The Trust has nearly 100 staff, but its ranks are swelled by an army of almost 2,000 registered volunteers, who provide around 8,000 extra ‘people days’ every year. And now the Trust is on the look-out for new weekend recruits to join its conservation squad.
“Our enthusiastic practical conservation volunteers help us clear areas of scrub, coppice woodlands, remove invasive plant species, create patches of bare ground for habitat improvement and lots more,” said Claire Courtier, the Trust’s Volunteer Development Manager.
“From teenagers to people in their 80s, all give up their time, skills and energy to help wildlife – but they get so much in return too. You can get fit, make friends from all walks of life, learn so much about wildlife and it’s fantastic fun in the fresh air!”
The Trust runs weekend volunteer conservation groups throughout autumn and winter, on sites right across the county – from scrub clearance on Wisley Common, to coppicing at Newdigate Brickworks, to path clearance on Chobham Common or grass cutting at Fraser Down.
Volunteers have been at the heart of some great success stories for wildlife in Surrey – helping restore vital habitat on Chobham Common, which now boasts a promising breeding population of nightjars and Dartford warblers.
In the rivers, volunteers have been working on the Wey and Mole to improve habitats for fish and reduce pollutants. And dozens of volunteers have signed up to become Hedgerow Heroes, to help survey and restore Surrey’s network of hedges.
Jeanette Cattermole from Guildford has been volunteering with the Trust for almost ten years – helping its education teams with school groups, lending a hand in the office and getting stuck into conservation work.
“I’ve always had an interest in the outdoors and I love the countryside, so volunteering for the Trust is perfect for me,” she said. “It’s given me so many opportunities to stretch myself and learn something new. It’s great fun, you make friends, have fun round the bonfire - the camaraderie is just great and I’m so thrilled to be making a difference to wildlife and the environment.”
Research shows that people who donate their time to a good cause show lower rates of depression later in life, while a study found that contact with nature makes us happier and healthier. And regular exercise in the fresh air is a lot cheaper than joining a gym!
“We simply couldn’t manage without our wonderful volunteers – they make a massive difference to the work we’re able to carry out to help wildlife in Surrey,” said Claire.
“Whether you’re a student wanting work experience or working fulltime and looking for a weekend outdoors, we’d love to see some new faces. You can commit to as little or as much time as you like and you could gain so much from working with us – you never know, it might just lead to a new career!”
If you would like to help protect Surrey’s wildlife as a weekend wildlife volunteer, please sign up!