Voluntary conservation trainees


Voluntary conservation trainees

© Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hills Photography

Received Queen's Award for Voluntary Service
Volunteers dedicated 4,370 days during 2019
Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Hands-on experience

Develop knowledge and hands-on experience in land management

Surrey Wildlife Trust provides a diverse range of practical training from sustainable woodland management, heathland management to conservation grazing, along with many more transferable skills.

Volunteerconservation trainee burning pine

What activities do trainees carry out?

Our placements provide an excellent training opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in conservation and land management. Learn to carry out a range of practical habitat management and monitoring tasks on heathland, chalk grassland, woodland and wetland. Help organise practical conservation volunteer days and lead and inspire our volunteers, plan and lead guided walks for the public. You will also have the opportunity to assist with aspects of grazing, including fencing, moving cattle and stock checking.

About the placement

We take up to two trainees twice a year in April and again in September. Trainee placements require a commitment of 3 days a week for 12 months, which will be agreed upon from the onset of the trainee role. Trainees have the opportunity to undertake a selection of funded external and internal training courses as well as on-the-job training. Out-of-pocket travel expenses are provided alongside appropriate protective clothing. 

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Voluntary conservation trainee stories

Read what some of our trainees have to say about their experience

Jane Saunders

Whilst taking a career break I discovered Surrey Wildlife Trust and have never looked back! Having lived in Surrey all my life I think it is a great county and one that is often overlooked. I had some time on my hands and wanted to do something to care for the county and its wildlife. Little did I know just how much I would enjoy the experience and how much I would learn. Volunteering is now part of my weekly routine.

The practical conservation days I have been involved in include cutting down scots pine, mire restoration, coppicing, building fences and mending a gate as well as moving cattle. I love it when you can see the fruits of your labours at the end of the day and know that you have made a positive difference. I originally thought that I would struggle in rainy weather and in the winter when it would be cold. However one of the best days I had was when it rained all day! If you have the right clothing and a hat you can work in any weather – although a fire in the winter always helps!

I have learned such a lot about wildlife, habitat management and just how rare some of our Surrey habitats are, such as lowland heathland. I have learned new words like hibernaculum and transect, I have seen an adder, glow worms, beautiful dragon flies and I have taken part in a nightjar survey.

The Rangers and Practical Volunteer Leaders are all very friendly, knowledgeable and willing to answer questions and share their knowledge. The volunteer days are a great way to meet a wide variety of people who share similar interests. Due to this camaraderie builds easily among volunteers.

from getting a good work out (the outdoors is your ‘green-gym’) did you know that being outdoors in nature can help clear and calm the mind. A report by Natural England found that being in nature has positive benefits on our wellbeing and promotes healthy living. So if you can spare a few hours a week, a month or during school holidays, look out for the practical conservation days which take place on a range of days during the week as well as at weekends across our wonderful county.

Robin Charlton

I have many interests in life, one of which is with all things relating to nature and the countryside.  Once, while taking a recreational walk on local heathland, I noticed signs indicating that the area was being managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.  This awareness and a certain pride in our county, lead me to join the organisation, which for many years I followed as a passive member.

When I retired from full-time employment I realised that I would need something to keep me occupied, so I investigated volunteering with the Trust.  What I had not realised was that there are opportunities virtually every day of the week, so I signed up and joined the practical conservation days of my nearest geographical group.
This has taken me back to the heath, where we are usually engaged in “scrub clearance”.  In simple terms this is the removal of invading species of trees which would otherwise come to dominate and thereby destroy the habitat needed by some of our rarest birds and animals.

The scrub is cut using hand tools provided by the Trust, then dragged or a point where it is either piled up to create an area of wildlife shelter or burnt on a bonfire.  The work can be as physical as you want it to be: cutting, dragging, fire tending; so suitable for all abilities and ages.

So what do I get out of it?  Just a few things that come to mind:

Physical exercise:  For me it is perfect, as it is steady activity over a number of hours. Personally this is greatly preferable to the sterility of a gym.

Stimulating environment:  My particular experience is that the heath is lovely in all weathers; it feels great to be working out of doors close proximity to nature
Learning:  The work can be really immersive, giving a great opportunity to see things like lichens, fungi, invertebrates, birds and get the benefit of the knowledge of my fellow volunteers and our Ranger

Sense of achievement:  The good thing about physical volunteering is that it is usually easy to see the difference that the work has made.  With heathland scrub clearance there is a real buzz at the end of our session to take a few moments to look and see just what we have achieved; and all in the knowledge that it is to the benefit of maintaining a rare habitat with its particular species of plants and animals.

Camaraderie:  I have not yet mentioned that the volunteer days always have tea and lunch breaks.  Hot tea and biscuits provided; the perfect opportunity to sit and chat if so inclined.  Or equally, just unwind and contemplate the day’s progress and set a personal goal for the remainder of the session. 

Volunteers in Surrey

© Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hills Photography

Being a Trainee has given me a behind the scenes insight into the important work that goes on at SWT. There’s always something different to do
Ben Habgood
Voluntary Conservation Trainee

Volunteer enquiries

Email volunteers@surreywt.org.uk
Call 01483 795464