Conservation is a prominent issue to horticulturalists and I’ve been volunteering to educate myself more in how to be extra wildlife-friendly and care for our countryside.
Recently I have been volunteering with the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust helping out with practical conservation tasks around the organisation’s base at Lower Smite Farm. For me it has been a way to learn new skills and keep busy during a time I found myself out of work – so far I have found it rewarding, a great learning experience, and overall simply fun.
There is a lot of cross-over between conservation and horticulture and as a gardener you want to attract helpful pollinators, insects, mammals and birds into your garden, and also conserve the natural surroundings.
A garden bereft of wildlife would not have a beneficial eco-system that helps combat everyday problems, such as frogs, hedgehogs and the odd bird that can eat slugs and snails that would otherwise terrorise your garden. So if you want to protect your valuable hostas, you need to start making measures to attract their predators.
Creating areas for wildflowers and measures for habitat, including log piles, bug hotels, a pond, or just simply leaving an area of grass long, will tempt masses of different wildlife into the garden and help support their population.
I was attracted to volunteer with the Wildlife Trust so I can learn more about conservation from real experts and pick up some tricks and advice that can help me going forward as a gardener. Given my background I am lucky that I do have some transferable skills from my training and work to date that I can offer them, but there is a lot to learn.
Tasks I have completed so far include woodland management (coppicing, thinning and pruning), removing dominating patches of pond-side reeds, cutting back blackthorn and brambles, and also spreading green hay to create wildflower grassland.
Without wanting to sound too corny, volunteering is a really rewarding experience and I have been lucky enough to see it from both sides. I was previously a volunteer with the National Trust at Hanbury Hall and then went full circle to looking after and leading volunteers while at Hidcote Manor Garden.
I’ve always been blown away by how passionate and knowledgeable volunteers are, often knowing much more than me. They work incredibly hard and even large organisations like the National Trust or the Wildlife Trusts would struggle to do the work they do without a band of dedicated volunteers.
So spare a thought for smaller charities or groups who would love to get enthused volunteers through their doors.
Personally I really enjoy getting out and, if only for a few hours a week, getting my hands dirty, learning new things and meeting new like-minded people. I would recommend looking at sites such as the Wildlife Trust’s volunteering page, or the National Trust’s site, or simply at places like Do-it where you can search not-for-profit organisations looking for helping hands.