Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The value of volunteering

A personal view from Green Hampshire’s Adam Manning in reply to a popular article by Tim Sykes on volunteering.

The beauty of nature has always been a wonderful source of inspiration to me. The enigmatic mystery of the night sky, the energizing vitality of a spring day or the sharp redness of a ladybird’s back. Lustrous greens, entwining tendrils, rough barks and the silver birch; the effulgent diversity of our natural world, its expansive vistas and rich minutiae. Our Earth is an endless fecundity of soaring exhilaration, soothing calmness and refreshment for the soul.

With the beauty of nature doing so much for me, I’ve always wanted to do something in return.  This became coupled with a growing awareness and concern about environmental challenges and the end result was a lot of motivation to get involved!

In my part of Southampton there is a pebble beach called Weston Shore.  When I was growing up, it was often the butt of some unkind jokes due to a perception of neglect and decay.  The shore presented itself as a good challenge to get stuck into and during the nineties, starting small, some friends and I began regular litter picks along the shore with the kind assistance of Southampton City Council.

This was a really satisfying activity and the litter picks slowly became more popular.  At the Council’s prompting, the Friends of Weston Shore group was formed. Litter is not only unsightly and diminishes the beauty of nature but is also a pressing environmental problem. Many of us have heard the news stories about litter being strewn across our oceans and ending up killing wildlife. A clean up is a great chance to get a grip on this challenge.

Taking part in a clear up on the shore gives a real sense of achievement.  To look back and see the area that you and your friends have been working on looking clean and resplendent is very rewarding.  Knowing that your work, the energy you have put in has lead to the place looking better is.. well, to me there are not many feelings as good as that!

Max from Green Hampshire with friend
There are other benefits as well of course.  This type of work is social and a good way to make new friends. You are also in the outdoors with fresh air and maybe (although it’s a bit of a risk in England) some sunshine.  I’ve often noticed that after a clean up, seagulls tend to congregate in the area your group has worked on; clearly they like it too.

Another group I’ve worked with is the Sholing Valley Study Centre.  Sholing Valleys includes Miller’s Pond which has now been designated as a Local Nature Reserve. It’s a lovely oasis of calm within Southampton and they hold regular conservation days.

Volunteers can enjoy taking part in the vital conservation work they carry out and learn new skills. There are also nature watches for younger volunteers and older participants can go on guided walks and take part in nature surveys.  Very kindly,they also provide a free lunch for their volunteers!
Green Hampshire at Sholing Valleys
The volunteers that run the centre and look after the area are friendly and welcoming and they were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for their endless energy and effort in looking after Miller’s Pond and its surrounding area. 

Being a volunteer has done so much for me – I hope it does for you too.  There are so many groups involved in this area and Green Hampshire’s goal is to spread the word about this to encourage volunteers to get stuck in and make a difference!

Miller's Pond - a Local Nature Reserve

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