There are plenty of different types of countryside volunteering opportunities that you can get involved with on the Blackdown Hills. They suit a wide range of interests and ability, from physical activities such as coppicing and scrub clearance to the less physical, including environmental and site survey work. Countryside volunteering is a great way to meet new people, gain new skills and experience, get fit and help to care for the Blackdown Hills AONB.
Go to our volunteering events calendar to find out about forthcoming activities including task days, regular volunteering groups and for news about specialist opportunities such as bat, bird and butterfly survey work .
Blackdown Hills Countryside Volunteering is part of the 'Force for Nature' initiative encouraging more volunteering in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Blackdown Hills Sustainable Development Fund. The project is led by the Blackdown Hills Trust and coordinated by the Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership and the Forestry Commission.
These are the organisations offering countryside volunteering opportunities on the Blackdown Hills AONB:
Adcombe Wood Volunteers have recently formed so the locals can care for their own woods. Adcombe Wood is a mixed ancient woodland within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is an SSSI. The villages of Corfe, Pitminster, Blagdon Hill and Feltham nestle around it.
The volunteers meet every first Thursday of the month and the third Sunday afternoon of alternate months. Working under the direction of The Woodland Trust they carry out tasks that have been identified under an agreed conservation plan and suitable for hand tools. Tasks include coppicing, widening rides to encourage ground flora, re-opening glades, caring for the meadows, improving drainage, forming new paths and steps or simply recording the changing flora and fauna.
Axe Vale & District Conservation Society is dedicated to the protection of wildlife and the environment in the area. They run a variety of events, walks and practical activities during the year. For more information go to.http://www.axevaleconservation.org.uk/ or call 01297 551556.
The Axe Valley Otter Surveyors keep a regular eye on the otter population in the River Axe, which includes the River Yarty. Anyone interested in surveying sites in the upper part of the Yarty catchment on a couple of days each year is invited to contact Mike Lowing by email email@example.com. Surveying involves looking for signs of otter, principally their spraint, and some training can be given if required.
Bat Conservation sometimes need volunteers for survey work on the Blackdown Hills. For further information contact Lou Pickersgill - email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01935 862 468.
The Blackdown and East Devon Woodland Association are looking for volunteers to help with log clearing and habitat improvement work as part of their Beef, Butterflies and Trees project. For further information contact John Greenshields -email@example.com or call 01823660764 or go to http://www.woodbiz.co.uk/
Blackdown Hills Walking Group offers walks throughout the year in and around the Blackdowns. The group is keen to welcome new walk leaders. If you know any good walks which you would like to share with others, please contact Tim Pitcher on 01404 881512 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Butterfly Conservation invites new volunteers to join in with management tasks that are making better habitats for threatened butterflies and moths on a series of sites in the Neroche Forest and other parts of the Blackdowns. There are also opportunities to help out with butterfly surveys and to improve identification skills. Contact John Davis at Butterfly Conservation on 01929 400209. For more information, go to http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/
Devon Wildlife Trust looks after three nature reserves in the Blackdown Hills AONB. Help keep Lickham Common, Ashculm Turbary and The Rough in good condition. Volunteers need to enjoy working outside in all weathers. Contact Ed Hopkinson on 01647 253121 or email email@example.com or go to http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/volunteer-opportunities/
Devon Wildlife Trust would also love to hear from volunteers with survey skills who would be willing to go out to survey their reserves. They are particularly interested in herpetological surveys, Lepidoptera and Common Breeding Bird surveys. If you can help contact Dawn Lenn - 01392 279244 e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre (DBRC) aims to act as a central point where wildlife records are collected together so that we can all get a clearer idea of what is happening to our environment. Volunteers can help by simply telling us what you have seen whilst out and about in the Blackdowns. We are interested in receiving new and historic records of all wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants and invertebrates, as well as wildlife sites and habitats. For more information and to submit your records go to: http://www.dbrc.org.uk/your-wildlife-sightin-2/
Blackdown Hills AONB /English Heritage - Volunteer Heritage Wardens are being sought to monitor Scheduled Monuments on the Blackdown Hills. This will involve site visits, photographs and surveys. Later, there may also be some site maintenance volunteering opportunities as a result of this survey work. Full training will be provided. For further information email email@example.com or call 01271 831505.
