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Volunteering at Denmark Farm is Like a Box of Chocolates

“Life’s a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” (Forrest Gump’s Mum)

One of the distractions
One of the distractions

It’s easy to ignore the breathtaking scenery on your way up to Denmark Farm from the main Tregaron-Lampeter road. You are probably concentrating on the road ahead and what you are going to be doing when you reach your destination. The country road takes you along the side of the Nant Dyfel valley and, as you approach the entrance, the trees lining the route curve over your head, forming a tunnel to another world… well, I like to think to so.

Today, I am here in my capacity as IT volunteer, maintaining the ever-present technology without which no organisation appears to be able to function. A rural location such as this comes with an extra wrapper of wrinkles – occasional power fluctuations and broadband issues certainly make life interesting. And, of course, as you might expect for a Conservation and Ecological Centre, the IT systems have evolved over the years, almost taking on a life of their own.

So, on the agenda right now is drawing a map of the current system. This means tracing where the network cables run to. Denmark Farm still uses cables in places because

  1. the stone walls of the main buildings are too thick for wireless signals to comfortably crawl through
  2. the cables are already installed, from a time before wireless routers were everywhere (or indeed anywhere)
Butterflies on sedum
Lots of assistants

Following cables on the outside of the main buildings, I am “helped” by the masses of butterflies and serenaded by the myriad insects feeding on the flowers. It’s somewhat different from the office buildings in the towns and cities I have worked in! Actually, the whole “feel’ of the place is different. It’s one of the few sites where nature seems to be happy to be there, seems to be unhindered by the walls and the human activity within.

That's one of my curtain poles, there on the left
That’s one of my curtain poles, there on the left

Of course, not all my volunteering is related to the IT at Denmark Farm. The first time I ever volunteered, I helped finish the fixtures and fittings in the eco-lodge. A group of us put up the curtain rails and blinds, and it felt more like a party than a work detail! Every time I see the tracks I put up I feel a sense of pride that:

  1. I helped put them there and
  2. they haven’t fallen down

Whilst I already knew how to drill holes in walls and fix curtain rails to them, I didn’t know how to put up a yurt. Two volunteer days helped to bridge that gap in my knowledge. You can read more about it here.

Yurt Raising at Denmark Farm Eco Cmpsite
Me, in the middle of things with a long stick

There was a particular buzz to completing the yurt – the feeling that a small community of people all but “grew” the structure onto the base, a structure that would be in use right the way through to the end of autumn. Seeing it blending into the landscape, I feel a sense of pride that

a. I helped put it there and
b. it hasn’t fallen down

Don't walk under this tree!
Scene of the crime

Living nearby (well, nearish) means that occasionally, I volunteer to help with things that have unexpectedly cropped up. In this case though, it was things that had unexpectedly fallen down. Actually, it was quite a sight to behold, particularly how the ground appeared to have been folded up like a carpet. Some of the trees are still attached to their roots and still alive to this day. My job here was the essential task of taping off the paths to stop people walking through the twists of fallen wood. I guess the paths really were trunk-ated. Briefly, I felt like I was in an episode of CSI: Betws Bledrws.

So volunteering at Denmark Farm really is akin to a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get!

Jon Sayer, July 2014


Please note: Since Forrest’s Mum said these words of wisdom, boxes of chocolates now come with pictures of the contents and their flavours. Now that’s progress…

To get involved with volunteering at Denmark Farm why not join us for our project Gwaith Dros Natur – your time for nature’We have several activity days coming up over the next month including a Moth evening, Bird walk, Habitat and trail maintenance, Mosaic making and lots more. All events are free and any level of involvement is hugely appreciated. 

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