I started volunteering for the RSPB about eight years ago while living in Eastbourne. I was in regional management for a large supermarket chain, worked silly hours, and took it all very seriously. It was obvious I needed something else to focus on - something for the good of my health. As I have always had a curiosity towards wildlife and birds, and been an RSPB member for a few years, they were an obvious choice. I began helping with heathland restoration at RSPB Broadwater Warren. 

Then, five years ago, my wife Liz and I moved to Bedfordshire for my work. Being so close to The Lodge made it an obvious reserve to consider getting involved with.  Work has since changed, as I was made redundant just after moving, and now I work raising funds for conservation in the UK and around the world. In part this was inspired by the greater satisfaction I was getting from volunteering for RSPB.

Before Covid-19, my fundraising job kept me very busy. I tried to fit in time for pursuits like tennis and woodturning, but it was a struggle. I’m lucky too to have a good-sized garden that is no-where near ‘done’ and needs at least one full day’s attention a week.  So, with all these other interests, why do I put as many Wednesdays at The Lodge, when ‘me’ time is already a challenge?

The answer is very straightforward: volunteering with RSPB is not just for the wildlife, it is also very much for me. I would like to claim I’m being selfless, but it wouldn’t be honest of me to say it’s pure sacrifice, or that I just do it for the greater good of the natural world!  Volunteering is great for me; not only does it enable me to take positive action for things I’m passionate about, but it does so much for me too… in fact it does probably does more for me than I can do for it!

There are the physical benefits: I sleep very well after working hard outdoors; it helps build and maintain core strength and overall fitness. The greatest reward is perhaps what it does for one’s mental health, freeing you from the trials and tribulations of life. In no small part this is due to the team of people (wardens and volunteers) you work with, like-minded yet varied souls who become a social network you truly value having in your life. The camaraderie and support is such a benefit. Then there are the interesting challenges and activities like: “what’s the best way to build this raised platform”, or “how do I light a bonfire with wood that is covered in ice?”, all of which are great ways to clear the mind and get a break from the many other questions, demands, and doubts that life poses.

Of course, due to the current Covid-19 crisis we have had to stop. For the time being, Wednesdays work parties at The Lodge have been cancelled, for everyone’s health and safety. We still get together on Wednesdays for a virtual morning tea break, using video conferencing.  It is great to catch up with everyone, hear about their week and find out how they are coping, and of course ask Alan (one of our two lovely wardens) if he has remembered to bring the Fig Rolls?…perhaps it’s the inside jokes that keep us coming back? So, I am certainly looking forward to getting back to the reserve and the volunteer team once Covid-19 is behind us.