Jamie Hardy - Volunteer at Lee Valley Caravan Park, Dobbs Weir
Jamie Hardy had been struggling to find work for a while and was very keen to change his direction. He enjoyed gardening and outside maintenance work and thought this was an area he would like to see if he could find work in. In looking for jobs in this field he found that most employers wanted experience so he decided to see if he could get some by volunteering. Jamie is pictured below on the left.
Jamie went on to the Do It web site which gives information on volunteering opportunities all over the UK. He saw something he liked the look of at Dobbs Weir campsite in the Lee Valley Park and decided to apply. After paying a visit to the Broxbourne Volunteer Centre and speaking to Jessica Whitehead the Parks volunteers office he went for a short interview with Julia and Andrew the camp site managers. He was successful in his interview and given a volunteering role helping out for six hours each day on a Monday and Tuesday. This really suited Jamie and he was able to walk from his home to volunteer but more importantly he found he got on really well with all the staff and was gaining valuable experience in working in this field.
Jamie was still job hunting and found the experience was really helping by putting this on his CV. He also loved working with Julia and Andrew and the rest of the team at Dobbs Weir and they have been a fantastic support. He particularly liked the fact that his volunteering gave him a structure and something to work towards, he was learning about gardening, maintenance, grass cutting and planting. Jamie felt he was learning so much more and it really helped to expand his CV.
After a few months he was told that because he was on job seekers allowance he would have to stop volunteering. The team at Dobbs did not want to lose him as he was such a hard worker and he fitted in with the team so well. With the help of Angie Oliva the team at Dobbs Weir looked at the possibility of being able to offer Jamie a casual part time contract rather than him volunteer so they did not lose him and to help his situation out. This was fantastic that a volunteering opportunity has been able to lead to employment and Jamie now works as a Casual Assistant for around 16 hours a week supporting the Dobbs team and continuing to gain valuable experience.
Jamie says that he is really thankful to the Lee Valley Park for the volunteer programme that we run. He said it is a brilliant system and although he is aware that many more retired people volunteer there is a need for younger people to get experience to help them progress. Jamie also said it has helped him with his confidence enormously and with the support of the team at Dobbs which he describes as instrumental he hopes that others can get inspiration from volunteering and that it also helps them to progress and eventually find work.
Brenda Chanter - Conservation, Events and Bittern Information Point Volunteer
Brenda retired nine years ago and three years into her retirement she decided she wanted to find something else to do. Three years later she saw people volunteering at Fishers Green in the River Lee Country Park. She has always considered this area to be beautiful and now enjoys maintaining it.
Volunteering across a number of conservation projects, Brenda undertakes tasks such as maintaining hedgerows, cutting overhanging brambles, digging ditches and tidying beautiful areas of land.
She has learnt new skills such as hedge weaving – a traditional way of intricately building and maintaining hedges – as well as learning about planting trees in their natural habitat.
Brenda enjoys meeting new people and working the Authority’s events team at events such as the Rutland Bird Fair and helping at Lee Valley Park Farms and the Bittern Information Point.
“There’s a real social side to volunteering – as well as the tasks, we go out as a group and socialise. Meeting new people is really nice; you can work with your friends and do what you enjoy. I’m all for variation so enjoy this aspect of volunteering, meeting new people, making new friends and seeing a different side of life.”
Another of her interests is amateur photography; she is always taking pictures around the park and has won the Volunteer Photographer of the Year Award for three years in a row.
Danny Regan - Fisheries Volunteer
Danny Regan was one of two volunteers contacted by London Wildlife Trust for special placements. These placements were as part of a scheme called Wild Talent, where volunteers get the chance to increase their practical skills and gain knowledge about wildlife through a traineeship. Gary Smith, Manager of the Fisheries team had arranged for Danny to complete a placement.
Danny registered as a Fisheries Volunteer in 2014 and has completed over 65 hours of volunteering to date. Danny said it was a privilege and a pleasure to work with such a dedicated team, doing a fantastic job to make the Lee Valley one of this country’s premier fishing destinations.
“I have worked as an honorary warden with the fisheries for a few years now and have fished in the Lee Valley for nearly 40 years,” he explained. “I found it a privilege and a pleasure to work with such a dedicated team. I have been involved with fishery and fishing club management for over 30 years and I worked for the London Wildlife Trust as a corporate workday supervisor for leading corporate groups on workdays on the Trust’s reserves before taking up this opportunity to do a year full time as a Wild Talent trainee .The course is a City & Guilds Level 2 work-based diploma in Environment Conservation, and now I would be very interested in any future positions with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.”
Both London Wildlife Trust and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority would like to continue to place trainees within the park next year.
