Ben’s volunteering Blog: Day One at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre

IMG_1292On Sunday 22nd June, I delivered a couple of pots of paint to Gary at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. We don’t ordinarily make personal deliveries from Celtic Sustainables, but when it makes sense then we’re more than happy to! It just happened that I’d already planned earlier on in the week to spend my Sunday volunteering at the Centre when Gary ordered his paint, and a car ride shared by me and two pots is far better than two separate rides and a lot of wasted fuel.

Sunday’s volunteering was all about habitat and nature trail maintenance around the farm’s 40 acres. This was to make it more accessible to guests staying at the bunkhouse, the eco campsite, or the self-catering eco lodge where holidaymakers come to lose themselves in nature, far from the city.

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Freshly-filled potholes
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Pulling out the bracken from the meadow

After a quick introduction at 10 AM, we set off to do the heavier work before the sun got too high and the heat too much to handle. The entrance seemed like the obvious place to start, so we loaded the wheelbarrows with shovels and set to filling the holes in the driveway. With a team of five on the job, we’d shovelled, barrowed, tipped, and levelled the stones in under an hour. Before lunch, we joined the rest of the volunteers in the meadow just inside the Centre.

Having been chemical-free for several years, what used to be a relatively lifeless field is now bursting with life and we were surrounded by butterflies as we took out the bracken that was threatening to take the whole meadow over! Getting the bracken out whilst it’s still young is the best way of making sure it doesn’t come back. As it grows, it starts to spore and its roots become harder to remove – as we found out when it came to heaving out the older plants.

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The roundhouse

Exhausted from pulling and twisting the stubborn bracken from the meadow, everyone agreed on taking an early lunch. We followed Gary to one of the roundhouses in the forest, and ate under the sunlight coming through a window in the green roof. With plenty of ground left to cover, we were up and at it again pretty soon.

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Walking through the woods with Gary & Arianna
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The fallen trees and the soil carpet

The eight volunteers split themselves into pairs to take different paths around the land. Arianna and I took a route through the forest where the roundhouse is, clearing brambles from the pathways to keep them from turning themselves into prickly obstacle courses. Halfway around, we split at a fork in the path. Arianna picked the way by the pond, and I chose to follow to the route past the fallen trees I’d been hearing about all day. They were pretty impressive. A whole row of trees had been blown over, taking a strip of earth with it like a carpet.

Making my way around slowly, taking pictures and enjoying the sunshine, I was the last one to get back to base where just enough cake had been left behind for me. I refuelled, and helped with a little tidying up around the main yard.

The visitors' centre at Long Wood
The visitors’ centre at Long Wood

Before I left, Gary pointed out that just down the road on my way home was the Long Wood Community Woodland where there’s a Green Build Project under way to create a visitors’ centre for the forest. With a hand-drawn map, I got there and found that they’re looking for volunteers to help complete the project. Being in a volunteer-y mood, I’ve signed up and will be there on Saturday 12th July, which happens to be the day before the next habitat and trails maintenance day at Denmark Farm on Sunday 13th July – perfect! Now I just need to find a place to camp for the night…

You can find out the regular volunteering days at Denmark Farm on their website. They currently have a list of days leading right up until late September. To find out about volunteering with the Green Build at Long Wood, see the picture below.

For other opportunities, see where else you can volunteer.

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