TCV Health Development Manager Rachel Hoyes shares with us how a COVID relief grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has supported TCV groups across the UK during the pandemic and various lockdowns.
I think everyone can agree that the past year has made us all appreciate our wonderful local greenspaces.
TCV’s weekday volunteering teams often support management across many sites and these sites were heavily used over the first lockdown. However, they suffered from the lack of ongoing habitat and site management that our hard-working teams provide.
TCV was delighted to receive a grant of £140,800 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to support TCV to start addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our heritage.
This fund has enabled TCV to get nine of our mid-week volunteer teams back up and running, and supported work on three TCV sites.
Over the six months of funding more than 385 individual volunteers have leant a hand, creating over 13,129 hours of volunteer work.
Funding also supported extra staff time to deliver volunteering sessions and ensure that sites and equipment were COVID safe. Teams also bought extra tools and cleaning equipment with the funds.
TCV’s midweek teams in Essex, Norfolk, Birmingham, Leicester, Hastings, and Stirling have carried out essential conservation work including clearing invasive scrub on wetlands, cutting and raking wildflower meadows, coppicing in woodland, and clearing duckweed from ponds.
Other work has included fencing for grazing cattle, building footpaths to prevent erosion, and working with local community groups to build raised beds and benches.
Stave Hill Ecology Park restarted their regular Wednesday volunteer sessions and thanks to the grant funding have introduce two new volunteer days on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
These extra sessions enabled volunteers to work socially distanced and catch up on missed site work.
“One of the most important outcomes has not been the work itself, but the impact of that work on park visitors. The park has had a huge increase in visitors, and although damage was not deliberate, there was some negative impact.
The volunteers’ highly visible presence demonstrated to visitors that this was a site that was valued, that people worked to create this space that visitors were discovering for the first time. Volunteers were a key means of communication, explaining the work being carried out and guiding visitors into site-friendly behaviour.
This has been an immense benefit for us, the wildlife and the local community.”Rebeka Clark, Senior Project Officer, Stave Hill Ecology Park
As a result of the volunteer work after lockdown, Stave Hill was also approached by Jasmine Faulkner from the Ida Girls.
Jasmine told us that the ecology park had been a lifeline whilst she had been unable to work. She wanted to give something back and proposed a small free concert.
We were able to successfully (and safely) host this event as we had a team of volunteers who were used to working within COVID-19 restrictions and had all been issued with individual PPE. The concert was very well received amongst the local community, who thanked us for lifting spirits.
The Glasgow team used some of their funds to deliver popular online training and resources. This supported volunteers who were not able to join group activities to keep active outside and continue volunteering.
Hedgehog surveying proved particularly popular gaining 19 volunteers. A series of ‘Green Monday’ talks aimed to lift people’s spirits on ‘Blue Monday’ attracted over 205 attendees at each session.
In Manchester funding supported habitat work with the midweek team, as well as aiding the continuation of a gardening project supporting people with learning disabilities to gain skills and increase their health and wellbeing.
“One volunteer usually fills his week with volunteering with TCV and attending social groups for other autistic people. Unfortunately, this year, his social groups were cancelled due to COVID-19.
When we resumed volunteering, he was so grateful to be back. Volunteering gave him the opportunity to able to see people outside of their family and get a break from pacing the halls of their house!”Ruth, Senior Project Officer
Pre-COVID the Clandeboye Tree Nursery garnered over 120 volunteering hours per week, supporting the expert team of two TCV Project Officers to produce over 70,00 native trees per year.
In March 2020, all volunteering was suspended resulting in the main work force leaving their posts at a critical time of the tree growing season. There had also been an unexpected requirement to relocate the site.
This fund has supported volunteers to relocate the tree nursery to a new site and safely prepare over 120,000 bare-root trees for planting projects across Northern Ireland.
For the team in York, the funding enabled them to welcome back volunteers at the Hull Road Park project. When volunteering resumed, volunteers were eager to return as many are older and living alone and found the isolation and inactivity detrimental to their health.
Over the Christmas and New Year period, the fund aided the team to continue engaging with those volunteers to rely on regular interaction outside of their immediate household.
From the start of the current lockdown in early January, this engagement has been via a weekly ‘catch up call’. The team and volunteers exchange ideas and suggestions for activities they can do at home or in their gardens, such as The Big Garden Birdwatch.
This has kept volunteers engaged ready to start volunteering again when they can.
South Yorkshire – South Yorkshire Community Woodlands
South Yorkshire Community Woodlands consists of numerous locations across Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham covering 550 ha.
With funding the team have extended the contract of one of their Wardens, who has been a fantastic help in replacing damaged signs, clearing up vandalised areas, keeping sites clean, and helping the team improve the quality of local green spaces for people to enjoy.
This grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has made such a huge difference to staff, volunteers and to the wide range of sites TCV contributes to from improving habitats for wildlife, to mending the now well-used pathways.
It has also given staff the time to support volunteers in many ways, putting extra COVID-19 secure measures in place, keeping in contact with volunteers who have not be able to join any volunteering sessions, and providing fun and interesting online learning and support.
This was all possible due to players of The National Lottery. A huge THANK YOU to all National Lottery players from all at TCV.