When we ran our community volunteer session in the middle of March, although the virus situation was starting to look rather worrying, we didn’t anticipate it would nearly 6 months until we would be able to again get together in our local green spaces.
Circumstances changed very quickly, and at short notice we had to cancel upcoming events, and suspend plans for other activities we had been hoping to be able to do over the summer months.
In spite of these restrictions we were still able to keep things ticking over in a number of ways, keeping a vigilant eye over our local spaces, encourgaing their safe use, communicaring with the council and green space contractor about any urgent issues, and helping encourage local volunteers to keep some of our tree saplings and community orchards well watered as part of their daily exercise.
Then as local and national guidance changed and group community volunteering again became a possibility we began to work on updating things like risk assesments to include virus prevention considerations, and adapting the way we usualy organise and run our volunteer events in an effort to keep anyone involved as safe as possible.
With new precautions in place, over the last month we have been able to again start running community conservation events with small groups of volunteers.
There’s been great enthusiasm from many of our existing volunteers to get back involved, and lots of interest from new recruits, many of whom discovered our local green spaces over the spring and summer when our parks and nature reserves have been so valuable to support health and wellbeing, with so many other things we all usually enjoy and take for granted unexpectedly inaccessible.
There are still some limitation on the work can safely do, there is a big backlog of tasks which would have ordinarily been carried out during the summer, and we are having to operate with dramatically reduced numbers, and shorter sessions, but WE ARE BACK!
Over the first few sessions we’ve prioritised opening up large sesctions of the paths which had become constricted with growth of bramble and nettle, tending to tree saplings planted around Berrylands Nature Reserve, and tidying up the Wildlife Pond.
Widening the paths is something we would have ordinarily done anyway, but this year it felt particularly important to ensure visitors to the site are able to safely socially distance when passing while exploring. In the future we hope to upgrade the surface of the paths to make them more accessible and ensure they stay in better condition throughout the year.
We’re really looking forward to the tree saplings we’ve planted in recent years developing into luscious hedges. Trimming back surrounding vegetition, and removing and supressing weeds and grass around them will hopefully help get them there a bit faster.
Over the winter we will likely need to plant some extra trees to fill in a few gaps, but otherwise most of the saplings are coming on really well, and showing lots of healthy new growth.
When the Wildlife Pond was created in Summer 2018 volunteers planted lots of marginal aquatic plants around the water’s edge, which have helped encourage lots of dragonflies, bamselflies and amphibians to take up residence. Over recent years these have really flourished (perhaps a little too much), to the point they are rather dominating, so we need to keep them under control by chopping back or removing some of them periodically.
In the future this area will also have a pond dipping platform, enabling visitors to safely get an even closer look and the pond inhabitants.
In future sessions we are planning to help maintain the condition of the paths by spreading lots of woodchip, and also repairing the fence along Elmbridge Avenue.
For the time being to keep volunteer numbers to permitted levels we are only advertising future volunteer opportunities via our mailing list, so if you’d like to be involved in helping out please ensure you’re signed-up to recieve these messages.