Volunteering for wildlife

volunteer work -Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts

Volunteering for wildlife

Volunteering with Devon Wildlife Trust is a great way to use your skills to make a difference for Devon’s wildlife

And you don’t have to be an expert to get involved!

Volunteer Award Winners 2023

Here at Devon Wildlife Trust, volunteers are at the heart of the Trust and what we do. We were founded by volunteers, and run by volunteers for many years, and so each year we hold our Volunteer Awards to celebrate the hard work, dedication and incredible skills of our volunteers across the whole of the Trust.

Below are our Volunteer Award Winners, who have been nominated by fellow volunteers, staff or members and although these awards have been given to individuals, these volunteers can be seen to represent all of our volunteers, a whole community of hundreds of hardworking people, without whom the Trust could not do the work we do and who are each deeply appreciated.

John and Mary Breeds

John and Mary's volunteer roles include Swanpool Work Party Volunteers, Voluntary Wardens for Swanpool and committee members for Barnstaple and District Local Group, and they have been volunteering with Devon Wildlife Trust for around 40 years.

They are dedicated, deeply knowledgable, committed, inclusive and they welcome everyone.

John and Mary have been supporting the Devon Wildlife Trust for over 40 years in the North Devon area. John has been a member of the Local Group committee for many years with Mary joining him in more recent times. Both were involved in the setting up of the Local Area Committee. Over the years they have arranged and run work parties at Swanpool reserve as well as helped out at other reserves. They have regularly led walks as part of our local group activities and supported our indoor meetings. They have arranged events, training and helped with publicising local group activities. Both have helped Head office staff with advice and species monitoring. They have always been positive, reliable, keen and dedicated to take action for nature and are key people in Nature Conservation in the North Devon area.

Volunteering is their life. They have founded and are helping to run the Braunton Countryside Centre (whilst not a DWT project, it promotes wildlife in North Devon and DWT information is spread via the centre). They identify specimens and inspire people. John is particularly knowledgeable about invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles; and Mary about botany but they are both all-around naturalists. They are positive and keen to look at new ways to do things to encourage as many people as possible to engage with nature locally. They readily share their considerable expertise.

They have done so much, from delivering DWT magazines to leading walks and work parties (e.g., at Swanpool), manning stalls at events, serving actively on the North Devon area committee of DWT for many years, giving talks on many aspects of nature conservation, running events (botany walks on reserves to moth trapping at their home). They have achieved a lot to improve awareness of our environment and wildlife though being positive and taking action. They have worked hard to promote partnership working and joint events too.

John and Mary Breeds accepting their volunteer awards

Saving Devon's Treescapes Tree Nursery Waterers (Meeth)

These award winners are the Saving Devon’s Treescapes Tree Nursery Waterers (Meeth) – Paul Sanders, Sheila Martin, Elaine and Dick Green, Hilary Smith, Julie Cartwright, Rhonda Fry, Jane and Carl Lister, Colin Brown and Claire Watkins, and some members of the group have been volunteering for 3 years.

The group are highly dedicated and reliable. All 11 volunteers are part of a weekly watering rota that runs from June – September every year. They all support each other too, and step in to help if someone can’t do their regular day for any reason.

For most of these people, it’s been the first volunteering they’ve done with DWT, and often their first ever volunteering. They’ve immediately got stuck in and fully committed! They are regularly suggesting ways to improve things and make things easier. E.g., lowering the trees onto pallets instead of tables, adding shading etc.

They have kept all 8000 trees alive at our tree nursery. Without them we wouldn’t be able to grow trees! With the hot and dry summers that we’ve been having, the volunteers have been absolutely essential. When it’s particularly hot they will water every morning and evening to ensure the trees are getting enough water. These volunteers also help to collect, process and grow the trees at other times in the year.

Watering isn’t the easiest job! We have a powerhose that regularly doesn’t work and therefore they often have to use watering cans which is a long and slow job. They all do this with a smile on their face though. Sometimes they stay longer to help with weeding and other jobs too to ensure our trees are thriving. Some have even been known to sing to them!

A few members of the Tree Nursery Waterers

Margaret Pickering

Margaret Pickering volunteers as an Exeter Meadow Surveyor and has been volunteering with Devon Wildlife Trust for 6 years.

Margaret has helped to survey Exeter’s meadows for 2 years, but she has gone above and beyond survey work. Margaret offered to help make the process of collecting everyone’s results easier by creating an online survey form that collates everyone’s results, photos and comments. The online survey can be accessed via app or website on surveyors’ phones. This has made the survey immeasurably easier to complete and organise. This is something staff would have struggled to find the time to achieve, it has saved hours of work and made submission of surveys far easier for volunteers.

