We asked our volunteers to describe a recent volunteer session, and explain why they love to come and help, whatever the weather throws at us! Here are their thoughts…
I spend the most part of my week surrounded by quite small children and so it is great to spend a day every fortnight with a friendly bunch of grown-ups. Being outside surrounded by nature, learning new skills and keeping active are my main reasons for working with Make it Wild. There is never any expectation to take on a job too big, everyone recognises their own strengths and weaknesses (knees and back in my case). What a satisfying feeling to complete the construction of a pond and then several months later watch the bugs and beasties taking residence, to harvest and press buckets of apples and take home bottles of fresh juice or to mulch newly planted native species to create new habitats. Building the two luxury hibernaculum at Sylvan Nature Reserve was a highlight, an exercise in teamwork, pooling of knowledge and keeping dry in the rather heavy weather conditions. Very much looking forward to hearing who/what has moved in.
Since retiring from business, becoming a Volunteer at Make It Wild has added to my interesting outdoor activities and gifted me with another positive purpose in life in my Senior years, learning more about the wonders of nature and in a small way, some of the activities we can undertake to help our fragile Planet.
I have learned more about nature conservation including tree planting and management, pond making, Gorse and Himalayan Balsam control, dry-stone walling repair, building Hibernaculums (places where small creatures can find refuge) while doing all this, observing birds and wildlife on the beautiful MIW locations in North Yorkshire and in all this, increasing my general feeling of well-being.
Woods don’t just look after themselves you know! – they need to be managed to create a natural balance.
Holly is one species that needs to be kept in check otherwise it can take over a woodland floor that has been cleared of competing undergrowth by deer. Leave it to its own devices and holly will form a dense, prickly, evergreen monoculture which is where Make it Wild volunteers come in.
Armed with spades, saws, long handled secateurs and lunch boxes the team descended on the woodland and then spread out to dig up, cut down and prune back any holly trees, bushes, saplings and seedlings to halt their spread and give other native species a chance to thrive.
It is a great way to get outdoors, feel nature, make friends, keep fit, let yourself be engrossed in doing something positive for the environment … and there is nothing like a well earned appetite!
Volunteering with Make it Wild feels like you are stepping out of normal life for a day to work on a task that has a broad objective and shape but without performance targets, time pressure or expectations other than those which you chose to place upon yourself. It is absorbing physical activity done purely for the benefit of nature and the personal pleasure of it. In a word, it is Mindfulness.
Even when the rain falls from the sky you can be guaranteed a warm welcome at Make it Wild. I look forward to our volunteer sessions, to laugh, to learn and be at one with nature. Who knew that cutting back prickly gorse could be so much fun, as well as being a benefit to other plants and species.
But the day of apple harvesting , the sun shone and the sky was a vivid blue. New friends were made as we jumped, shook trees and tried to net the apples. Then the apples were “scratted” (a posh word for bashed!) Then wrapped in a muslin cloth to make a “cheese” and finally placed in a homemade press (a 3 person job to balance the cheeses, again with much laughter )
With much glee we collected the juice and decanted it into a variety of bottles via a muslin/funnel and many willing hands. The end product was delicious, and all the more so because we had made it.
On a very wet Thursday in September, 13 enthusiastic and suitably clad volunteers assembled to commence work on two hibernaculums at Sylvan Nature Reserve for the frogs, toads and reptiles living in our ponds, who would need some shelter and protection in the coming months. We were given our briefing and set to.
These bijou winter homes were to be situated close to the two recently made ponds and thanks to donations of pallets and hard core along with wood, recently felled branches and the turves from making the pond, we set to work. The hardest part was the digging out the shallow foundation to ensure the structure would be stable and withstand strong winds. Then laying the pallets down and filling with hard core to stabilise the structure and to provide nooks and crannies for the overwintering creatures.
Topped by the logs and branches, made waterproof by a large tarpaulin and finally covered in the turves the hibernaculum began to take shape and in time would blend in with the environment.
Boosted by our success and the fact that the foundations for the second one had already been dug we swiftly created the next one and paused for lunch. We then spent an enjoyable afternoon in the orchard collecting windfall apples and storing them ready for the next session – pressing them to make cider!
What I love about the volunteering is meeting like minded people, learning new skills and gaining valuable local knowledge about the environment, not just from the staff at Make it Wild, but from fellow volunteers who have such a wide range of interests.
As you can tell, we are a friendly bunch, and there is always something interesting to do! If you’d like to join us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.