A volunteer's eye view...

Regular North Chiltern's Chalk volunteer Barbara Ellis gives us her perspective of volunteering with the Wildlife Trust BCN

I love conservation volunteer work! 
I started cautiously, only half a day at first, and “No, I don’t want a saw, it looks too dangerous”.  But I soon got hooked and now I am a fully committed 3-5 days a week volunteer with the Wildlife Trust and other local groups.
My favourite task is scrub clearance.  I love the challenge of an impenetrable thicket of prickly hawthorn, blackthorn, clematis, rose and bramble and being told to cut it down to expose more grass or to create a new glade.  Then there’s coppicing and pollarding trees, and yes, I do use my bow saw all the time now.  I love chopping up large branches and throwing them onto the bonfires.  My friends and relatives can’t understand where these unusual interests stem from, but they admire my biceps and agree I am fitter than any of them.
I also enjoy pulling bracken to expose baby heather plants and new reeds and even digging up ragwort.  Other slightly less exciting tasks include raking cut grass, often on precarious hill slopes, or reeds in boggy wet meadows.  But I do them all, without grumbling too much.
It’s great to work with a group of like-minded people.  Our managers are lovely and usually don’t push us too hard.  We are allowed to stop for a chat and have tea-breaks, often warming ourselves around the fire, sometimes competing with the cows who come close to share the warmth and get dry.  At the end of the day we can admire our efforts – a lovely clear hillside, a bank of heather or a mown meadow.  And surprisingly, it all grows again, and after muttering “Didn’t we do this last year?” we’re back to do it all again.  There’s never a dull moment - I love it!

Cows gather around the fire on a volunteer task at Galley Hill

Cows gather around the fire on a volunteer task at Galley Hill. Photo by Barbara Ellis.