Willesley Wood’s fantastic volunteer – Ian Retson
Woodland warden, guided walk leader and volunteer speaker, Ian Retson is a super volunteer! He is based in Leicestershire and predominantly carries out volunteering at Willesley Wood, but has also volunteered at neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood (QEDJW). Ian has been volunteering with the Woodland Trust for 29 years and has supported us in a number of ways, always ready to lend a hand and is brilliant at coming up with novel ideas for improving the site and our engagement work.
In his role as a warden, Ian regularly visits Willesley Wood and his friendly, engaging approach means that he is well known to the other regular walkers on site. He gets on with any maintenance issues that might require attention, such as path clearance, litter picking and other tidying up and keeps an eye on the interpretation panels. He volunteers to write updates for visitors, working with site manager David Logan to do this. Enabling us to observe the changes to the wood over time, Ian helps us by keeping a photographic record. He also notes down various wildlife species seen at Willesley. A keen birder, Ian has recorded which species he has identified whilst out walking, including whitethroat, yellowhammer, reed bunting, blackcap, reed warbler, tawny owl and more. Building on the images taken across our estate, Ian set up a trail cam to monitor badger activity at Willesley and barn owl activity at QEDJW.
Prior to 2020, Ian had led a great number of guided walks, both off and on our estate. Faced with the barriers to engagement that COVID presented, Ian came up with ways of continuing to communicate with others. Willing to try innovative approaches, he jumped at the chance to try out delivering a virtual walk for a local disability charity. He walked around the site, with selfie on a stick filming himself commenting on the summer highlights of Willesley Wood. Ian dedicated time to editing this so that it could be shared on YouTube.
He also was a speaker for the Woodland Trust, giving talks to community groups including the WI, National History Societies, Wildlife Trusts, U3A groups, just to name a few. These interactions often lead to subsequent enquiries from the groups for engaging with the Woodland Trust further. It is these links that lead to long term support and engagement with external groups.
Ian has been a huge support to our tree planting and community events, in their planning, promotion and delivery. He has also helped others to plant trees too, assisting groups in their applications for tree packs and organising tree planting sessions off our estate.
David Logan, site manager for Willesley Wood has worked with Ian for over three years. Commenting on Ian’s dedication to the role, David said: “Ian is passionate about the Woodland Trust and especially Willesley Wood. He goes beyond what is asked of a warden and produces reports as well as doing his best to engage with the other volunteers in the area. He deserves a special thank– you”.
Thank you such much to Ian for all of your hard work, ideas and support at Willesley Wood and other sites!
Amanda Brookes (VDO for Central England)