Last week I took part in my first ever volunteering session for the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WKWT).
My partner gifted me a membership for Christmas, so I made it my mission this year to get involved with as many things as I could that would help me connect with, and get to know, the natural world in which I live. (You don’t have to be a member to volunteer, but getting their monthly newsletters as part of my subscription has helped remind and motivate me to take part.)
The volunteering programme is so flexible, you can go almost any day of the working week to help with any kind of task, for whatever time period fits you (e.g. one hour, or all day). Personally, I wanted to get involved with the most physical task possible so that I could benefit from giving my body a physical workout. I don’t go to the gym and I spend most of my day sat behind a laptop, so carving out time to be outside and active is really important to me. I signed up to help with pulling himalayan balsalm plants from one of the riverbeds in central Coventry – this was part of a WKWT project that is desperately trying to save the water voles which are basically about to be extinct.
Himalayan balsalm pulling is just one of the tasks carried out by the WKWT to manage non-native and invasive plant species that can be really problematic if they grow. After being brought over to the UK in 1939, the weed grows relentlessly along the waterside and has to be controlled as it causes riverbank erosion and shades over other native plans that can then struggle to grow.
Last Thursday, us three volunteers and our trust leader Tim, spent 5 hours pulling out himalayan balsalm and the result was 20 full bags of weeds (these were then collected by the council for incineration). I learnt a lot as part of my volunteering day, like the fact that you have to be careful when pulling this plant and try to do it before it flowers, because if it releases seeds when you yank it, it’ll just spread even further.
At the end of our day I felt amazing – physically knackered, not with exhaustion but a sense of accomplishment. It’s very rewarding at the end of the day to stop and take a look at your hard work and know that it will do some good to the environment and wildlife in your area.
I really want to try and dedicate one day per week to volunteering. I am self-employed so this is an easy decision for me to make and possibly more difficult for those who are employed in more rigid working contracts. As a freelancer I can choose to cut out a working day and I have managed to do this over the last year by dedicating myself to reduce my personal spend. Less expenditure means you can live on less income and thus have more time to do the things you really want to do. I definitely owe this mindset to my discovering minimalism last year – spending less has allowed me to change my working routine and essentially has changed my life.
There are other reasons why I wanted to volunteer outdoors too – re-connect to the natural world, learn about wildlife and immerse myself in the place I live in… Warwickshire. We’re often striving for the next big thing – it wasn’t that long ago when I constantly looked forward, dreamt about other countries I wanted to live in, other jobs I wish I had, exciting holidays or travelling endeavours I wanted to save up for. Getting to know the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has taught me that sometimes all the things you want to find elsewhere are sitting right in front of you, you just need to clear the weeds in order to see them.
Find out more about volunteering at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.