Monday 25 October 2021
On a wet, grey October morning, I set off to volunteer with the Chiltern Rangers – wondering what on earth I had let myself in for; and as I sat in a deserted car park in the middle of nowhere (or just outside Wycombe to be precise), with the rain lashing against the windscreen, I thought of the hundreds of things I would rather be doing with my Saturday.
But before long, the car park began to fill, and my fellow volunteers and I gathered around to be briefed on our morning’s activities. After a warm introduction from the Ranger leaders Dan and John, we made our way to the site, armed with an impressive range of saws, secateurs and (for those more capable than me) chainsaws. Our task was to clear some of the undergrowth which, if left unchecked, would jeopardise the survival of our local butterfly population later in the year. And thus, after being directed to different sections of the woodland, my group set about thinning the trees, roots, bushes, vines - anything which restricted the amount of light available to butterflies.
Working in small groups, we cut down as much of the unwanted vegetation as we could and sorted it into piles - the larger branches were retained for replanting in the spring whilst the remainder was burnt on a bonfire.
Under the unrelenting rain, we soldiered on, rewarded with hot tea and biscuits during our well-earned break, but we were soon back to the task at hand. As the session drew to a close, we staggered back to the cark park carrying our tools, the newly acquired branches, and every other trace of ourselves - nothing was left behind.
The van packed up and equipment returned, I was relieved to seek sanctuary in my Dad’s warm and dry car. Yes, the weather had been grey and miserable, but the sunny camaraderie of my fellow volunteers, coupled with the satisfaction of a morning of hard labour gave me the most tremendous sense of achievement. It was so refreshing to see families, friends, and complete strangers helping out in their local area with nothing but a couple of hand tools and a huge amount of enthusiasm.
I had so much fun helping the Rangers and I now understand the key role they play in maintaining our local wildlife. I found the whole experience incredibly rewarding and I was so surprised at what my group had achieved in such a short space of time. Although life can be incredibly busy, joining the Rangers for the odd Saturday morning is a tremendous way of pressing the reset button and providing the headspace to understand what is important.
Thanks to all the volunteers who help protect the Chilterns and take care of all its special habitats. Volunteers are essential in the Chilterns AONB.
If you're a young person who cares about nature, loves being outdoors, and would like to volunteer and learn conservation skills, you can visit the following pages find out more and get involved. No experience needed! Just enthusiasm.
- the Chiltern Rangers CIC page.
- our Chilterns New Shoots page (a conservation volunteering and skills development programme for 15 - 20 year olds).
- our Chilterns Champions page.