Write up from Finley, a DoE volunteer at Hazeley Heath

I started volunteering at Hazeley Heath over a year ago for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. My Mum and I cut gorse for hours in freezing, snowy conditions, unable to get a fire started, but (with the help of lots of cookies and hot chocolate) we got through it and I’m so glad we did. My 6-month volunteering section has long since finished but I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Before finding Hazeley Heath, I contacted several wildlife rescue centres about volunteering, but none had insurance for under 16s. It was lucky they didn’t, or I may never have found the reserve. Since battling frostbite in the first work party, we’ve volunteered whenever possible, meeting some great wildlife and inspirational people along the way. Without the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, I would never have seen a silver-studded blue butterfly, sat by a puddle catching newts in a mug or stood in the dark with nightjars flying all around me.

There’s something about volunteering at Hazeley that makes it easily the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and I’m sure everybody at Hazeley and Farnham will agree with me on that.  I’ve had so many unforgettable experiences since starting at the heath, shared with so many others. Hazeley is an invaluable site for conservation, and whenever a new species is seen it’s an incredible moment – whether it’s a pair of shelduck or a hairy shield bug!

I’ve discovered both my favourite bird and plant – Dartford warbler and sundew – at the heath, plus countless other amazing flora and fauna. Hampshire and Surrey are incredibly lucky to host these 2 reserves, and I’m sure, if we all continue to fight for them, they’ll prosper long into the future.

I know without doubt that this volunteering work will help so much finding a conservation job for me, and I can’t wait to discover what surprises Hazeley and volunteering in general will offer me in the future. Bring on the Big Wild Sleepout!