EUCAN Community Interest Company - European Conservation Action Network offers a number of volunteering and training opportunities on the Blackdown Hills and other parts of Somerset. They are also keen to hear from anyone interested in developing volunteering projects or offering habitat management contracts that could involve trainees and disadvantaged or isolated people. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01963 23559 or go to http://www.eucan.org.uk/.
LiDAR Surveying. In 2008 the Neroche Scheme project area was surveyed by LiDAR - (Airborne) Light Detection And Ranging. Incredibly accurate measurements of ground surface and other features are recorded, with the ability also to read beneath the woodland canopy and areas of dense gorse and other vegetation. It is a very useful archaeological tool, enabling the location of previously unrecorded archaeology to be discovered.
One of the uses of the survey is to carry out ‘ground truthing'. This is a voluntary field based exercise involving teams of two or more checking for any new archaeological features identified on the LiDAR images. Survey forms are completed and these results are then submitted to the Somerset or Devon Historic Environment Services for consideration and, if appropriate possible inclusion on the on-line Historic Environment Record (HER). Some features will be new and some may already be recorded on the HER, but through this process we can add to what is already known.
To aid the ‘non archaeologist' in these surveys a ‘toolkit' has been devised to enable archaeological features to be identified. Volunteers are supplied with a copy of the LiDAR survey for the area, the identification toolkit and survey forms. Measuring tapes, ranging poles, clipboards and a copy of the OS map for the area can be borrowed from the Neroche Office.
If you are interested in getting involved with ground truthing the LiDAR survey of the northern Blackdown Hills please contact Caroline Newcombe on 01823 680846 or e-mail email@example.com
The National Trust have volunteering opportunities in Somerset and East Devon.In Somerset volunteers are needed to help at Quarts Moor with scrub clearance and woodland management. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 01823 451814. In East Devon volunteers are needed to help at Combe Wood near Honiton with winter coppicing and woodland management. Contact email@example.com 01297 680507. From time to time there are other opportunities.
The Neroche Conservation Volunteers Join us for a practical volunteering day in the fresh air. Tasks vary throughout the year and include cutting and raking scrub, opening up glades or widening paths, all designed to help wildlife and keep areas accessible. Tasks take place on sites owned or managed by Forestry Commission, Butterfly Conservation, Blackdown Hills Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust sites. All tools and instruction provided. See www.ncv.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Himalayan Balsam Pulling
There are several places where you can help with Balsam Pulling on the Blackdown Hills AONB. Volunteers are needed to help control the spread of Himalayan Balsam, an invasive weed, by helping to pull the plant before it seeds. The plant dominates our native plants and leaves banks bare and prone to erosion once it has died back in winter. No skills needed apart from enthusiasm. To find out about a group near you contact: Piers Griffin: 07855205027 email@example.com and Neil Duffield: 01305 228913 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RSPB often need volunteers on the Blackdown Hills for surveys and habitat improvement. For further information contact email@example.com phone 01395 233655 or visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/nearyou/index.aspx?c=devon
Somerset Wildlife Trust offers a range of volunteering opportunities on the Blackdown Hills they include practical work and biological recording and monitoring on its nature reserves. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01823 652440 or visit http://www.somersetwildlife.org/
Somerset Rural Youth Project'sBlackdown Environmental Team work with a group of young people aged 16-25 who are recruited through Taunton Job Centre Plus. Currently working at Otterhead Estate on Wednesdays clearing Laurel and Rhododendron from paths and also undertaking some simple woodworking projects. 25 - 30 hours of volunteering will enable participants to achieve a unit credit in Practical Environmental and Conservation Skills Level 1. To get involved contact Barney Simmons email@example.com, tel 07773343335, office number 01278722100 ext 35. http://www.sryp.org.uk/.
Stockland Turbaries are lowland heathland sites, unique to the Blackdown Hills. Volunteers are sometimes needed to help conserve these highly important habitats. For more information, email David Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildside Experience offer nature awareness and bushcraft training in East Devon and the Blackdown Hills. They have a range of interesting volunteering opportunities. For further information email Richard Whiteside email@example.com or call 01823 680931or visit http://www.wildsideexperience.co.uk
If you would like to find further volunteering opportunities in the area, contact your local Volunteer Centre.