Getting a buzz from nature - My other life as a volunteer leader

Our final blog in the Volunteer's Week series comes from Viv Lisewski-Hobson....

I’m Viv, Community Chesterfield’s project support officer. I adore nature, it brings me calm, fascination, wonder and a deep sense of love for the Earth and everything on it. Meeting and working with others of the same mind ticks the social box too and really boosts my mental health and wellbeing.

Managing Lea Wood

I volunteer for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and lead a group of like-minded individuals who help to manage Lea Wood near Matlock. In the picture (left) the volunteers are preparing the ground for us to divert a footpath that had become slippery and dangerous. Our people range from a retired law professor to a service station cashier to a young man completing his gold Duke of Edinburgh award (building steps in the picture below). Every single person is valued and our team is a joy to spend time with. I asked some of the others what they got out of volunteering in this way.

The answers ranged from accomplishing something tangible, something you can see and that others benefit from, to making new friends and connecting with nature. Two of our volunteers have made a lasting friendship that now continues outside of group. All agreed that volunteering outdoors is a great way to boost your physical and mental fitness. What could beat that!

Volunteer Viv

The birds and the butterflies

But that’s just part of what I do, I also lead the bird monitoring for Lea Wood. Here I co-ordinate a group of volunteer birders, who use mainly bird calls and songs to monitor populations. We conduct weekly surveys at the crack of dawn! I love it, although it’s a bit of a wrench to get yourself out of bed at that time in the morning but it’s so worth it when you’re there. Woods are such magical special places and if we’re lucky we might spot one of the rare birds that live on our reserves (see photo, right).

Then there’s the butterfly surveys at Crich Chase Meadows, a beautiful acid grassland reserve with spectacular open views. For this one you never have to be out before 10am (lie ins all round!) and if it’s raining you don’t have to go (Hooray!). Butterflies, don’t like getting wet, it makes their wings go frizzy…..

Viv and Kayleigh volunteer

Kayleigh our wonderful trainee

Finally it is my great pleasure to act as personal mentor to the Derwent Valley’s ‘Working for Nature’ trainee Kayleigh Wright. Kayleigh loves to be outside, it does wonders for her health and wellbeing. I love to mentor Kayleigh, I feel really proud of what she’s achieved so far and am certain there’s a great career in nature for her. Here’s Kayleigh repairing a dry stone wall (below) just one of the many skills she’s learned on her traineeship.

Lastly I’d like to acknowledge Alex Morley, the trusts Living Landscape Officer for the Derwent Valley. I’ve learnt so much from him, even though he did try and make me reverse a massive van between the canal and someone’s expensive car. But hats off to Alex, his practical skills are second to none and we’ve had some brilliant times!

If you fancy becoming a volunteer for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, check out their website and if you live in Chesterfield why not visit the Avenue Washlands, we’ve just built a new boardwalk there!