Monday, 18 October 2010

Volunteers and visitors

We are extremely proud of our volunteer figures, but our visitor figures always seem low. This is because the majority of visitors in "low season" are locals who do not normally pop into the building to be counted. Based on data from our car counter, we reckon that perhaps 25% of our visitors come into the building.

In September 2344 visitors came through the centre. Our midweek volunteers put in 62 man/days and our indoor voluntary wardens put in 53 man/days. At current rates this amounts to 1,200 volunteer\days a year.

On top of this, we have a team who carry out bird counts, ringing and other monitoring on our behalf. And we have the work of the Friends chairman, committee members and trustees. At a guess I would put this at over 200 man\days a year. In addition, the Friends organise winter Sunday work parties, and these amount to at least 50 man\days of volunteer work. There are also the hours spent providing supplies such as bird food, and managing accounts, events, guided tours and other group bookings.

So, I estimate our total volunteer effort to be well in excess of 1,600 man/days a year.

Most of our volunteers are retired. Indeed, some are really quite elderly. However, we do have a few younger volunteers. At any one time we have two or more (currently 4) day placements from Shuttleworth Agricultural College. We also take work experience students from the two high schools in St Neots, and a few others as well. (at least 6 pupils a year doing two weeks each.)

This month we have Paul and Cheyenne, re-christened Thing One and Thing Two, from St Neots Community College.

We occasionally take placements from the Amber Centre, which deals with young people at risk. Our midweek volunteers always include some young adults with special needs (currently 5) working with a dozen or so grumpy old men!

Many of our volunteers are muli-taskers who help us out in several ways. Some volunteer for other places well. They are exceptional people and we are proud of them all. They bring a real family feeling to the reserve as they not only support us, but each other as well. Some really good friendships have been formed, but no weddings, yet!

While Bardon Aggregates are inactive on the site, we have put off work in the northern extension and have concentrated on the new education area, which used to be the vehicle depot for English China Clay. Every week you can see the garden taking shape with new raised beds, a pond and even an amphitheater. There will be raised ponds and all sorts of areas to be explored along new paths that take a sinuous course around the site. The District Council has set aside £7000 for landscaping the area, which will be open most of the time

to everyone from next spring. This week the entire gate complex at the entrance to the Heron Trail will be re-designed.

Last week we put in a new kissing gate on the Meadow Trail to facilitate access for push-chairs while keeping cattle in the meadow, where they belong. At some time in the future we will replace the steep steps with a ramp so that electric buggies can get round the entire trail; outside of "mud season" of course.