Friday, 20 February 2009

Mud, mud glorious mud

Volunteering with B T C V @ Bentley Priory
BTCV, 80 York Way, Kings Cross

All London city types need to step out of the capital from time to time. Even, if to simply acknowledge the world that exists outside of the big smoke’s environs. Not so long ago, a friend of mine sheepishly proposed such an opportunity - An outdoorsy, welly-wearing, do –gooding venture. I would now like to share my experience with others, to those of you who are interested in taking practical action to help improve the environment, enjoy getting outdoors or simply like to stay healthy for free!

Despite a late night last Saturday Sunday morning saw us pulling on the wooly jumpers and clearly never-been-worn anoraks, and packing the essential lunch box full of enough provisions to last a week. Surprisingly well kitted out, we headed through North London on the BTCV minibus ( passing en route ‘The Egg’, and its party harder’s, which was still pumping out the beats) accompanied by 15 fellow ‘conservationists’.

Volunteering with BTCV in London gives you the opportunity to both discover some of the 'secret gardens' across London and help transform ugly urban sites into oases of wildlife, for everyone to enjoy. We were lucky enough to be spending our day at Bentley priory, an 87 ha of woodland and meadows with two bodies of water providing a wide range of habitats for all species. It is a beautiful and well managed space and just a stones throw away from London town. The site’s leader welcomed us with an inspiring story of conservation developments in the area. The enthusiasm and love he holds for his work was infectious and really generated a motivational spirit.

Our mornings work consisted of digging a trench to drain rain water away from the footpath. We soon warmed up and felt very virtuous with bare arms in February’s chill, especially as leisurely onlookers passed by buttoned up to the chin! Time quickly went and our well-earned lunch was munched as everyone quietly took in all that nature offers. After re-fuelling we really got stuck in, clearing out a pond in time for Spring. Wading our way through the half pond/ half swamp we removed dead reeds, algae and roughage. This was highly rewarding because all the team got involved and progress was so visible, both in the making of the pond and on our mud coated attire!

As the sun lowered and contented sighs were spent I think we all felt a similar sense of achievement. The ‘hands on’ approach to work really left its mark and the feeling of satisfaction was one that is often hard to come by in the hustle and bustle of city life. The day was reflective of all of BTCVs work, which has an inclusive community focus, inspiring and connecting people with places.

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