Finding Skelton Grange
Volunteering with TCV at Skelton Grange Environment Centre was my first decisive step into the world of conservation. After a degree and several jobs in Chemistry I knew that it wasn’t for me, and that I wanted to devote my time to something I’m passionate about. For me, that’s the environment! I grew up in the mountains of North Wales and have always loved spending time outdoors. Current threats facing the natural world are a big concern and I’d love nothing more than to work in conservation. I just didn’t know where to start.
After the most relaxed interview of my adult life I was invited to become a Natural Heritage Trainee, and what a great first step it has been! I’ve been volunteering since November 2019 and I feel very at home here, where the biggest source of drama is deciding who’s turn it is to make the tea (somehow it’s always me).
I’ve focussed my attention on gaining practical conservation experience during my time here as that’s where my career aspirations lie and I’ve learned a lot. Having grown up on a farm I’d already encountered most of the tools we use at Skelton Grange before. However, using them safely is a completely new experience for me, along with the correct maintenance. My confidence in handling tools and using them to good effect has grown massively. Transporting, storing and using equipment safely is now second nature and I find myself in leadership positions actually knowing what I’m talking about!
Hedgelaying has been one of the major highlights of my time at TCV. I’ve had the opportunity to practice the technique on numerous occasions and have become a notorious billhook hog. It’s wonderful being able to work outside all day, using traditional tools and newly acquired skills to create beautiful and valuable boundaries for wildlife. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know the site and the volunteers from our Monday and Friday sessions. I didn’t really expect to enjoy working with people so much but it’s been so rewarding to help people engage with nature, stay active and socialise while learning new skills at TCV sessions. I’ve found that I’m confident leading activities, teaching new skills and that I’m pretty good at putting people at ease through incessant chattering.
Volunteering with TCV has been really valuable for me. First and foremost it is long term practical experience in a well known conservation organisation which is exactly what I need to help me develop a meaningful career. But it’s also more than that, there’s a distinct focus on wellbeing and personal experience. It’s comfortable and wholesome while also being incredibly useful. The leadership experience I have gained here is also something I would have struggled to gain anywhere else and I suspect it will be a valuable skill for the future.
Inspired by the possibilities presented by a career in conservation I recently started a masters degree in conservation biology and I’m really enjoying learning the theory behind the practical work. As soon as covid allows it I’m hoping to expand my experience with some other volunteering opportunities and I intend to continue volunteering at Skelton. I’m yet to see the Skelton kingfishers. I’m assured they’re always around and it seems everyone has seen them but me, so I’m forced to remain until they show themselves.
Posted by Abi Cutler about experiences on the Grass Roots project; delivered by TCV at Skelton Grange Environment Centre and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.