Monday, 28 October 2013

Volunteering to be trained!!

The cheeriest bunch of volunteers you are ever likely to meet!
 I ran a course last week on “Farming & Wildlife” for the South Downs National Park volunteers and I have to say, what a lovely bunch they were!! The request had come through as many of them felt that they could find courses to go on about chalk grassland and woodland habitats etc, but not necessarily about what happens on our farms. Of course most of the South Downs is made up of farmland, so if they are to influence and work across the whole landscape, it is important to understand how our farms work and what makes farmers tick!

The morning was held indoors at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park near to Petersfield in Hampshire, hosted by good friend and top notch countryside advisor, Nick Heasman (South Downs National Park Ranger – to give him his correct title!). I always like to hold informal meetings so that people can ask plenty of questions as we go along – nothing worse than a one way lecture! Well, I certainly need not have worried with this lot – loads of questions, which also turned into useful discussions - fantastic! 
In the afternoon we went onto George Atkinson’s farm – an award winning mixed farm with stacks to talk about and lots to see first hand. George is a great ambassador for the farming industry and speaks with passion about the way he farms and the wildlife that he looks after on his farm – no wonder he was a finalist in this year’s RSPB Nature of Farming awards. Read more about George at:

Volunteers do a fantastic amount of work across the countryside, whether it is turning their hand to a bit of coppicing or scrub clearance to surveying areas for plants or birds. I think it is especially rewarding to those who perhaps live and work in our towns and find themselves hankering for a job out in the fresh air!

I think everyone enjoyed the day and hopefully learnt a lot about the farmland that surrounds them when they are up on the Downs. I certainly enjoyed their company – they were as enthusiastic a bunch as you are ever likely to meet!!

Why not think of volunteering yourself – it is a wonderful way to meet people and to put your energies to something really useful. This is the link to the South Downs volunteer’s page:
However, don’t forget there is work to be done wherever you may live in the country!
The South Downs is largely made up of farmland

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