Menu

Forest Diary

The Forest Diary, Improve your wellbeing with a little bit of volunteering

by Gemma Stride, Volunteer Co-ordinator (enquiries.southern@forestry.gsi.gov.k)

“Most elements of well-being significantly improve during volunteering, in particular, social relations and the feeling of achieving something meaningful. Volunteers in ‘practical conservation’ also see a decrease in negative emotions improving their general well-being” according to Gitte Kragh, a PhD student from Bournemouth University. Kragh’s study focuses on volunteer wellbeing whilst participating in conservation tasks. Her recent findings add to a growing wealth of research which indicates that volunteering, especially outdoors, increases your ‘feel good factor.’

Since 1999, volunteering in the New Forest has grown through the Forestry Commission and we now have over 250 people helping to conserve this special area and benefit from the feel good factor. This Saturday 31st January offers a great opportunity for you to add to this number.  The 2015 Volunteer Fair at Lyndhurst Community Centre, 10.30am to 4pm, provides an opportunity to find out how you can get involved with a whole range of different groups volunteering in the New Forest.

Here at the Forestry Commission we offer the opportunity to improve your physical and mental health through two volunteering schemes – the Volunteer Rangers and the Two Trees Conservation Team.

By becoming a New Forest Volunteer Ranger, you get the chance to be out and about in the forest all year round; to lead conservation tasks, patrol the forest in your very own van, engage with visitors from, for instance, our popular information hut at Bolderwood or the Reptile Centre off the A35, support the Forestry Commission in caring for the Forest and work with local organisations like the National Park Authority amongst many other tasks. You’ll play a key role in helping to conserve wildlife and habitats while enhancing visitor enjoyment. We ask for a regular but modest commitment and provide you with a uniform and training. We are looking to recruit more Volunteer Rangers this year so for more information and a chance to experience this rewarding vocation, keep an eye on http://www.newforestvrs.org.uk/

Alternatively, if a full Volunteer Ranger role feels a step too far but you’re really keen to help conserve the New Forest and meet a like-minded bunch of people, consider joining the Two Trees Conservation Team www.newforest2trees.org.uk. The team works alongside the New Forest Volunteer Rangers and involves a lot of fresh air and exercise plus the opportunity to socialise with others who have a similar love of the area. It may involve getting rid of scrub in ponds to help toads and newts one weekend, to clearing small trees from ride edges for butterflies and insects the next. The conservation tasks take place during the winter months across weekdays and weekends and are run in partnership with organisations such as Hampshire County Council, and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Volunteers come from a whole range of backgrounds and ages. They include engineers, teachers and salesmen, people with a financial, computing or clerical background, people retired or just setting out on the employment phase of life. Some of the team are looking for new challenges whilst many have had demanding careers but want to continue to use their skills whilst increasing their knowledge by learning new ones. Often members find skills learned in their other professional environments, can be turned to good use in the volunteering environment. Our retired volunteers say they’ve consciously chosen to do practical conservation work as they feel it keeps both their mind and body active in a stress-free, environment.

Henry Cole, a longstanding member of the volunteer team cites the great sense of achievement and satisfaction you can get from helping to conserve the forest as well as being socially rewarding and lots of fun.

By signing up to Volunteer Ranger or Two Trees Conservation schemes, you can help to be an active custodian of the New Forest, managing it now and for future generations. So why not discover a new passion in 2015 and take up volunteering with added wellbeing benefits for your body, mind and of course our treasured New Forest!

For more information about the New Forest, visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest