Volunteering in North Devon


James Blake has just started as a volunteer ranger at Woolacombe and writes about his volunteer journey:IMG_2182

“My name is James Blake and I have been a volunteer for ten years. A neighbour encouraged me to do it as she said it would be good for me to get out and about. When I started with the National Trust, I was at Arlington Court and I helped to look after the horses that were there then – mucking them out and brushing them. A few months ago, I started at Woolacombe where we do all sorts of things like walling and strimming and mending steps. I like litter-picking and walling the most, and hammering in the wooden pegs for the steps. Some of it is hard work but I do like being out and meeting people and working with the staff and the other volunteers.”

The Life of a Woolacombe Volunteer


11951466_10153048064888344_3261647170793114468_oToday Gudrun Limbrick writes about her time as a volunteer ranger at Woolacombe:

“A couple of years ago I joined a wall-building course run by the Woolacombe team at Mortehoe. The course was two days of learning how to cut and lay slate stones to form the traditional stone-faced banks which criss-cross the countryside here. It rained, a gale blew and I finished each day absolutely filthy but I loved it, and I knew that I wanted to do more. So, for a year or so now, I have been volunteering once a week with the Woolacombe team. The jobs we do are varied – cutting and burning gorse in the winter, strimming in the summer, and wall-building, litter-picking, step repairing and many other tasks whenever they are needed. I really enjoy the work and being part of the team but, most of all, I have loved getting to know this beautiful place I live in better and learning about how the land is used and managed, and the varied habitats it supports. As a bonus, my experience as a volunteer has meant that I have been appointed as a National Trust beach ranger in the summer season, surely the best job in the world!”

Volunteering at Dunsland


dunsland volunteeringOur volunteering story today comes from David Manifold, a volunteer community ranger at Dunsland.

“My wife Jill and I have been supporters of the National Trust for many years and when I was offered the chance to help out at my local property, Dunsland, near Holsworthy, I jumped at the opportunity. The site covers about 92 acres of mixed woodland and grassland and there had been a house there for at least a thousand years and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The Trust bought the house in 1954 and spent many years restoring it. In 1967, just three days after the official opening, the house caught fire and was totally destroyed. The damage was so bad that it was decided to demolish what was left and now the only trace is some old garden walls and the coachhouse and stables which were unscathed in the inferno.
Before taking up my post as local community Volunteer Ranger, I and two other new volunteers from other properties were invited to our Ranger H.Q at Brownsham. Ranger Luke Johns was on hand to welcome us and show us around the site, we were given a run-down of the Trust’s aims and the type of work the Rangers are responsible for. He explained the importance of the volunteers, stressing that without us, the Trust would not be able to function in its present form. After tea and coffee, we climbed into the Land Rover to be taken on a tour of some of the properties that Brownsham is responsible for, these included some of the coastal paths, some woodland areas, and we also had a look at the artist’s cabin at Bucks Mills etc.

We were issued with our fleeces and t-shirts, a pair of work gloves and other bits and bobs, a roll of rubbish bags, (of course), a folder with leaflets and info together with some health and safety stuff and finally a good dollop of enthusiasm. I must say that I for one was impressed by Luke’s own enthusiasm for his job and the aims and goals that the Rangers set themselves.

My role at Dunsland is to walk the property on a regular basis, usually once a week or fortnight, and to make sure that all is well and as it should be. I collect any rubbish that may have been dropped or occasionally dumped in the carpark. About half of the land is pasture and is let out to two local farmers for grazing and I keep an eye on the fences and make sure that the gates are ok. The farmers are local long-term tenants, so should a problem arise that might affect them, I can give them a call.

I always make an effort to walk the grounds after a storm to make sure that the trees have survived, some of the wonderful chestnut trees are believed to be over 600 years old. There are also some magnificent oaks and I often find myself wondering about what these old trees must have witnessed. There are the remains of the old walled garden, most of it has tumbled down and the surrounding woodland has reclaimed the once cultivated ground. The Trust has planted out a new fruit orchard with about fifty trees with many old varieties of apple and pear etc. Each season, the trees in the orchard are pruned and mulched and this is one of the tasks that we volunteers can help with. Another job is hedgelaying, or steeping as it’s called locally, the Trust offer courses at Dunsland for these activities and I always like to be on hand to help out and take part along with a few others volunteers who come from our local wildlife group.

It’s alway good to learn a new skill, or brush up on an old one, I’ve always spent as much time as possible outdoors in the countryside and the old rural skills such as hedging and ditching, stone walling and fencing are still in great demand at properties like Dunsland. I like to think that our efforts in helping to preserve these wonderful places that have endured for centuries will give the next generation the opportunity to enjoy them as much as we do now.