Margaret Pickering accepting her volunteer award

Emily Fitzgerald

Emily has been volunteering as a Full Time Volunteer on Nature Reserves for just over a year.

Emily has proven every day for over a year how incredibly hard-working and passionate she is. No matter the task or the weather, she puts her all into the job, and never says no or shies away from a tough situation. She is always happy and extremely motivated, even on the rainiest winter days! She is a wonderful person who has worked very hard as a volunteer on the nature reserves all day, every day, and deserves a big ‘thank you’.

Emily always has a smile on her face and will get stuck into anything she tries her hand at. What would be daunting for anyone, such as learning to use a chainsaw, she took in her stride and quickly got the hang of. She has become a valued part of the reserves team and is out every day looking after the nature reserves with the Reserve Assistants. Emily's passion and joy for the work is evident, and she will have a great future in wildlife conservation.

Emily has put a lot of time and effort into ensuring she sees and does as much as possible on the nature reserves, and is always learning. She has become skilled using numerous power tools, such as chainsaws and brush cutters, learning first aid, clearing scrub, swaling, installing fencing and gates, boardwalks, and species monitoring. She has helped with managing the pony herds and was a natural with handling difficult ponies for a farrier visit. She has improved the condition of habitats across the suite of over sixty nature reserves in Devon, travelling all over, from Exeter Valley Parks to Marsland on the North West coast of Devon. Emily has helped to lead a school group and various group volunteer tasks.

When Emily started volunteering with DWT, she was less confident and needed to come out of her shell more to fulfill the role and get the most out of it. She has grown and opened up a lot over her time with us, and is always happy to try something new, help wherever she can, and even lead groups with new people. We’re all really proud of how far she’s come and how much she has achieved.

Emily Fitzgerald accepting her volunteer award

Andrew Hickson

Andrew volunteers as a Beaver Project Volunteer (Monitoring and Site Management), and has been volunteering for Devon Wildlife Trust for at least two years.

Andrew assists the beaver project weekly with monitoring and management works. He has the perfect mix of professionalism, reliability and dedication. Working with Andrew has been an absolute joy, he’s so reliable and always goes above-and-beyond for the project.

Andrew is unique amongst our volunteers in that he monitors and manages a single site on our behalf (with our support). Andrew provides us and the landowner with regular updates on the status of the site, wildlife sightings and management requirements. Andrew manages two wildlife cameras on-site: which involves moving and setting up the cameras, analysing and sharing the data with ourselves and the landowner. Several of Andrew’s videos have been used by comms including the infamous beaver kit tail surfing video (which I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t go viral)! Andrew has also received his basic beaver license (CL52) and assists us with beaver management works as required.

The landowner is very supportive of the beavers’ presence on the site, helped largely by Andrew’s good natured, regular communications with them including photographs and video footage of the resident beavers.

Andrew Hickson

Paul Madgett

Paul has volunteered for the Barnstaple and District Local Group Committee and Uppacott Wood Reserve Management, for around 25 years.

Paul has contributed a lot to the local group over the years and has been dedicated to what he does locally. Over the years he has arranged Outdoor events, acted as Chair for the Barnstaple Local Group, set up and run email information groups for members and helped publicise local activities. He has set up and run a variety of activities and provided publicity and display materials and has also done a lot of recording. He has arranged surveys at reserves such as Uppacott, as well as leading guided walks and co ordinating work parties. He is very conscientious, determined and meticulous in what he does.

Paul has been determined to promote wildlife conservation in North Devon in a wide range of ways. He is always keen to share information and the email group he set up and Facebook page for the North Devon Natural History network he contributes to have always promoted DWT activities. His guided walks and talks are always full of lots of details as he is enthusiastic to share his knowledge. Over the years Paul has contributed a lot to activities in North Devon and forged links with a range of other organisations.

Paul Madgett

Special Awards 2023

From time to time, Devon Wildlife Trust give special awards to recognise milestone lengths of service and/or those who have volunteered in an outstanding way. This year, we've had a few of these special awards, so read on to learn about the recipients!

Hilary Marshall

Here we are recognising one of our volunteers for a very impressive 50 years of service. Hilary Marshall has been a dedicated volunteer and prolific recorder for Devon Wildlife Trust since 1973. Hilary has quietly, unassumingly volunteered for DWT, and her knowledge and enthusiasm have been great assets and have helped make her a pleasure to have in any volunteering group or work party. She has also been doing otter surveys for DWT since, at least, 1984, and we have around 5000 records from her on Recorder which our Record Centre manager thinks may be a movement record! Hilary’s hard work and positivity has meant that she has been fantastic for morale of both staff and volunteers, and we are unbelievably grateful for all of her contributions to DWTs work. For all of this, we would have given her a special award to recognise her 50 years, with our thanks.

