Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet new people and make a difference locally. Its good for you and its good for Chislehurst!
Why not start the New Year, with a new you. We know the benefits to your health and well being from volunteering in your local neighbourhood. The Chislehurst Society thrives on new blood for our projects and activities. We are looking to increase our list of volunteers and even trustees on our Board.
Come and chat to us, either at our Wednesday coffee mornings or call into the Old Chapel Office. Who knows, you could start a whole new ambition and tick off one of your new year resolutions at the same time!
We hope to see you soon.
Scadbury Park is a large nature reserve in Chislehurst which includes a moated manor, ancient woodland and meadows. It’s used often by runners, picnickers and dog-walkers and Chislehurst would not be quite the same without it. Friends of Scadbury, which recently became a charity, is dedicated to protecting and preserving the park. The group has put in learning boards so that children can identify the plants and animals in the park, installed QR codes to add something of interest to phone-users and ensures that as much wildlife and nature is being preserved as possible through weekly work groups. Vivien Smith has been Vice Chair of the group for the last couple of years.
Vivien’s involvement with the park is, in some ways, unusual. ‘I’m not a dog walker, I’m not a runner, I’m not a big user of the park myself but I just got into it and I feel it’s a valuable space. I think it’s the right thing to do.’ The volunteering has widened Vivien’s experiences and community too. ‘For all sorts of things, you have more people to draw on. You just feel more a sense of place. I feel that I’m more invested in the local community, I feel like I’m doing something.’
‘I’ve had to keep my technical skills up to date’ Vivien says, commenting on the way that running the group has helped her maintain old skills and learn new ones too. ‘Something else that I am learning about is all of our native flora and fauna. On a recent butterfly hunt with local school children it was obvious my identification skills were lacking and I had to ask the children to check with Andrew, the site manager!’
Whilst Vivien mostly focuses on the fundraising and organisational side of the group, there are two work groups for volunteers to do conservation work within the park. In a way, it has become a place for people, especially the elderly, to reconnect with their community. ‘They’ve all got to know each other so it’s another friendship group. There is a lot in the news about people being lonely – if you get out there and do something, it’s very easy and people are very welcoming.’
As Vivien has developed and maintained skills as result of her volunteering, the same applies to the weekly group, ‘I’m sure the volunteers we have out every Thursday would say they’ve learnt a lot – what you can and can’t do in meadows, a lot of identification of species, how to fell a tree, how to safely take a limb off a tree, they’ve learnt all of that because they’ve had people teaching them.’ Knowing that everything has purpose makes the tasks worthwhile. ‘Okay, pulling out brambles is the least exciting task but they know why they’re doing it; it’s to ensure that the birds have somewhere to nest and to stop it encroaching anymore on the meadows so we don’t lose them.’
That is always a possibility. The space requires huge maintenance and without that protection, the park could get to a state beyond repair. The loss that would be for Chislehurst was reinforced for Vivien by her interaction with the school children. ‘How few of them got out in any green space was shocking to me. I think green spaces are needed, I think they’re good for general health and wellbeing. They’re free: if you can’t afford a gym, you can afford to go and have a walk around Scadbury. In terms of the environment; it’s a very big space, we’re lucky to have that in the middle of Chislehurst. It’s right on people’s doorstops. All of these green spaces are very important and should be protected across the country. I think it’s something we should cherish.’
If you agree, you can learn more about volunteering and donating on their website; https://www.scadbury-park.org.uk/home