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Three cheers for our volunteers

James Brown is our Community Engagement Officer, helping to set up volunteer projects as part of the  Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Having just returned from the annual UK National Parks Volunteer Co-ordinators meeting I was inspired to write a piece in praise of our volunteers in the New Forest, and to remind people of the benefit volunteers bring to the New Forest and all National Parks across the UK.

This annual meeting is always a good opportunity to discover what is happening across the different National Parks in relation to volunteering. We can swap ideas and share good practice and I always come away with some great new ideas to take home to the New Forest.

This year the setting was Lake Windermere in the Lake District, with a rather distracting stunning landscape view from the window, but we all just about managed to keep our attention on the task in hand!

Lake Windermere - photo credit James Brown

The first task is to shortlist all the nominees for the annual National Parks Volunteer Awards across the four categories; Individual Volunteer of the Year, Volunteer Group of the Year, Volunteer Project of the Year and Young Volunteer of the Year.

There was good selection of entries across the board with some really inspiring stories and achievements. I am pleased to report that once again one of our projects was shortlisted (Heritage Mapping) as well as local volunteer Tony Carpenter in the individual category. The shortlisted nominees will now go before a judging panel responsible for picking the winners. After reading and discussing the high level of entries, I do not envy them the task!

The next few days were then a whirlwind of National Park updates and conversations about inclusion, funding, barriers and opportunities.

Volunteers and volunteer co-ordinators in the Lake District.

A highlight was a very wet afternoon walk where we bumped into several Lake District volunteers - from guided walk leaders to gardeners, meet and greeters and lake patrol rangers. The Lake District volunteers are celebrating their 60th anniversary of volunteering this year, and continue to lead the way in volunteering, so it was rather inspiring to see them in action.

When talking with volunteers, staff and the public, the passion and determination of everybody involved and the desire to make the most of the wonderful National Park landscapes is obvious.

The huge variety of benefits that volunteers bring to National Parks are not all quantifiable or always visible, but being personally involved with the recent New Forest Remembers project I can vouch for their importance.

We are also lucky enough to have volunteers helping with ancient tree surveys, heritage mapping and Community Wildlife Plans.

The future for volunteering in the New Forest is looking healthy, with the ongoing development of the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme. This £4.5 million scheme championed by 10 organisations from across the New Forest will be delivering 20 projects that will help restore habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to care for the Forest.

With a target of over 5,000 volunteer days over the next four years it is clear that volunteering sits at the core of the scheme. You can find out more about the scheme and how you can get involved at a public drop in session on the 10 December at Lyndhurst Community Centre.

If you’d like to give volunteering in the New Forest a go then come along to the Volunteer Fair in January to meet dozens of local organisations. Alternatively email me at james.brown@newforestnpa.gov.uk.

This entry was posted by Communications on Tuesday 21/10/2014

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