Aline Denton began volunteering for nature at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre in the late 1990’s and has recently returned after a short break. Here she explains more about her volunteer role, and highlights some of the other volunteering opportunities at Denmark Farm.
I first started volunteering at Denmark Farm in the late 1990s after an inspiring visit to the site. In the mid-1980s Denmark Farm was one of the original re-wilding projects – except this term wasn’t used then, and we have always chosen to use descriptions such as ‘habitat restoration’ and ‘recovery of land for nature’. The farm had very little wildlife potential at that time; hedges and woodland had been removed, and the fields were mainly a rye grass monoculture. After some initial input by founders Neil and Barbara Taylor a lake and ‘scrapes’ (shallow ponds) were added, woodland re-planted, and nature was allowed to return.
The habitats and wildlife on site were intensively monitored for those first 10 years as wildflowers re-appeared in the grasslands, birds returned to the hedges and dragonflies re-colonised the scrapes. The ethos has always been one of minimal intervention, giving the land an opportunity to become what it ecologically ‘wants’ to be. Some management is still needed though, and volunteers help to maintain the site’s biodiversity through conservation management, as well as ensuring that more people are able to connect with, and enjoy the site.
Wildlife-rich hay meadow at Denmark Farm (Ross Hoddinott 2020 Vision)
After continuing as a volunteer for 10 years until 2009, redundancy from my career in the biotech sector led me to reconsider my future direction. My nature volunteering experience at Denmark Farm eventually led to employment in the conservation sector, and since then I have worked and volunteered for several wildlife and conservation organisations in Ceredigion, from the Countryside Council for Wales (now NRW) to the Vincent Wildlife Trust, to more recently the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Throughout this time I maintained my contact with Denmark Farm, in both voluntary and paid roles.
My current volunteering role includes a whole range of activities, using the skills and experience gained here and in other conservation roles, together with my knowledge of the site.
I’ve joined the regular volunteer group sessions, where we tackle anything from bramble cleaning to coppicing to fencing, as well as carrying out wildlife surveys. As well as providing an opportunity to spend time outdoors in nature, the sessions provide a great opportunity to meet other like-minded volunteers. I can honestly say there has never been a volunteer day when I haven’t left feeling better than when I arrived!
In the face of current biodiversity loss we can sometimes feel powerless, but volunteering provides a means of making a difference. This might be as simple as removing brambles to enable wildflowers to thrive in the meadow, or cutting back paths to enable more people to enjoy the site’s wildlife, but it all has a positive impact on nature.
In between the volunteer group sessions, I’ll be carrying out a whole range of other activities, from wildlife surveys, to publicity and public engagement. Over the next few weeks this will include camera trapping to identify some of the mammals (and other species) using the site, writing newsletter articles, updating the website, and helping our Site Manager to plan and deliver nature-based activities for the Cadw Natur Mewn Cof project
If you’d like to join our regular nature volunteering group days, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01570 493358; upcoming dates can be found on our website. If you have other skills you could offer, drop us an email or give us a call to discuss potential opportunities. We are also looking for Trustees for our charity The Shared Earth Trust.