2nd June 2021
There’s quite a buzz about volunteering. I’d never really experienced it first-hand until the first time I took part in a volunteering day at the Countess of Chester Country Park.
On a warm summer’s day, a group of us arrived at this beautiful green haven, just a few miles out of Chester city centre. We weren’t too sure what the team at the park had in store for us, but we were eager to find out. Having lived in a flat with no outdoor space for a few years at this point, it had been a long while since I’d got stuck in to any outdoor project, and to be honest, the prospect was slightly daunting.
We were welcomed by Neil the Ranger and a few regular volunteers, who told us we’d be helping restore paths throughout the park: a vital element of the site for visitors and also for the hundreds who turned up to parkrun every weekend.
The main activity I was involved in was edging: clearing the paths by getting rid of the grass that had encroached onto the edges of the concrete.
I was a mix of dread and excitement at the prospect of spending the day doing a laborious task that I’d never done before, but once we all got stuck in any worries soon slipped away. The only things on my mind were the task at hand and the environment around me.
The birds were singing, the sun was shining (for once) and the progress we were making was clear. The daily stresses of life weren’t whizzing through my head and I was actually having a lovely time – as were the people around me.
Then I understood the buzz about volunteering.
By the end of that day, hundreds of metres of pathways had been cleared, leaving more space for walkers, runners and cyclists. A new section of path had been installed, giving better access from the hospital to the park, and a new bug hotel had been installed in the Nature Reserve area of the park. What a difference a day makes!
Over the last year, many volunteering activities have had to be put on hold while we try and protect each other. However, some groups have done what they can to keep spirits high and continue making a difference to the green spaces around them.
For example, Green Angels began sending weekly emails, giving their participants Covid-friendly activity ideas, and they even held virtual coffee mornings. This was brilliant for keeping the social aspect of volunteering alive, at a time where keeping in touch was incredibly important.
As the world begins to gradually open up again, volunteers up and down the country are back out on our sites, helping where they can.
Parks and green spaces have seen more people coming to visit in the last 18 months, and they need that TLC volunteers provide to continue being a place for nature to thrive, as well as communities.
I can’t wait to see groups getting back together to experience the joy of getting stuck in, and I can’t wait to get stuck in myself.
There’s quite a buzz about volunteering.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Fido joined the Land Trust in July 2018 as a Communications and Marketing Assistant.
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