THE WILDEN MARSH VOLUNTEER CONSERVATION WORKDAYS ARE HELD ON THE FOLLOWING 2016/2017DATES.
The meeting place will be announced in the Group email a week before the workday.
JANUARY : Tuesday 10th January 2017
: Sunday 10th January 2017 is a Wilden Marsh Taster Day
: Sunday 29th January 2017
FEBRUARY : Tuesday 14th and Sunday 26th 2017
MARCH : Tuesday 14th and Sunday 26th 2017
APRIL : Tuesday 11th and Sunday 30th 2017
MAY : Tuesday 9th and Sunday 28th 2017
JUNE : Tuesday 13th and Sunday 25th 2017
JULY : Tuesday 11th and Sunday 30th 2017
AUGUST : Sunday 28th 2016
SEPTEMBER : Tuesday 13th and Sunday 25th 2016
OCTOBER : Tuesday 11th and Sunday 30th 2016
NOVEMBER : Tuesday 8th and Sunday 27th 2016
DECEMBER : Tuesday 13th 2016
An eager and excitable young man, probably in his late teens, stopped me when I was out and about the other day. Moving his weight nervously from one foot to the other, he asked: “What’s volunteering all about? I’m unemployed, so will volunteering affect my Job Seeker’s Allowance? Would I have to work every day? How much would I earn for a day’s volunteering?” He blurted out his questions and waited expectantly for my answers. I explained that volunteering wouldn’t affect his Job Seekers Allowance; he could work as little or as much as he wished, and that he wouldn’t receive any payment if he were to volunteer for workdays on Wilden Marsh. I watched his smile dissolve to a look of stunned incredulity. His jaw actually dropped, and he said: “What! I would be working for no pay? To work for no wages is slave labour. I’m not going to work for nothing,” he spluttered. My response was: “Volunteering doesn’t suit everyone, Lad!” I think he was hoping to earn extra cash for Christmas.
The young man obviously didn’t understand the concept of volunteering. I wonder how many people are in a similar position – hopefully few, but I might be wrong. Most people with full-time jobs and young families have difficulty finding time to do the normal everyday things in life, let alone volunteer their spare time to non-family based activities. There are people who, no matter how busy they might be, find the time to go to the gym or out jogging one or several times a week. Others have enough disposable cash to go to the pub or out for a meal. Such opportunities to spend time away from the home, to relax, socialise, or to follow a hobby, might be realised in an odd hour or so within busy schedules. Volunteering, more often than not, occurs at set times and on set days. Wilden Marsh workdays, for instance, are held on the second Tuesday and last Sunday of each month, usually between 10 am and 3 pm. Other WWT reserves have their workdays on different days of the week.
The ages of Wilden Marsh volunteers vary: the youngest might be sixteen and the oldest approaching their 80s – some attend workdays at other WWT (Worcestershire Wildlife Trust) nature reserves, also. Younger people might volunteer because they expect to work in conservation; they might be students on holiday, or have recently completed their university studies and wish to gain practical experience to help towards their future careers. Others might be unemployed, or in part-time jobs. Then there are those who have reached retirement age and find that they have too much free time on their hands; they volunteer to remedy tired creaking bones, stiff aching muscles, and sheer boredom – a fair exchange if you ask me.
There are many reasons why a person might volunteer for unpaid work with a Wildlife Trust. One thing that most conservation volunteers have in common is an overriding love and respect for nature. There are those who have discovered nature later in life, and find conservation volunteering an easy and practical way of feeding and expanding their burgeoning interest in the company of like-minded people. Wildlife conservation volunteering can offer a deeper understanding and wider appreciation of nature, open-up varied opportunities and, for the lucky ones at least, a new lease of life. There is nothing like working for free to nurture a personal interest, as opposed to working out of a need to finance one’s day-to-day existance. If you are fortunate enough to be able to indulge in the former, it can indeed feel like a luxury. Working for the benefit of the local wildlife, by helping to improve its environment, is a rewarding way of enhancing one’s own lifestyle and self-esteem. Personally, I find the marsh and its workdays an excellent antidote to the stresses of modern-day living.
A typical marsh workday starts with an onsite group meeting, hosted by the group leader, to identify the day’s tasks and any relevant safety issues. Depending on the time of the year, the tasks might be tree and bush lopping, coppicing, pollarding and felling. With the tasks properly identified, the experienced volunteers sort out who is going to do what. There is a tea break at around 11 am. Lunch is at 1 pm and the day ends at 3 pm. During the nesting season, the work might be fencing, ragwort and Himalayan balsam pulling, and general maintenance tasks, carried out well away from sensitive areas of the marsh.
When I see volunteers happily and enthusiastically getting stuck into their various jobs on freezing cold workdays, I realise that people’s and animal’s lives are being positively affected. I don’t come across unhappy volunteers on the marsh. We have our lunch and tea breaks as a group. Some like a good gossip, others say very little, and one or two might have a short nap. If the weather is unbearably cold, a brash fire will help keep the chill at bay. I have to say, though, it doesn’t take long to get comfortably warm when engaged in good old-fashion physical work.
It’s not all work, either! The Trust offers many other types of diversion, in the form of regional and office based group educational and social activities, to suit most appetites – some held in daytime and others during evenings. There are also many other volunteering opportunities that don’t involve manual labour: helping out with office duties, manning telephones, recruiting members and fundraising, to mention but a few.
So, what is volunteering all about? Well, briefly, I suppose it means different things to different people and, as I said to the young man, it doesn’t suit everyone. It basically comes down to people donating their labour to a non-profit-making organisation. For me, volunteering is all about giving something back to society. However, what I gain most from the experience is nourishment of the soul and strengthening of the mind and body; I feel that I am achieving something worthwhile.
If this post brings forth a yearning to experience lots of healthy fun out in the great outdoors, for free, doing things that lumberjacks and foresters might do, then contact reception at your local Wild Life Trust. Tell them that you would like to volunteer for a workday at your nearest nature reserve. The nice, helpful receptionist person will put you in touch with someone who will tell you all you need to know; alternatively, use the contact form at the bottom of this post. Don’t worry if you are not physically fit. The photograph shows Old Dave, dressed in this year’s summer volunteering garb, who started his conservation volunteering with a nap. Old Dave slowly but surely got into a routine of doing a bit of work and then having a little nap. Eventually, Dave found he didn’t need a nap anymore and now leads an interesting and active life doing things that he once thought were beyond him. 😉
If you are interested in how Wildlife Trusts are funded, the facts are follows:
There are 47 Wildlife Trusts in the UK with a total of 815,000 members, including 150,000 junior members, responsible for the upkeep of 2,300 nature reserves. The Trusts are funded by their members.
Grants for particular projects and services are received from local authorities and statutory agencies. Government support comes largely through agriculture and forestry grants.
Landfill Tax Credits have provided vital support for work such as land purchase and community engagement, as did the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, in its last year.
The support of key lottery operators and distributors, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the BIG Lottery and the Peoples Postcode Lottery, is greatly appreciated as is that from a wide range of Charitable Trusts.
67% of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust income is derived from voluntary sources; 21% is from charitable and other activities; 5% is from fund generating activities, and 5% from WNCT Enterprises.