One of the nice things about my job is getting to meet lots of different people from all walks of life who come to volunteer some of their time to the fabulous places which the National Trust looks after. Some come for a day, some for a week on work experience, some with groups every few months…. The list goes on.
Just occasionally, we get individuals who really want to get involved with the work we do, who really want to get stuck in to what a former colleague of mine used to call the “coal face of conservation”. These special individuals come with many different skills from a wide variety of backgrounds and all bring something different to the team, often these people will volunteer one, two, three or more days every week to help our special places.
To get the most out of some of these individuals within a tight budget, the National Trust kindly agreed to fund my development as an accredited instructor in a variety of different skill areas. I can now take a volunteer who already has the key ingredients… passion and a desire to learn, and teach them to operate various pieces of equipment which enable us to deliver our conservation objectives.
Fingle Woods has proved an ideal venue for a lot of this teaching work recently, having so many conifers to remove gives us the wonderful opportunity not just to improve the wood habitat and our bottom line, but also grow our people. We have undertaken numerous chainsaw courses within the woods, teaching volunteers to maintain saws, fell trees, fell larger trees, deal with windblown trees…you get the picture. Not only have we used the site for our own courses, but we have played host to courses provided by others. By training people on this site they develop a deeper connection with it, and organisations who visit us to carry out training can also become more informed about our work and aims for Fingle Woods.
One of the things I love about training is that “click” moment, when a trainee is trying to learn new skills and struggling, then suddenly has that epiphany and “gets it”, then they are away. I also love watching people enjoying learning new things and then putting those skills to use.
One of the objectives for Fingle Woods is as a demonstration site for best practice in woodland restoration and sensitive woodland management. I like to think that by using it for training we are also demonstrating to a new group of people best practice when undertaking even the simplest woodland management operations, and growing a generation of people who began their outdoor careers (whenever in life they started) in Fingle Woods and therefore love it. If you want to join this growing group of individuals who are volunteering in Fingle please email – FingleWoods@woodlandtrust.org.uk.
Written by Tom Wood (National Trust Area Ranger)