Warden Spotlight: Clifton Robinson, North Wales
I recently spoke to Clifton after his weekly virtual kettle bells session to hear his volunteering story.
When Clifton was approaching retirement, he sent out a few emails to various charities offering his upcoming spare time. Our then site manager, Kylie Jones Mattock, quickly responded with a resounding ‘yes’. They met up at Marl Hall Woods, which was a fortuitous choice as it brought back many happy memories for Clifton of family walks with their old dog Barney. Kylie explained that the two woods which would benefit from a warden would be Marl Hall Woods and Coed y Gopa as these two woods are near centres of population – Llandudno and Abergele respectively.
As a volunteer woodland warden for Marl Hall woods and Coed y Gopa since 2013 Clifton is the eyes and ears for the site manager. If he spots any issues such as over-hanging trees, damaged signs or fly-tipping he takes a photo and sends a message to the site manager. Clifton is also a dab hand with the litter pickers – a very handy bit of kit provided by the Woodland Trust along with branded uniform and what Clifton jokingly refers to as his ‘pink spray of shame’ for marking dog fouling on the path. He is still using the same can he was issued with in 2013!
Three of Clifton’s photos from Coed y Gopa (above).
“Our Site Managers can’t be everywhere at once,” says Estate Manager Kylie Jones Mattock. “That’s why our Wardens play such an important role, picking up on issues as soon as they occur and helping to keep our sites safe and well presented for all our visitors. Clifton has been a pleasure to work with, bringing humour and positivity to his role. He’s the face of the Woodland Trust locally and we couldn’t have a nicer representative!”
A carpet of wild garlic at Marl Hall Woods, photo by Sue Robinson.
Over his eight years with us Clifton has discovered a further facet to life as a warden which he refers to as a real perk. Whilst out in his branded Hi-Viz gear he’ll often stop and chat to woodland visitors. Whether they are regular visitors or have only recently stumbled upon his sites they are generally pleased to stop and chat to a friendly face of the Woodland Trust. Clifton adeptly takes the role as ambassador and explains about the Woodland Trust in general and the particular woods in question. The public often tell Clifton how pleased they are to know that a volunteer is taking a careful watch over the site so that they can enjoy it. This has been even more noticeable over the course of the pandemic, as people’s local woods have become even more important for their physical and mental well-being.
Clifton with his trusty litter pickers in hand, photo by Rebecca Good, Site Manager.
As a keen rambler Clifton also supports our walking group leader volunteers by attending their walks as a back marker and also spreading word of the events among his local friends.
Aside from getting out of the house for some fresh air and ‘doing his bit’, the best things about the role for Clifton are that uniform and kit are taken care of and that the staff take time to meet up with volunteers, listen to their feedback and treat them to tea and cake! (Covid restrictions permitting of course.)
Another perk of the role is that Clifton asks his fellow warden at Parc Mawr to let him know when the bluebell display is at it’s peak so that he can make a special visit with family and friends to enjoy the spring flowers.
You can find out how to get to Coed y Gopa here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/coed-y-gopa/
Written by Martha Boalch, Volunteer Development Officer
With thanks to Clifton Robinson and Kylie Jones Mattock.