More than 1,000 Volunteers with the Surrey Wildlife Trust have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to wildlife education and conservation in Surrey, winning The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in the environment and regeneration category. This is the highest honour given to volunteers, the equivalent to an MBE for volunteers.
From Hedgerow Heroes to the Riversearch team, conservation volunteers take part in a range of activities from vegetation clearance, river and pond management to coppicing for woodland management, hedgelaying, tree planting and the removal of invasive species. The education volunteers provide tutor support with school groups attending Nower Wood education centre near Leatherhead and other centres.
Not only do the volunteers connect with nature and share their passion for nature with hundreds of children and other like-minded people, they also benefit from keeping fit and learning new skills. Their efforts support Surrey Wildlife Trust in its work to improve habitat to promote biodiversity and wildlife in Surrey.
During 2016-2017 Surrey Wildlife Trust volunteers dedicated 8,814 days of their free time to wildlife conservation and education making a huge difference to the Trust’s work.
Representing all the award winning volunteers, the chair of the Trustees, Chris Wilkinson, and one of the longest standing volunteers, Simon Humphreys, who has been volunteering with the Trust for 35 years, attended a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace last week to celebrate their success.
Simon Humphreys is volunteer site manager at the chalk grassland reserve at Dawcombe, between Leatherhead and Redhill. He plans management work, records species, leads guided walks, coordinates with Natural England, liaises with contractors and neighbours and helps to secure funding for projects. He also leads groups, who themselves have been volunteering for 10 to 15 years for the Trust too.
He said: ‘It was really fantastic to go up to Buckingham Palace. You hear about people going to Royal garden parties, but I never thought it would happen to me. Being a representative for all the volunteers across the Surrey Wildlife Trust was a great honour. It was an outstanding occasion; the grounds were beautiful and looked good for wildlife too! It is something I will always remember.’
Meanwhile the other volunteer groups will be celebrating across the county with tea parties in their work locations at Bay Pond, Bisley Common, Brentmoor Heath, Chitty’s Common, Deepdene, Hedgecourt, Newlands Corner, Nower Wood, Nutfield Marsh, Pirbright, Thundry Meadows and Whitmoor Common. The volunteers will receive a special badge from the Trust in honour of their achievement.
Claire Courtier, the Trust’s Volunteer Development Manager, said: “This award is absolutely incredible, we are so delighted that our volunteers have been given the recognition that they deserve.
“It’s a fantastic accolade for all of our wonderful volunteers who dedicate their time, energy and expertise to help wildlife in Surrey. Not only have they undertaken a vast amount of work themselves, they have also inspired many others to contribute towards conservation.
“We hope our volunteers feel extremely proud of the recognition that this award represents.”
Chris Wilkinson, the chair of the Trustees, added: ‘I would recommend volunteering with Surrey Wildlife Trust to anyone who shares a passion for wildlife and the beautiful Surrey countryside.’
The Surrey Wildlife Trust welcomes new volunteers all year round. All sessions are led by volunteer leaders or experienced volunteers, so no experience is needed to get involved.