The Wild Talent Traineeship aims to widen the mix of employees and increase the number of staff with practical skills in conservation. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and aimed at people from economically deprived areas, those on benefits, black and minority ethnic groups and non-graduates. More information can be found at wildlondon.org.uk/wildtalent
Nathaniel Decosta Legall - Honorary Warden for Lee Valley Rangers Service
London Wildlife Trust contacted Lee Valley Regional Park Authority at the beginning of the year to see if it would be possible for two of the Authority’s volunteers Nathaniel Decosta Legall (Conservation and Biodiversity Volunteer) and Danny Regan (Fisheries Volunteer see above) to take on more responsibilities within their current roles and complete placements.
These placements were as part of a scheme called Wild Talent where volunteers get the chance to increase their practical skills and gain knowledge about wildlife through a traineeship. Ges Hoddinott, Senior South Ranger made arrangements for Nathaniel to complete a placement with her team.
Nathaniel has been a volunteer since 2013 and has completed over 65 hours of volunteering to date. Nathaniel said he had an amazing time installing bat boxes, maintaining meadows at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and learning about invasive plants.
"After volunteering for quite some time on Walthamstow Marshes it was great to finally see how the Ranger team works from the inside out,” he said. “I also had the chance to survey for small mammals during my placement. Who knew so much diversity existed on the Marshes?! Everything that I have learned during my placement with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority will be really useful for my career in conservation. I can't thank the South Rangers team enough!"
Following the successful placements, both London Wildlife Trust and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority would like to continue to place trainees within the park next year if possible.
The Wild Talent Traineeship aims to widen the mix of employees and increase the number of staff with practical skills in the conservation sector. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and aimed at people from economically deprived areas, those on benefits, black and minority ethnic groups and non-graduates. More information can be found at wildlondon.org.uk/wildtalent
Mark Braun - Bittern Information Point Volunteer
Mark has been volunteering for two years at the Bittern Information Point, a bird hide in the heart of River Lee Country Park, Hertfordshire.
He finds his role varies and can consist of giving out information about what visitors can do in the park, providing maps and answering a range of questions about the wildlife in the park.
He takes reports of wildlife sightings, logs them, explains the conservation work which is going on as well as assisting visitors to the Bittern Information Point. Mark also brings in wildlife identification sheets for young families so they can have a go at ticking off all the sightings which hopefully helps to make them enthused about nature.
Autumn and Winter are the two seasons where Bittern spotting becomes the focus as volunteers update the list of sightings and put out binoculars and telescopes to help bird watchers catch a glimpse of this elusive visitor.
There are high definition cameras out on the Seventy Acre Lake and volunteers help move these cameras around to capture images of the wildlife.
“I’m a huge advocate for volunteering; I have learnt a number of new skills such as First Aid and encourage others to take up volunteering.”
Mark has been bird watching for 15 to 20 years in Lee Valley Regional Park which he has really enjoyed. When his kids left home and he found he had more time he decided he would like to give something back to the community. When he first started volunteering he didn’t realise how rewarding it would be.
Mark believes that: “One of the best things about volunteering is the diversity of different people you meet including families, couples, older people, photographers, bird watchers and dog walkers. You develop some great camaraderie with visitors and make new friends with similar interests.”
As a BIP Volunteer, Mark has found that it isn’t necessary to have any background knowledge of wildlife as you can pick it up as you go along. He enjoys the fact that volunteers do not have to make a big commitment for this role as you can sign up to help as much (every weekend) or as little (once a month or less) as you want.
Mark has been surprised at how much he has got out of volunteering at the BIP. He feels that there is no pressure on him and he can do as much as he wants.
He says his highlights of volunteering at the BIP are when people spot the Bittern (it’s like it to your football team scoring a goal!) and the enthusiasm of children when they look through the telescope for the first time and they can’t believe how close the birds are.
Colin Short - Fisheries Volunteer
Colin has been volunteering in the park since 1985 when he attended his first fisheries working party at Slipe Lane for the Turnford Consortium. Subsequently he became a bailiff/warden, then warden co-ordinator and a member of the fishery management committee. Working with a group of volunteers from all of the fisheries, he helped to revamp the Ashley fishery after a club terminated its lease and he was appointed as the warden co-ordinator. The team then became members of the Fisheries Task Force who are responsible for carrying out repairs and improvements to all of the angling venues, including the redevelopment of the park’s two day ticket waters, Banjo and Stock Pit at Stanstead Innings. Since retiring, he spends two days a week helping the fisheries team with their day to day workload with other retired members of the Task Force, including the bi annual electro fishing survey that provides information on fish populations for the Authority’s Biodiversity team and the Herts Wildlife Trust. He has also carried out joint projects with some of the other volunteer teams.
“As most of the fishery tasks are physical it helps keep me fit and also saves on gym fees. Lee Valley Regional Park has provided him with many practical training opportunities, including a Lantra Strimmer and Brushcutter Certificate, NVQ level 3 Advanced Volunteer Management, First Aid at Work, CIEH Principles of Manual Handling (Level 2), Fire Management and Safety, Competent Person (H&S).”
More recently he has become a member of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Volunteer Committee, representing the 85 fisheries volunteers.
Volunteering has given him the opportunity to spend more time outdoors developing his fishery management knowledge and skills, and make many new long term friends.