Apr 03 2020

Staying connected – distance volunteering at Smithills!

It would be easy, when running a community project largely based outdoors, to feel downhearted when all outdoor activities are postponed. However – team Smithills (staff and volunteers) are a determined bunch!

Over the last week, we have been looking at ways to keep our volunteers connected with Smithills and each other, and ways to maintain our engagement with our community groups. Social contact is going to be really important over the next weeks and months and is a crucial part of the wellbeing aspect of our work.
Our volunteer group regularly contribute around 400 hours per month of their time to the project, which shows how important the site is to them. Despite our task days, monitoring walks, and guided walks all being cancelled, we’ve found everyone keen to stay in touch. Our WhatsApp groups are buzzing with info – wildlife garden spots, tweet of the day (yesterday’s was the yellowhammer), film and music recommendations, and old photos of the Estate. Each of our sub-groups have come together to focus on off-site tasks – the photographers are planning an exhibition for winter; our guided walk leaders are writing leaflets; our historians are researching online archives; our Wardens are helping us with interpretation content. There is a real sense of community, and I for one can say it’s really helping me to keep positive!
Our biggest sub-group, the Wildlife Monitors, have met twice using Zoom and are currently doing two VERY useful tasks – collating their hundreds of wildlife photos into a searchable archive, and looking through the past ten years’ of info from the local ecological records office, in conjunction with staff from Greater Manchester Records Unit. They will look at trends over that time, pick out some interesting species for us to include in interpretation, and look at diversity in one or two chosen spots on the Estate.
Our next post will focus on some of the community work we are continuing to do, keeping connected with our dementia friendly walking group and with local mental health, refugee and asylum seeker charities, so look out for that.
Vicky En
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