My volunteering story started around a decade ago with a couple of different organisations. I’ve found it a good way to use my free time and give something back to others. I came to the RSPB in summer 2019 to complete a 150 hours work placement as part of my foundation degree at University Centre Askham Bryan in York which I started in 2018 as a mature student. As you can imagine I started this career path in a roundabout way but as I have always had an interest and passion for animals and conservation it felt like the right time to embark upon a degree course. I completed my placement hours at St. Aidan’s in around 6 months but decided to continue volunteering as I had enjoyed working there so much and I wanted to continue gaining experience doing something I love and hope to have as a future career.


When I started my placement I began on the Reserve Team over the summer of 2019 helping with maintenance tasks including brush clearing, path maintenance and construction, invasive species management (Himalayan Balsam), gate and bench replacement and installation and species surveys for bitterns and black-necked grebes. When I returned to university for my second year I moved on to the Ranger Team on a weekend as my timetable didn’t allow me to continue to work with the Reserve Team every week. Being on the Ranger Team involves walking around the reserve interacting with visitors by providing them with answers to their queries and  information about things happening at the reserve and any notable sightings. We also liaise with the visitor centre to report any safety issues and any exciting bird sightings. Walking the reserve also allows me to indulge and combine my other passions of birdwatching and photography. There is also the opportunity to help with events run on site. I think my favourite so far has to be the Halloween event for children with spooky stories and a short walk listening out for bats using bat detectors and other nightlife.


I was also extremely lucky to be allowed to carry out some wildflower surveys on site for my second year university project which yielded some interesting results and opened up some new opportunities for me to present this at a conference at the end of June. I’m now expanding upon this study for my dissertation and surveying at St. Aidan’s and three other reserves managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in the Lower Aire Valley by incorporating insect surveys into the study.


Being outside in nature at St. Aidan’s allows me to switch off from my hectic working and studying life and just centre myself in the here and now to enjoy what is around me. During lockdown I’ve gained a new appreciation for what is around me and the visitors we get in the garden, but I’ve missed the camaraderie of volunteering with the RSPB and the staff, volunteers and visitors on site. As soon as it is safe to do so I’m looking forward to going back.


Although our volunteering is currently on hold, if you’d like more information about our roles, or would like to join our team here in the Aire Valley please get in touch with our Volunteer Co-ordinator Janine via email for more information-


Photo credit: Charlie Ward.