Today's blog is by Beth Gleave, one of our new Garden Volunteers, as she reflects on her reasons for joining the team and her experiences so far.

As I child I always enjoyed playing in the garden, climbing trees or finding one way or another to end up caked in mud! I was endlessly fascinated by the changing seasons, little creepy crawlies, and the small miracles that present themselves in nature if you look closely enough.  As I got older and life got busier, I forgot about the wonders of nature and the joy it brought me, until the pandemic hit. This is when I first started looking into volunteering my time, as - like many - I relied on my daily walks to escape the pressures of day – to – day life. Walking along various routes and trails in the surrounding countryside of Leeds, I became more and more aware of the nature and wildlife around me.  

Walking was just the start of me re-building my connections to nature. As I started taking more of an interest, the more I realised the importance for all of us of getting back in touch with our natural surroundings - and our duty to help take care of our planet.  

Out and about in Yorkshire! (Photo: Beth Gleave)

However, I must admit, my initial motivation wasn’t the need to help our planet, as important as that is. It was how spending more time in nature could help me. What I get out of volunteering for the RSPB is a chance to be closer to nature, surrounded by like-minded people and actively being involved in doing some good for the world! This has had a significant positive affect on my mental wellbeing - and after reading various studies on how nature and our mental health are clearly linked, I am trying to find more and more ways to improve that connection. 

Being a novice gardener living in a city centre flat - with not even a balcony for outside space - I wasn’t sure how well I’d fair as a wildlife gardener. But with a passion for nature and a willingness to learn, I was extremely grateful for the chance to get stuck in and learn as I go. The support from the volunteer programme has been great, and you really get a sense of ownership from the input you give. It’s great to see the seeds you planted start to grow, people and wildlife enjoying the areas you look after – and of course, the satisfaction from a good old weeding session! 

The Wildflower Patch at RSPB Fairburn Ings (Photo: Jen Sharp)

 Everyone in our team has their own reasons for volunteering, but for me, it comes down to the realisation that helping nature, in turn, helps us and there is something extremely powerful about that connection that we must not forget. We are a part of nature and nature is a part of us, so let’s help preserve the wildlife as much as possible and in return, you will also reap the benefits.