The beauty of the volunteer system that the National Trust operate is that retired people like myself can help out or get involved in almost any way that suits them. I’m an active seventy three year old and the Brownsham Rangers, Gregg, Luke and Justin always make sure that myself and all of our volunteers, young and old or whatever, feel valued and appreciated, we are always told to work at our own pace and they make a point of thanking everyone for their efforts.”

Celebrating Volunteers’ Week


This week is Volunteers’ Week (hooray!) which gives us the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our amazing volunteers in North Devon! We literally wouldn’t be able to continue without their hard work, support and dedication. They help us with everything, from practical conservation work to office admin to car park stewarding.

We wanted to highlight some of the great work our volunteers get up to, so over the next couple of weeks we’ll be adding a few volunteer stories from around North Devon, giving you a glimpse into the varied and exciting life of a National Trust volunteer!

Our first story comes from David Dixon, a working holiday leader and volunteer ranger at Woolacombe:

‘I first got involved with the National Trust by taking part in a Working Holiday in early 1999 near Helston. I already admired the work done by the National Trust in preserving the coastline from development, particularly in North Devon, and by the end of 2000 had already been a Volunteer Leader for a Working Holiday. For the next ten years I continued to lead 2 or 3 Working Holidays every year, always well away from home. Eventually, in 2010, I led a Working Holiday at Countisbury, only 25 miles away from home. The work that week was on the Woolacombe Estate, and I got to work with the Ranger team based there.
I had retired the year previously and now found that I had the opportunity to give back some time to the National Trust, so I asked Jonathan, the Head Ranger at Woolacombe what volunteering opportunities were available. He told me that he could find work for me on Tuesdays, and I have been working on that day ever since, except when I am away on holidays (I still lead one or two Working Holidays every year), and am now known as ‘Tuesday Dave’ at Woolacombe.
I get back three brilliant experiences:
I get to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country, often in places not normally accessible to most people.
I meet the most interesting people, with a whole depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the areas they look after.
I have the satisfaction of working to conserve and improve our beautiful countryside for all to enjoy.’

If you’re inspired by these stories and interested in getting involved yourself, please get in touch northdevon@nationaltrust.org.uk or 01598 763306.

 

Dunsland Volunteers Spring In to Action!


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As the earth warmed and the avian symphony began the sun shed it’s dappled light through the trees and we set about the task ahead.

Our team for the day consisted of our very own Dunsland Volunteer Group and Community Ranger as well as Full time Volunteers, all kindly giving their time to help us improve access to this wonderfully intriguing historical Parkland, a walk through which reveals walled gardens, ancient trees, rare lichens and numerous other natural treasures.

As time has passed our car park has become somewhat tired and as such was in need of a bit of a face lift. Within hours our plucky team had re-surfaced the whole car park, installed drainage pipes to prevent waterlogging and beautifully re-assembled the stone coin at the entrance.

The weather was kind, the banter was great, some new skills were learnt and in the process the car park has now become more usable to locals and visitors alike.

I did forget the cake though!

Thanks to everyone who was involved and I’ll look forward to seeing you on our next work day.

Ranger Gregg

If you have an interest in volunteering then please do get in touch. We’d love to speak to you. See the National Trust website for details.

Indestructible toilet!!!


Part of the Dunsland Estate forms a training site for Holsworthy Bee Keepers Association and it’s old engine house is used by members as a place to “relax”. But with recent high winds it’s a miracle this historical building is still there. As the recent high winds whistled through the ancient trees of Dunsland, there was one casualty, an impressive Lime tree which alone would have, without a doubt crushed the building beneath it. Luckily, it’s fall was cushioned by a large stand of Laurel and a an Oak limb which was left straddling the roof. This was a specialist job and as such we called in the experts who adeptly unveiled the engine house to reveal the damage- two broken ridge tiles!?!

A miracle I’d say and the toilet lives to see another day.

Ranger Gregg

Found out more about Dunsland’s wonderful Parkland, history and wildlife at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

 

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Burning in the Sun


In today’s beautiful sun, myself and the rangers at Hartland were out on Windbury Hill Fort creating a lot of smoke. We seized the beautiful weather and very low winds to spend the day out burning the gorse to encourage the diverse grassland on the hill fort. This work, paired with future grazing by hebridean sheep will reduce the effects of scrub encroachment.  With spring very much round the corner we will hopefully see the results of our labour in improving the habitat in this stunning location.

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By Karen Saunders

Full-time Voluntary Ranger, Torridge