From river cleaning to creating outdoor murals, and from building paths to clearing out scrubland, a 3,000 strong volunteer team in the Chilterns are transforming the environment for their local community.
Led by the Chiltern Rangers, a non-profit organisation in charge of managing woodland in and around Buckinghamshire, the group are helping to preserve their natural surroundings and make sure everyone can benefit from being outdoors.
Tony Speight is the organisation’s operational director. He explained: “We started up in 2013 and were given a five year contract to manage Wycombe District Council’s woodlands.
“But we wanted to do more to enhance the local environment and improve people’s lives. We set about working on a wide range of local sites engaging as many people as we could to make their place a better place to live, and improved for wildlife at the same time.”
In their first year the group recruited an impressive 1,000 volunteers to achieve their goal, and six years on they have ten staff and a dedicated volunteer workforce of more than 3,000 people who gave up a combined 10,000 hours of their time last year.
Projects the Chiltern Rangers have run include Young Roots, where the group worked on the River Wye, a rare chalk stream in the area.
Tony said: “Our volunteers have helped to improve sections of the river by opening it up to let more light in, adding meanders to improve the flow, generally cleaning it up and in places adding artwork to brighten up the surroundings.”
Spending time outdoors not only helps the environment and local wildlife, but has also been proven to be beneficial for mental health.
A recent study showed spending just two hours a week in natural surroundings is associated with better health and psychological wellbeing. It’s something that Chiltern Rangers volunteers will testify to.
Tony said: “Volunteers have reported that they have massively enjoyed the experience and that spending time in nature has increased their confidence and inspired them to spend more time outdoors, and that they have seen huge benefits from that.”
The Chiltern Rangers are currently looking for volunteers who can help manage woodland in and around Buckinghamshire.
Find out more at chilternrangers.co.uk/volunteering
By Jenna Sloan