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Volunteer's experiences

Colin Marker (age 70) Haldon Forest Park, Devon

“I’m quite happy to repair anything as I enjoy working with wood”

Colin Marker helps the forest rangers at Haldon Forest Park two days a week as a volunteer.  He does a range of jobs from maintaining play equipment and talking to forest visitors as well as looking after the bird monitoring stations and even unblocking the toilets. 

“I enjoy the outdoor life so volunteering for the Forestry Commission was ideal. I’m quite happy to repair anything as I enjoy working with wood. It keeps me active and feeling young, with all the fun and banter that goes on, and I get to walk my dog everyday admiring the beautiful panoramic views over Exmoor, the Quantock Hills, Newton Abbott and Dartmoor.  It’s quite a magical place and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.”


Keith Weymouth. Volunteer at the New ForestKeith Weymouth (age 63) New Forest, Hampshire


“It feels good to give something back while benefiting my health.”

Keith has been involved in many projects at the New Forest from clearing vegetation from pathways to improving wildlife habitat.  Like many others for Keith it is a way of keeping fit and an alternative to going to the gym. He also enjoys seeing the benefits of his work for the silver studded blue butterflies and Dartford warbler bird population.

“I decided it would do my heart and soul good to get out into the fresh air and do some manual work. It’s not only good to get the exercise but it comes with a great social life too with all the new friendships you make. I have also discovered areas of the forest I have never seen before. It feels good to give something back while benefiting my health.”

Jamie Murfin. Volunteer at Sherwood PinesJamie Murfin (age 17) Sherwood Pines, Edwinstowe & Ollerton, Nottinghamshire

“It’s been amazing, just brilliant.”

Jamie Murfin volunteered for the Forestry Commission as work experience when he was 15.  Two years later he has won a young volunteer award and does anything from willow weaving school workshops and working with mental health groups to coppicing and pond clearance.  He is now studying an Environmental Conservation and Countryside Management foundation degree.

“Ever since I was a child I liked being outdoors and I thought do you know what I want to be outside. With the Forestry Commission no day is ever the same and it’s a lot of fun. One of the best things is the people you meet, children and adults of all ages and abilities, and the experiences you gather.  It’s been amazing, just brilliant.”

Maureen Gobbet. Volunteer at WestonbirtMaureen Gobbett (age 70) Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

“I decided it was time I gave something back.”

When Maureen retired in 2002 and moved to the area she joined the Friends of Westonbirt and its team of volunteers. Nearly ten years on she is still there.  Maureen is among the smiling volunteers at Westonbirt who will help you find your way, answer questions and share with you the wonders of the national arboretum.

“I just fell in love with the arboretum when I first went there, it’s such a magical place. So I decided it was time I gave something back.  Volunteering is an opportunity to enjoy the arboretum and, whatever I do, I know I can enhance the visitor’s experience.  The best bit is talking to the variety of people who visit.”

Dot Smytherman. Volunteer at Bedgebury.jpgDot Smytherman (age 73) Begbebury Pinetum and Forest, Kent


“It’s been a life long romance with Bedgebury”

When Dot was 17 she went on a blind date to Bedgebury Pinetum where she met a country lad, called Dick, on the stone bridge by Marshal's lake. She lived in the town and knew little about the forest so he introduced her to the trees and wild flowers at Bedgebury. 

They fell in love and were married eighteen months later. It became such a part of their lives that forty years later with a group of like-minded people they founded the Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum volunteer group.

Dot is still an active volunteer and gets involved by supporting events and helping out with the learning team, as well as her favourite pastime, talking to visitors in the Pinetum.

“You could say it has been a life long romance with Bedgebury.  I was together with Dick, my husband, for 46 years and we both loved the place.

When he died I got more involved than ever because I had more time and when I am here I feel close to him.

“In among the trees the air is clear, it relaxes me and I can sort out my feelings.  I have got to know the other people so well that they are just like family to me now.  But most of all I love to enthuse other people about Bedgebury just as Dick enthused me on my first visit.”

Last updated: 29th February 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.