Your countryside needs you – now more than ever
A message from Crispin Truman, CPRE, the countryside charity, and Kate Ashbrook, the Ramblers.
Volunteers are the backbone of our charities, whether they are spearheading the campaign for their local countryside, standing up against fracking or plastic waste, keeping much-loved footpaths open or sharing their expertise on social media. Nationally and locally, volunteers are at the heart of Ramblers and CPRE the countryside charity, our history and our future.
This year, Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7 2020) comes at one of the most challenging moments in recent times. We want to take the opportunity to say thank you for all you do. We wouldn’t be here without you and we need you now more than ever.
The impact of coronavirus has highlighted how precious the countryside is. And lockdown has given us a glimpse of how grim it would be if we could no longer enjoy the green spaces nearby. As a result, many people will be reassessing their priorities and perhaps considering volunteering for the first time. Our message to them would be: ‘Please, give it a go.’
All our volunteers know from first-hand experience that volunteering, quite simply, makes a difference and makes you feel good about yourself and others—and this is backed up by academic studies.
We like this thought from Stephen Tomlin, of Northumberland CPRE, who hosted a fundraising quiz and has plans to do more. He tells potential volunteers: ‘Be brave. Once you’ve made the initial step, others will help you. It’s like being at the beach preparing to go into the sea. The water looks chilly, but once you dive in, it can be marvellous.’
And there’s this from Mary Gough, who has revitalised Bicester and Kidlington Ramblers: ‘When I first started, I was very apprehensive about leading a walk… now part of the enjoyment is seeing other people enjoy themselves, that’s my reward.’
CPRE and Ramblers have come together to share our expertise and knowledge because we’re determined to safeguard the countryside’s future for everyone to enjoy. The need for volunteers will grow as more people than ever venture out to relish the open spaces they have missed for so long, and as local authorities and others with a role in protecting and maintaining paths and green spaces face increasing austerity.
Benefits for all
There’s a growing list of benefits from being outdoors for our physical and mental health and our sense of wellbeing. For instance, Eileen Robinson, Brian Marshall and Ann Bowes are volunteers with the Bury: Walk with Me scheme, part of a network run by Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support to help people get active. They declare: ‘People have said we’ve made a big difference. Some have joined when they have been depressed and it’s helped them make new friends. It’s so satisfying to see people enjoying the walks.’
Not all volunteering roles are what you might expect. There are many jobs behind the scenes, for example in marketing, fundraising, staging events, website development and social media, and physically active roles such as path clearance and maintenance. Something to suit all tastes.
Fran Hick helps CPRE Warwickshire run the group’s website and social media. ‘It’s been fun to engage with people with projects such as CPRE’s Star Count, raising awareness of light pollution levels. Whatever way you’re thinking of getting involved, you’ll be appreciated and supported by the team and, in doing so, you’ll be helping to protect the countryside near you.’
In the years ahead, both our charities will need to draw on a wide range of skills, from hands-on help with outdoor tasks to keeping our members and the public informed about our plans and achievements, as well as developing local strategy and running campaigns.
Overall, the estimated annual value of volunteers helping UK charities is a staggering £22.6 billion.
Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the contribution millions of people make across the UK. Friday 5 June 2020 will focus on nature and outdoors charities like ours. So on behalf of Ramblers and CPRE, the countryside charity, we want to say a personal ‘thank you’ for the incredible work you do and encourage others to join our vision.
It’s easy to join us. We’re recruiting new members and volunteers up and down the country. If you feel inspired to find out more, please do get in touch.
The countryside can’t wait.
Could you spare some time to volunteer for your local CPRE or Ramblers Association? Look on our websites: CPRE, the countryside charity, or the Ramblers, or drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.