Volunteer profile – Tish Johnson, Lead Volunteer at Langley Vale Wood
There is always local news being announced at Langley Vale Wood, our 640 acre Centenary Wood, set in the rolling chalk hills of Surrey. Like so many of our sites, much of the regular wildlife and plant monitoring is done by dedicated volunteers who know the site well and are keen to share to their expert knowledge to anyone willing to listen. Tish Johnson who is our Lead Volunteer with the arable plant conservation group has shared her story since the start of her involvement in 2015 – so grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy a few minutes rest while you learn about Tish’s volunteer journey at the Woodland Trust.
“I’m a volunteer at Langley Vale Wood and I’ve been signed up since early in 2015. Initially there weren’t any regular work parties apart from the first phase of planting in 2014. When I signed up, the first volunteer project on offer at Langley Vale was the Arable Plant Survey group. So that’s where it all started for me! Always a keen gardener, I’d vaguely cast an eye at wild flowers but really knew very little and was not sure I would be able to learn enough to be of any help. The project was starting from nothing, we didn’t know how to survey let alone how to ID the plants on our list. Things could only improve! Four years later and I’m lead volunteer and have this specialised but rather narrow knowledge of these charming and incredibly rare plants. All forty of the plants we are surveying are considered rare. They are plants of cultivation, they need some kind of soil disturbance to germinate. Which is why we plough the fields to give them the right conditions but we don’t crop the fields as we don’t want to grow anything except these rare plants. The project sits within the Open Spaces management plan for Langley Vale and is part of the rich tapestry of the open spaces that include species rich grassland. We produce a report each year as to what we find and I’m so proud of our group and what we have achieved. Sometimes organising a group like this is like herding cats but it’s been very rewarding and along the way I’ve met some really interesting people.
If I had a super power, it would be to learn all about these little plants and not have to spend so much time with my nose in a book!
Since I signed up as a volunteer for the Woodland Trust I’ve been involved with lots of projects and helped out at various stall at fairs and events. I joined the Talking Trees project a couple of years ago and now speak to local groups in the community, I talk about the Woodland Trust but mostly I talk about Langley Vale. We’re keen to get the word out. A group of us have been leading walks on the 640 acre site, its been great using all the knowledge I’ve collected.
This year we finished the main tree planting for the site and I have spent many days planting trees with schools, sponsors and the general public on planting days. Now our working parties are back to taking out old fencing and barbed wire and maintaining paths. We check the planted areas for problems and we have work parties specifically for the community orchard. We want to give these trees the best chance of survival and we also look forward to the day we can enjoy the fruits of our labour!
Signing up as a volunteer for me was important to get the work / life balance. I’d been looking for a volunteer opportunity that would get my hands dirty. The site is close to where I live so its perfect. I’ve made so many great friends through coming to Langley Vale and its hard not to get involved with a project like this.
I can’t wait for the site to be fully up and running with its car park, paths and hedges. It really is a lovely place to have so many good excuses to hang out there!”
Tish Johnson, Lead Volunteer at Langley Vale Wood
If you would like to share news of your story volunteering with us, please contact Lucy Shea, Volunteer Development Officer – LucyShea@woodlandtrust.org.uk