Stepping back in time – successful volunteer event at Belton House
The beginning of March saw the first volunteer event in the central region. Beautiful Belton House and it’s stunning formal gardens and parkland provided the perfect place to host our event. Volunteers who carry out various roles, including tree health volunteers, woodland working group volunteers, woods under threat detectors and many more attended. It was great to be able to network and find out more about peoples experiences volunteering with the Woodland Trust.
The morning was spent finding out about the fascinating work that has taken place so far during the HLF-funded Londonthorpe and Bellmount project. This brings together the Woodland Trust and the National Trust with the aim to link the historic landscape to the east of Belton House, making it accessible to all. The benefits to this project were identified under three main themes: improved biodiversity, heath and wellbeing and learning and skills.
Project Development Officer Heather Cook gave an interesting presentation telling the group about the activities that have taken place so far, which have included vital wildlife monitoring work involving volunteers conducting tree and ecological surveys. Historical research volunteers have used their expertise to help us uncover the past. On-site features from bygone times include an old machine gun range, hand grenade store and standing proudly on top of the hill – bellmount tower. Continuing their longstanding support, the Woodland Working Group volunteers assist with this project as well as maintaining Londonthorpe Wood, and other volunteers, such as guided walk leaders, event volunteers and others massively support the project in various roles. It’s a joint effort and we hugely appreciate their hard work. Heather shared some other plans including car park and access improvements, clear dog zones and safe road crossing points to name a few.
It’s always nice to hear volunteers talking about the volunteering that they get involved in and Pete Armstrong, leader of the Londonthorpe Woodland Working group shared his experiences. Pete leads an active group and throughout the season they carry out a number of varied practical conservation tasks, such as clearing the rides, making hazel hurdles and path clearance, as well as lots of other things! The bulk of the activities take place in the winter months, but the group also meets occasionally in the summer, taking part in litter picks and helping with events.
Ali Wyatt introduced the group to the brand new National Volunteering Panel in her presentation. Ali herself is one of the central region panel members, along with Ian Retson and Judith Parry. There are three key aims of the panel, to enable a formal route to interact with the Woodland Trust through formal consultation; to provide volunteers with a key structure and process which gives them them the opportunity to offer feedback on issues that affect them or get their ideas heard and to create a model for volunteering input to become best practice in volunteer engagement. Keep an eye out for members of the central region panel at our forthcoming events.
After lunch the group went on a walk around the formal gardens with one of the National Trust gardeners and then Ali provided a guided tour around some of the parkland, taking the group to see some of the features that had been introduced during Heathers talk.
A fantastic day, thank you to everyone who attended and to Heather, Pete and Ali for providing very interesting talks.
Amanda Brookes – Volunteering Development Officer (Central)
Photo credit: All images by Estelle Slegers Helsen