I have been in the unusual and lucky position of being paid by my employer to volunteer for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. John Lewis sponsored me to work one day a week for six months under its Golden Jubilee Scheme which was set up in April 2000 to mark 50 years since the business was handed to its workers, known as “partners”, by Spedan Lewis, son of John Lewis. It has been a fascinating, stimulating and fun six months, so much so that I am continuing to volunteer now that the John Lewis secondment has ended.
My time with the Trust got off to a good start with the Volunteers’ Day at Weeting Heath in July 2018. Volunteers were given a guided tour of the reserve, talks by wildlife experts, who each thanked volunteers for their contribution to the trust’s work, and we enjoyed fish and chips in the warm late afternoon sunshine. The event showed me that the efforts of volunteers were valued and much appreciated by the Trust. And I found myself in the company of volunteers and NWT staff who were clearly committed to the cause and enjoying working together for the benefit of nature.
I am a journalist and so got involved in the public relations and communications side of the Trust. The first weeks were spent visiting all the NWT reserves with visitor centres – Cley, Ranworth, Hickling, Holme and Weeting – taking pictures and writing reports on the facilities they offer and their family-friendly activities, such as pond-dipping and bug hunts. I was amazed at all the activity there and delighted to be visiting during the long, hot summer of 2018.
Next came project-led assignments, reporting on schemes under way, including the purchase and conversion of farmland near Thompson Common, restoration work at Catfield Fen, the management of Pigneys Wood and the purchase and transformation of land near Roydon Common.
The time I have been able to give to the Trust has also allowed me to write articles on fundraising, including pieces to encourage people to join the Trust and to consider leaving a legacy to the NWT. I have also added to the NWT’s stock of pictures to illustrate its brochures and online content, most recently by taking pictures of branded products – from soap to binoculars – which can be bought in the visitor centres.
It has been a challenge sometimes to get my head around the complicated issues the Trust tackles but I have had a lot of fun too. I am so pleased the Trust made the most of my time – and I suspect that many other volunteers feel they are making a difference. I know from what was said at the Volunteers’ Day at Weeting that the Norfolk Wildlife Trust could not achieve as much as it does without people donating their time and effort.