Hilary Marhsall receiving her 50 years service award.

John Hepburn

John has been a dedicated volunteer at Wembury for 20 years, and so we have given him a 20 years of service award. John's does many different things at Wembury, and we are very grateful to him for his 20 years and hope for many more!

John receiving his 20 years award

Diana Goodacre

Diana Goodacre became the fourth recipient of a DWT Fellowship this summer, the highest accolated Trustees can bestow.  She is chair and founder member of the Halsdon and Dolton Local Group, famed by her complete dedication to DWT; as far back as 1984 she was already being described in the Devon Trust’s newsletter as “stalwart” and that hasn’t changed. We are incredibly grateful to her.

Diana Goodacre being presented a framed award by a trustee with DWT CEO Harry Barton next to river

Rog and Liz Hamling

Back in 2020, for exemplary service to the Trust for over 15 years, the Board was delighted to award Fellowships to Roger and Liz Hamling at our AGM. Of course, because of COVID, that award was made virtually and now, finally, we have been able to present the Fellowship in person.

Rog and Liz ran the highly successful Exmouth Local Group for 13 years until they stood down a couple of years ago. They have volunteered at Bystock Pools nature reserve for nearly 20 years, involving fortnightly practical tasks, regular wildlife surveys, and events introducing people to the wonders of the reserve. They have been excellent ambassadors for DWT at a variety of community events and talks. Under their direction Exmouth Local Group’s wildlife garden and Bystock Pools Nature Reserve have won a number of RHS Britain in Bloom awards.

Their list of achievements is too long to recount, but they have also done everything from making and selling cards to raise money for DWT, to running the sound system for the AGM, it would be hard to imagine two more all-round and dedicated volunteers.

Rog and Liz Hamling accepting their fellowship award
Volunteer leading a group on a rockpool safari

Dan Carter - Wembury photo

Benefits of volunteering

As well as supporting wildlife, volunteering at DWT offers many benefits. Volunteering can build confidence and help you to develop and/or share skills. It's a great way of staying healthy, connected with others and leaves you feeling valued and purposeful.

We have been awarded ‘Investors in Volunteers’ status in recognition of our high standards of volunteer support and are committed to the four principles of volunteering:

  1. Choice: Volunteering must be a choice freely made by each individual. No coercion or compulsion will be used when encouraging volunteers. Volunteers have the right to refuse tasks and staff will make no unreasonable demands of them. 
  2. Diversity: Volunteering is open to all, no matter what their background, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith; DWT will strive to ensure our volunteer base mirrors Devon's diversity.
  3. Reciprocity: Volunteers should benefit from their contribution to DWT. Benefits could include a sense of worthwhile achievement, useful skills, experience and contacts, sociability, fun and inclusion in the life of the organisation. We will endeavour to find out what volunteers wish to achieve through their volunteering and support them to do this where possible.
  4. Recognition: Explicit recognition of the value of what volunteers contribute to the organisation, to the environment and to the community is fundamental.  
Reserve volunteers

Keep up to date about the latest Devon Wildlife Trust news

Do you want us to keep you up to date with volunteering opportunities, news and appeals?

We would love to keep in touch with you to share the latest wildlife news; opportunities to get involved through our projects, events, volunteering, appeals, and campaigns; information about our products and services, and to let you know the impact your support is having on Devon’s wildlife.

We typically send 3-4 emails per month, write twice a year and telephone once a year. You can update the way you hear from us at any time by contacting our Membership Team on either 01392 279244 or supportercare@devonwildlifetrust.org

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Picture of the Ludwell Life Group

Our Local Groups

Passionate and committed groups of volunteers lead Local Groups that offer a range of activities across the county for anyone who wants to enjoy Devon’s stunning natural environment.

Also check out the What's On pages to see local group events.


Want to get involved?

Here's how to get involved with volunteering at Devon Wildlife Trust:

Have a look at our current volunteering opportunities page and let us know if you are interested in any of the tasks. You can do this by contacting the relevant project officer or the volunteering team.

If you are under 18 you will need permission from a parent or guardian.

    View our latest volunteering opportunities

    If you are a business and want to arrange a team volunteering session for your employees, please complete the form below:

    Corporate Volunteering Form

    Volunteering Policy