Archives for category: Volunteering

How time flies. We apologies for the lack of blogs latley. It is a busy time here as all our houses and gardens open. Now however, Mark councludes his short blogging stint by telling you how you can become a volunteer shepherd.

We have very recently set up a scheme for visitors to Reigate Hill in Surrey to help the wardens check the sheep and cattle that graze here.

The sheep and cattle help us by grazing the rare chalk downland habitat and stop it reverting back to scrub and eventually woodland. On the steeper slopes of the hill they are invaluable as it’s impossible to get any machinery on the slopes to clear the regrowth. We use Belted Galloway cows and Black Welsh Mountain sheep as these breeds thrive on grazing the poorer types of habitat found at Reigate and are also very friendly to visitors.

One of our newest recruits, Antonia, wanted to share her reasons for volunteering:

“I spend a lot of time looking for my Border Terrier Loki. I sit and wait patiently while he counts the rabbit population on the side of Reigate Hill and checks whether any small holes are really too small for a dog of his size and doubtful intelligence. It was on one of these occasions that I spotted the pink poster asking for volunteer stockpeople for the National Trust. I have a secret yearning to be a vet but haven’t the sheer animal vitality (excuse the pun) not to mention the brains to embark on the years of training. I’ve volunteered for animal charities but they always involve domestic pets. Here was my chance to get up close(ish) and personal with cows and sheep. The top of Reigate Hill is so beautiful whatever the weather and now I have a perfect reason to push myself up the side, rewarding myself with a brief one-sided chat with Billy and the girls, while I run an eye over them. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the animals and feel I am doing something worthwhile whilst enjoying myself.”

So if you interested in becoming a volunteer shepherd or even just want to find more about the scheme them please email Marc Russell at marc.russell@nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone us on 01342 843 225. No experience is necessary and basic training is given. You can volunteer as often as you like – even if its just every now and then – anything is a great help.

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A little later than planned, the next series of blogs will be written by Mark Richards, Head Warden for National Trust countryside in the east of the Surrey Hills. This week he writes about his dedicated volunteers and shares a personal favourite memory.

I always look forward to Thursday’s as it means working with my volunteers, the Limpsfield Voluntary Task Force. The group have been established for over 25 years. At the moment we have 35 in the group, and some of them have been with us for over 20 years. 

The volunteers have helped us with many projects over the years on Limpsfield Common, from the construction of a pond to the restoration of a Second World War air raid shelter. Last year alone they gave us over 2,400 hours of their time. Over the last few weeks they have been helping us re-plant an area of woodland with young oak and beech trees, but their favourite task has to be anything involving a bonfire – the bigger the better.

At exactly 10.15am on a Thursday morning the word “coffee” can be heard as it’s shouted across the worksite by the group’s leader Derek Horn. Everyone puts downs their tools and normally conjugates close to fire to discuss the latest goings on locally as well as further a-field while enjoying a hot cup of coffee from their flasks. Before you know it though Derek is telling them they have had a long enough coffee break and that they need to get back to work.

After a hard morning’s work the majority of the group head off to the local pub to have a well deserved drink and continue to their discussions from earlier in the morning.

The most memorable time for me with regards the volunteers is when they provided a guard of honour at my wedding. It was such a privilege to walk out of the church and go under a tunnel of slashers held high by my volunteers.

The volunteers at my wedding

As well as this volunteer group we have got two other groups that meet on a Tuesday at Reigate and on a Wednesday at Outwood near Redhill. If you are interested in joining any of these groups please email Mark Richards at mark.richards@nationaltrust.org.uk