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Our DofE Volunteers Are Amazing

Duke of Edinburgh volunteers

Our DofE Volunteers Are Amazing

This year, a team of 13-16 year olds contributed over 600 hours of volunteering with us as part of their Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) award, writes our Vice Chair and Duke of Edinburgh Lead, Myszka Guzkowska.

Those 30 students made a very significant contribution to conservation and biodiversity on Barnes Common and the Leg of Mutton Reservoir. These are all valuable open spaces and green resources for the people of Barnes, Mortlake and Sheen and much of the conservation work is undertaken by volunteers. Activities range from managing the woodland, creating safe habitats for small animals, removing invasive species, building green fences to conserve wild areas, setting up cameras to track hedgehogs, removing the large amount of litter deposited by people that is not only unsightly but is a hazard for many animals, and the maintaining of paths and open areas so that people and animals can enjoy the environment. As a student said, “it’s being part of the solution, not the pollution”.

The big push this year, however, has been at the Vine Road Recreation Ground, where these students have been supporting our community growing centre. They built planters and raised beds, in turn enabling other members of the community to get involved in growing food and vegetables for food banks in Barnes and Mortlake. The growing areas have brought together people of all ages who would not normally meet, improving a sense of wellbeing and community.

The DofE students have not only achieved an important element of their DoE award, but they have also developed their teamwork, communication , organisation and leadership skills, all transferable skills that will be of value to them later in life. They also learned practical woodworking skills, how to maintain growing areas and the importance of taking care of green spaces to ensure a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem. As one student said “I was having fun and learning loads while doing something of value”.

Yaffles is the activity for families who want to join their young children on Barnes Common at weekends. Once a month, families join a walk on the Common to learn about trees, fungi, birds and other flora and fauna. Again, there is an an element of bringing people who might not normally meet together in a community setting, with all the wellbeing that comes from being outdoors. Yaffles starts and finishes at Vine Rd where the DofE students have constructed a seating area from recycled wood so that small children and families can meet in a safe environment and learn about growing plants. There have also been evening bat walks around the Leg of Mutton where families have used bat detectors to listen to and to identify up to seven different species of our UK bat population.

Meanwhile, our staff have been busy visiting junior schools in the area with a view to working with teachers and to get the youngest in our community out into the field to look and learn about plants and animals that live in our green spaces. In the longer term, we need to find ways of integrating matters concerning the environment into the school curriculum so we have run staff training for outdoor learning, and we are working with students from teacher training colleges at both St. Mary’s University Twickenham and Roehampton University.

We are always seeking new volunteers at all levels. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme (DofE) has been a very important growth area this year and we could provide more places if we were able to find adult volunteers to help supervise them. We know that there is a wide range of experience in the community and we can match that with a wealth of opportunity to engage in active conservation and environmental management activities. We offer a wide range of possible volunteering opportunities and can promise friendly support and encouragement. Come and talk to us!