9th June 2020
Although the Land Trust’s many volunteering activities have been suspended in recent months, due to the social distancing guidelines imposed by Covid-19, we couldn’t let volunteers week pass by without acknowledging the huge impact they make on our sites.
Quite simply the Land Trust couldn’t deliver half of what we do without our dedicated volunteer workforce, who come out in rain or shine and take part in a whole range of activities across our portfolio of spaces.
There are so many incredible examples of the work our volunteers do. I’m lucky enough in my job that I get to see so many examples of this work first hand and while there are so many amazing things going on I thought I would highlight a few of my personal favourites in this blog.
The first is the Fallen for the Fallen project, the brainchild of the Friends Of group at the Countess of Chester Country Park. Fallen for the Fallen is a three kilometre trail of carved poppies which marks the soldiers who lived in the local area who lost their lives in World War One. The project was a huge success and it ticked so many boxes. It brought the community together to celebrate these amazing men, it created a lovely walking trail that gets people outside and active and therefore enjoying all the associated physical and mental wellbeing benefits that spending time outdoors can bring, and it provides a fantastic educational resource.
Whenever I meet some of our volunteers I am always struck by the passion and commitment they have for the green spaces where they work. Nowhere is this more evident than at Pleasley Pit. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Pleasley on a couple of occasions during my time working at the Land Trust. At one time the oldest and deepest pit in the East Midlands coalfield the colliery finally ceased production in 1983 and lay abandoned and neglected for many years. The Land Trust took over management of the site in 2011 and have worked in partnership with the volunteers of the Pleasley Pit Trust to transform the site into a visitor attraction that brings thousands of people to the site. The team there run a very popular and successful café and have helped restore the pit to its former glory. A tour of the site from one of the volunteers is a must if you ever get the opportunity to visit.
While the Land Trust benefits hugely from the work of our volunteers we always try and ensure that the relationship works both ways. We want our volunteers to learn new skills, which might help some get into further education or training or in some cases create new employment opportunities. We want them to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits that spending time in well managed green space can bring. And perhaps most importantly we want to bring people together from all parts of the community, creating community and social cohesion.
Nowhere is this philosophy more evident than on our site at Knowle Haven, where for one volunteer, getting involved with this Land Trust space has had a hugely positive impact on his own life. Mike Little, who was named Land Trust Volunteer of the Year in 2018, spends thousands of hours a year on site. Mike, who suffers from a degenerative bone disease, credits the work he does at Knowle Haven, with a significant improvement in his physical and mental well-being. In a Q&A with Mike last year we asked him what the best part of volunteering was for him:
“I could not actually say ‘there is a best part’, it is all awesome. As the project progressed, it was a fantastic feeling to think I had been part of it, now we have so many users of all ages and abilities and knowing this project is an important part of their lives. Being part of this, making just a small difference in people’s lives and being closer to nature. As I said, it is all awesome.”
And if there was one sentence which sums up Mike and other volunteers like him it is this one, when we asked him what was the most challenging part of volunteering at Knowle Haven:
“The most challenging part about volunteering at Knowle Haven is actually locking the gate and going home. I would spend all day every day there. I would encourage anyone to volunteer, even if it is for an hour a week, the reward is priceless.”
So while it might be a little bit longer yet until our normal volunteering activities resume we can’t wait to have to have you all back on our sites. Hopefully see you all soon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Gales joined the Land Trust in March 2018 as a Communications and Marketing specialist.
A thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling experience
Anthony McCrea, Skanska Corporate Volunteer
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