cutters, I’ve had instruction in photography, wildflowers, bird and butterfly identification, and had a go at night-time newt and bat surveying. Last year I completed an NVQ in Environmental Conservation and this year I got my license to drive tractors. Quite a list!
These days I work with Estates Officer Derek Hornsby who is responsible for the infrastructure on reserves. We construct and maintain fences, gates and bridges. I’m also one of the wardens at Weetslade Country Park. We keep the area tidy and maintain the site for visitors. The wardens also help run a full programme of events and walks throughout the year.
Volunteering with Northumberland Wildlife Trust is great fun, there’s no pressure, everyone works at their own pace and we stop and admire the scenery when we like. There’s never a dull moment and you’re always in very good company.