New Year. New Me.
January is a month of resolutions, and it is also traditionally a time when we receive a surge in interest for our volunteer roles. We have turned this blog over to two of our volunteers to place a spotlight on the wonderful work they undertake. Carole Hart is a recent recruit and Nic Groombridge is has been with us for several years. Here, they share their experiences of caring for our treasured landscape.
New Year. New Me. New to Brecon Beacons National Park volunteering.
So, the plan is to do more volunteering for the Park. With my move back to this beautiful area in March 2020, my tick list included joining the Brecon Beacons volunteer team. As Covid unfolded it became clear there would be delays, but I was delighted when Amanda Brake, our volunteer coordinator, met with me in Autumn 2021 to start me on my volunteering journey. She told me what volunteer opportunities there were, ranging from helping in the visitor centre to being outdoors, and it is being out on the fells I opted for. She explained that training was done mostly on work party days, where groups of volunteers come together. She invited me to a balsam bash in Crickhowell to tackle an invasive plant species called Himalayan balsam.
The balsam bash was carried out alongside a local community group. There were plenty of friendly faces and when we sat down for our packed lunch, I learned this was not just a retired persons volunteer group and was delighted to meet other people who worked full-time or ran their own local businesses. A couple who volunteered had driven from Bristol. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many ladies volunteered.
My next outing was footpath work. Our leader gave me a what3words location to find my way to the starting point and had brought the bits I needed for the work we were doing. It was a glorious winter day. We worked our way up Hay Bluff and down the other side. My female companion talked about her army days and running a bunk house. Our work party leader shared a few stories about criminology. As we came over the top, we had the bonus of seeing the paragliders soaring, followed by a real rescue mission by the mountain rescue and air ambulance.
Amanda was obviously keeping a watchful eye on me and contacted me when I booked the next activity online. She emailed to let me know I needed brush cutter training before doing that work party and has booked me in for this training.
So, I feel well supported moving forward with my volunteering role in 2022. To get out there and do some more work parties at a pace that suits me and accommodates my fulltime working role and family commitments. To be out in the fresh air, with beautiful views and with good company. To sustain a better work life balance. #newoutdoorme2022
It is difficult to say why I started volunteering. I didn’t have some epiphany when walking our hills. When I arrived in Brecon five years ago, I sought out volunteering opportunities. As a former civil servant, and latterly as an academic, public service was ingrained in me. I still do a little writing and teaching but I’d always done sport and kept fit so fancied doing physical work in retirement. My volunteering helps keep me mentally and physically fit.
I work with both the Central Beacons and Black Mountains upland teams, maintaining paths. Those operate on two Fridays and two Saturdays a month and I do a couple each month. These teams are volunteer led. In addition, I often work mid-week with a Warden repairing or replacing gates and stiles. There are a couple of us who do this but many stick with one team or set of tasks. I know volunteers who count grouse, check the depth of peat or help at the Visitor Centres in Libanus or Craig y Nos. Notice of opportunities for one-off events or training courses are sent to us. I’m particularly glad to have done dry-stone walling and to have gained first aid and brush-cutter certificates.
Working up in the hills has introduced me to many parts of the National Park and to good company. Many of us are retired, often from interesting jobs, so if the scenery palls, our ‘office’ conversation at coffee or lunch is stimulating. We are not all old men either. We have some women (and need some more) and occasionally young people boosting their CV.
We often meet walkers on the hills and explain what we are doing and how we are doing it. We have even recruited some new volunteers this way.
Many thanks to Nic and to Carol for sharing their experiences. If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Amanda Brake, on email@example.com.