It’s Volunteers Week 2020, and we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate our volunteers, and say a huge thank you – without you the work we do would be impossible. Can’t wait to have you back!
Five years ago we started work to restore and manage the Tortworth Arboretum. Back then you could barely enter the site for bramble, bracken and rhododendron, let alone find any of the exotic tree collection. Our founder and Director, Bec Cork, began running monthly volunteer days, and they’ve continued ever since. We estimate that around 5040 volunteer hours have been completed just on our monthly Sunday volunteer days.
As well as monthly volunteer days we’ve run weekly management days (often with volunteers who have been referred to us from mental health and addiction organisations) and other volunteering projects, such as our tree mapping project (12 volunteers and 168 hours over 7 days). Volunteers have pulled knotweed, fed goats, chopped wood, built shelters, cleared paths, planted and protected trees, slashed brambles and bracken, measured and mapped trees, made cups of tea, helped run events, maintained tools… the list is really quite extensive. And the difference is remarkable.
The site, after many years of undermangement and neglect prior to our tenancy, has started to look like an arboretum again. We have seen the forest floor fill with gorgeous wildflowers as the sunlight can reach it again. We have discovered rare and wonderful trees, and they can thrive again now they are no longer suffocated by rhododendron or self-seeded saplings. Volunteers have helped us create a central ‘camp’ area perfect for welcoming people to the Forest Centre for workshops, events, shared meals or just a cuppa. We’ve expanded our knowledge of the flora and fauna here, and our skill set for practical tasks, thanks to a shared learning environment. It’s all been possible thanks to the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of the people involved, and all of the knowledge and expertise they have bought with them too.
More than just elbow grease
Perhaps more important than any of the above, our volunteers have brought with them an energy and vibrancy that has helped create a space that people love coming to; a project that people want to get involved with; a community and sense of belonging; a friendly and nurturing atmosphere. The Tortworth Forest Centre has gone from strength to strength as an organisation, and our work with volunteers has made us an attractive organisation to fund. Our team has grown too and there’s now 7 staff, 3 of whom started out as volunteers.
What our volunteers say…
Ellen has volunteered with us for about 4 years after she saw an ad for women in the forest. This is what she told us about her volunteering experience:
“I make such wonderful, fulfilling memories each time I visit. To me Tortworth is always filled with fun and mystery; it’s atmospheric, spotted with beautiful tranquil places to work. I love learning, meeting great people and most of all the goats. Each month I visit there’s always something new to see, and I look forward to it every month whatever the weather.
I volunteer with you because of the kindness and sensitivity towards every one of us. I love the mystery of the forest, and feel helpful in contributing to looking after the trees and watching new ones develop, for a longer lasting planet. I’ve learnt so much and feel stronger.
My fondest memory is of the end of a tiring day, feeding the goats with several friends I had made on my day of volunteering, and watching our bonfire smoulder. But there are too many to mention. I miss you all!
When I’m not volunteering with you, I go to a poetry group where I often write about the forest. I also look after my grandchildren regularly, one of which I brought to the arboretum to plant trees.”
Steve is another regular volunteer who has been with us for 3 or 4 years now. He enjoys his time with us and notices the positive impacts of volunteering at the arboretum. In 2017 he wrote all about it for our website – you can read his account here.
Thank you so much to everyone who has ever volunteered for us – be it for an hour, a day, a week; a one-off or regular sessions. Thank you to the tea makers and the bramble bashers; the fire-stokers and the fence builders. For whichever way you have helped us, thank you!
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