This blog is a celebration of the nature in the South East and highlights ways you can get involved and explore nature in the region. If you've got news of the South East’s nature that you'd like to share, please contact the RSPB South East office on 01273 775333 or email SERComms@rspb.org.uk
Becoming an RSPB volunteer is a great experience – no matter what your background, where you’re from or how old you are. Everybody has their own skills to offer and the expression ‘many hands make light work’ really does apply!
We’ve had hundreds of volunteers from almost every background imaginable, and each one has given – as well as learnt – so much. You never know who you might meet when volunteering either! We once had a lady who came in to do some admin work once a week. It was only after she’d left that it was realised that she had been a code breaker stationed at Bletchley Park during World War II and had been given an MBE for her services!
In fact, this blog has been written by one of our newest South East volunteers, Libby Morris! If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities visit our website
Volunteering in your community - The ARC Project
Hundreds of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds took part in the Arun and Rother Connections (ARC) project, set in West Sussex, which formally ended in 2016. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we, along with six other organisations, worked alongside local communities to reconnect them with their river systems. Before the project began there had been environmental problems with the rivers involved, which made it really important to promote and encourage the local residents to do their bit to repair and create a thriving river system. Children were able to learn about their local wildlife with family activities such as kayaking, whilst volunteers of all ages took part in conservation work parties, through which volunteers and residents made new friends and met their neighbours. One of our local volunteers even said that her team was a second family to her and Steve Gilbert, the RSPB ARC Project team manager said that the project was ‘the best thing’ he’d been involved in in his working life! 1119 volunteers gave 13,898 volunteer hours; equal to 1985 days or 5.4 years of their time to the project, an incredible achievement!
Another branch of the project was the oral history project. The area is steeped in history and local people held a great wealth of memories and knowledge about the area. Volunteers helped capture local people’s memories and further our understanding of how the landscape and rivers have changed over time. Between 2014 and 2016, volunteers interviewed 24 people from across the Arun Valley and surrounding landscape, including landowners, conservationists, artists, retirees and community group leaders. You can hear some of these interviews here, and you can watch the video celebrating the project here.
Volunteering to teach our children
Membership of our Wildlife Explorers gives children hands-on explorations and discovery with a large dose of dirt and fun! We currently have 36 Wildlife explorer groups in the South East, 20 of which have been up and running for over 40 years. One of the greatest threats facing our natural environment is people’s growing disconnection from nature, especially that of children. By offering young people regular opportunities to get to know the wild places close to them, our wildlife explorer groups are reconnecting their members with the natural world around them, and helping them to learn to love and care for our environment for years to come.
From putting up nest boxes to taking part in local fundraising events, our youth groups are extremely important in helping to empower people. Gemma is a volunteer leader for the East Grinstead youth group. She began as a junior leader and is still part of her team as an adult leader.
Gemma first joined the group back in 2000 when she was seven years old, after hearing about the group at primary school. She trained to become a Junior Leader at the age of 14 – this meant assisting adult leaders with activities rather than participating in activities as a member. Although a junior leader cannot lead a group until they become an assistant leader, they still play an important role within their group by assuming an individual responsibility, such as treasurer, event organiser or co-ordinator. Gemma was promoted to an assistant leader at the age of 18. She has now been a part of her local Wildlife Explorers group for eighteen years!
She says “I enjoy working as part of a team with adults and children of different ages to make a difference in the local community by working together to protect wildlife and the planet we live on. I assist with local wildlife events and courses wherever possible to help raise further awareness of the work done by the RSPB outside of our group meetings. I also enjoy attending leadership courses to meet other group leaders and share ideas on how to improve the current experiences offered to children.
During my time as a volunteer with the RSPB, I have found that my relationship with nature has continued to broaden. I still find myself learning something new from every RSPB meeting as my knowledge of nature and conservation has been a constant learning curve, from attending my very first meeting as a young Wildlife Explorer to later volunteering as an assistant leader.”
Find out more about your local Wildlife Explorers group