Sally Hayward, volunteer at Pulborough Brooks, describes how she first discovered the delights of the RSPB...
One weekend ten years ago, having a free Sunday in early September, we decided to visit RSPB Pulborough Brooks, having never been before despite living only about 10 miles away! After a hasty search we located a pair of old Bresser binoculars, grabbed a camera and set off. I should mention here that at that time we could not in any way shape or form be called birdwatchers but hoped to increase our very limited knowledge while walking around the trail.
We arrived to be greeted and welcomed into the visitor centre (which looked entirely different to its current incarnation) by Anna (Visitor Experience Manager). We were given a map, paid our dues (not being members at that time) and walked the trail. My most abiding memory of that initial visit is of my first ever sight of snipe which were grazing outside West Mead hide. And, even better, later in the day we were treated to the sight of a male hen harrier from Winpenny hide.
As the day progressed it was increasingly obvious that our old binoculars were just not up to the job and it was tiresome to have to share. But our first foray into the world that is Pulborough Brooks nature reserve was enjoyable and we determined to visit again. Arriving back at the visitor centre, we joined up and became members. Following the demise of the Bresser binoculars (‘fell’ on the floor) we slowly increased the number of optics and now both have a pair of binoculars and a scope!
We were both still working full time 10 years ago but decided to offer our services to Pulborough Brooks as volunteers – if they would have us! Fortunately, we were accepted and began our second careers as volunteers for the RSPB! Time seems to have zipped by with both of us undertaking various roles. Over the years we have enjoyed meeting the public and helping them to enjoy our little corner of the Sussex Downs. Many of the volunteers have become friends, and despite the changes in staff over the years, the overwhelming ambience is one of friendliness, helpfulness and sheer love of their work and nature.
We have also benefited by a massive increase in our knowledge and identification of birds, a wider appreciation and knowledge of invertebrates, mushrooms, mammals, trees, reserve work and being in possession of arcane facts about various species with which to dazzle the unsuspecting punter.
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