Volunteer Conservation Supervisor
I have been a Volunteer Conservation Supervisor for over 25 years, working one weekend in four supervising volunteers with the PPCV.
The volunteers take part in a wide range of practical conservation projects, including:
- the construction of footbridges to improve access
- fencing projects to create new woodlands
- drystone walling and stone step construction
- footpath construction using edging boards and aggregate
- pond construction (clay puddling is great fun!)
- hedge laying and hawthorn clearance
- tree planting
It is a great achievement at the end of a project to know that I have contributed to conservation. Supervising volunteers gives me an opportunity to put something back into the Peak District National Park, an area in which I spend much of my leisure time.
I enjoy working with the volunteers who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and age groups, including groups who have special needs, groups from inner-city areas, school and community groups and individual volunteers.
On a project day, I first liaise with the Volunteers Officer, then collect the PPCV Land Rover and tools and drive to the site to meet the volunteers. I explain the project to the group in terms of location and the reasons for the conservation work and provide health and safety instructions regarding the site and use of tools. I supervise the project throughout the day, whilst bearing in mind that the volunteers are here to enjoy themselves, to learn countryside skills and to complete the day’s conservation project to a high standard.
Being a PPCV supervisor enables me to work in all areas of the National Park and to meet rangers and other staff.
Working with the Peak District National Park ranger service has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It has expanded my social life and given me the opportunity to travel abroad to do conservation work in both Iceland and France.
When I moved to Sheffield as a student I spent years of happy hiking in the Peak District, so it seemed appropriate for me to give something back to the National Park. I’ve always enjoyed being outside; walking, sailing, gardening and I wondered if I’d enjoy conservation work. I’d little idea of what I might be expected to do or what I might be capable of!
With some trepidation, I rang the Bakewell office and was told there were groups working regularly and I would be welcome to join them; all I needed to do was to complete a simple form for insurance purposes. This done, I was given my first assignment – to pull Ragwort out of a field along with several Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award young people.
It was a hot July day and there was little shade. Everyone wanted to work under the one tree; never has a stretch of meadow been so totally cleared of Ragwort! But of course, we had to come out of the shade eventually and it really was hot. It’s a back-breaking job but by tea-time, we’d filled about thirty black bags, protecting many horses and cattle. I’ve helped with a whole variety of projects since then; bridge-building and repairing, fencing, path improvement, pond clearance, dry-stonewalling, hedge-laying, hedge-planting, coppicing, scrub clearance and more.
There’s a group of regular volunteers who work alongside volunteer groups of scouts, guides, students, Duke of Edinburgh young people, wildlife groups and ramblers. For three weeks each summer, we also work with young people from all over the world through an organisation named Concordia.
I’ve been soaked to the skin, frozen to the marrow, covered in mud, scratched all over by hawthorn and baked in summer! So why do I do it? Well, it’s always fun. There’s good company and something really satisfying about completing a task together. Sometimes it looks difficult or even impossible but we always get it done. There’s a variety of skills in the group and everyone can contribute. We have wonderful views as we work. We chatter as we work and laugh a lot, which must be good for us!
I’ve been back to some of the meadows we’ve cleared and they’re bright with wild flowers in the late spring. Hedges planted several years ago are now providing nesting sites for wild birds.
So seven years later, I’m pleased I made that phone-call. It’s introduced me to new people, new skills and new places.
Conservation Volunteer Group
Barnsley Scouts have been volunteering with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers for more than 10 years.
In that time hundreds of youngsters, aged from 8 to 18, have taken part in weekend residential courses.
Charlie Wilkins, group Scount Leader and volunteer PPCV supervisior said: "the Scouts have done scrub clearance, footpath repairs, fencing, dry stone walling and pond clearing. They work really hard and get very muddy, but have a great time doing something worthwhile for the environment".
Recently the Scouts have worked on a footpath at Mam Tor. The PPCV experience enables them to work towards the Scouts' Community and Environment badges. Charlie said: "We match activities to the different age groups. The younger ones love clearing out woodlands. We give them a pair of loppers and they have a great time trimming the trees. The older ones like a bit more variety and can manage heavier work with the wheelbarrows."
The young volunteers enjoy going back to sites to see the full effects of their activities. Charlie said: "They get very excited when they discover newts in a pond they clear out. It's a great start for kids to appreciate the countryside".