Down the park with the Countryside Service

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

With autumn well and truly under way, and winter on the horizon, it’s time for conservation volunteering to pick up where it left off last spring. In our neck of the woods this means the arrival of emails from the county council’s Countryside Service listing monthly opportunities to get out into the local great outdoors, help improve the landscape and create better conditions for its wildlife.

This is something that we find tremendous fun and would recommend to other outdoorsy types. Where we live in North Hertfordshire there is a string of local nature reserves and parks that benefit from this kind of work. Whether it’s clearing invasive plants out of a pond, up to our knees in mud, or raking up the results of reed-cutting, we’ll be turning out for it.

If you’re new to the joys of conservation volunteering, here’s a list of reasons why it’s a great way to spend a few hours of your weekend: you get to see the results of your labours in ways that are never normally possible in daily life; you get to do something really worthwhile that makes a difference for local people and for wildlife; you meet a lot of like-minded folk; you get as much fresh air and exercise as you could possibly want; and it’s an activity that probably provides a complete contrast with your usual daily routine.

If you fancy trying this for yourself there are a number of ways to get involved. First stop for contacts and further information may well be your local council’s website. Another way in is to think about what open spaces you have nearby and who owns them. If there is a wildlife trust or other conservation organisation active in your area they may be the people to contact. Also, don’t overlook the benefits of keeping eyes and ears open, watching out for volunteers on such activities as litter picking or pond clearance; just ask who organises the activities and whether they need another pair of hands.

This is not to play down the fact that conservation volunteering can be damn hard physical work. But our local bunch seem to have the philosophy of each according to their ability. Meaning that jobs tend to be pitched at the people they are most appropriate for and there’s generally something suitable for everyone who turns up. And that’s generally in the seven to 70 age range. As long as you’re sensible and pace yourself. And look forward to a nice, hot bath when you get home.

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Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow - Thoreau