(Above) Volunteers pulling Himalayan Balsam © Sally Welbourn
(Below) Eric Longworth pulling Himalayan Balsam © Sally Welbourn
Volunteers from Richmond Fellowship mental health charity in Dorset have been taking part in conservation tasks with Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), to help aid recovery from mental health problems.
Last Friday, a group worked on an area of land recently acquired by The Erica Trust, close to ‘Happy Bottom’ in Corfe Mullen, part of the new nature reserves in The Great Heath Living Landscape. The volunteers, helped to clear Himalayan Balsam an invasive species which smothers native plants.
Some of the volunteers are recovering from complex mental health illnesses as a result of substance misuse, social isolation, and homelessness. They use their time outside with nature to socialise, learn new skills and enjoy the wildlife around them.
"This work outside gives me peace of mind"
Eric Longworth suffers from anxiety and depression, and has been volunteering with DWT through Richmond Fellowship for six months. He said: “Doing this work outside gives me peace of mind and clarity. It helps lift my worries. I would recommend it to anyone trying to overcome anxiety it is hard to make the first jump, but works well alongside my medication and it’s a distraction from the things that worry me. Every time I come out, I learn something different I saw a bee orchid the other day, which I had never seen before.”
DWT awarded Richmond Fellowship volunteers in 2011 with the ‘Helen Brotherton’ group volunteering award, in recognition of their commitment and enthusiasm towards wildlife.
"They turn up in great spirits and get stuck in, come rain or shine!"
Sally Wright, Community Conservation Officer for The Great Heath Living Landscape Project said: “It’s a real pleasure working with the volunteers from Richmond Fellowship they turn up in great spirits and get stuck in, come rain or shine! They do a fantastic job, and some of them are starting the DWT ‘Wildlife Champions’ award scheme*, to recognise their hard work and give them confidence to share their new skills with others in the community.”
Neil Gibson, a Community Link Worker for Richmond Fellowship said: “Volunteering outside is a way to make new friends, socialise and develop an interest in wildlife. We don’t talk about mental health whilst on volunteering tasks, as spending time outdoors is a good distraction, which can help with recovery. We like working as a team to help each other out, and are very grateful to the DWT wardens, who are always very accommodating.”
Find out more...
Volunteering opportunities are available to anyone with an interest in wildlife. The ‘Urban Weekenders’ volunteering activities are on the last Sunday of every month, where volunteers can open a moth trap, and carry out wildlife surveys on Upton Heath. Meet at the Urban Wildlife Centre, Corfe Mullen (BH21 3RX) at 9am.
We are also looking for volunteers to be a part of the new ‘Great Heathwatch group’ where local people who use the heath regularly can be the ‘eyes and ears’ of Upton Heath, Parley Common, Ferndown Common, Dunyeats, and Lychett Bay, to help DWT manage the land for the benefit of wildlife. For more information about all the Great Heath project volunteering activities, please call Sally Wright on 01202 692033.
For more information about volunteering and sign-up to our volunteering enewsletter, visit our volunteering information page.
Notes to Editor
The Richmond Fellowship charity aims to make recovery from mental illness a reality, by working towards a society that values everyone with mental health problems. The ‘Face 2 Face’ project in Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole has been awarded a grant of £39,950 to to help tackle mental health stigma and discrimination by national campaign Time to Change. Face 2 Face is managed by Richmond Fellowship in partnership with community interest company ZooFish Arts and the Borough of Poole Arts Service and will be led by people with mental health problems. The project will aim to establish meaningful and open conversations with others in the local area, bringing people who don’t have mental health problems into social contact with those who do. For more information about the project or to enquire about becoming a Face 2 Face volunteer please contact Doug Low on 07786 191192 or email
*Wildlife Champions - The AQA* Unit Award Scheme enables DWT to produce bespoke units and certificates as acknowledgement for all the learning, training and the volunteering opportunities we can offer volunteers through the Wildlife Trust. [*AQA is a national exam board] The aim of the course is to establish a team of Wildlife Champions across rural Dorset- local people who will lead and inspire others in their local community to enjoy and conserve the natural heritage all around them. These certificates may also help with career development and could lead on to further more specific higher level training with other environmental course providers if you get really interested.
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
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Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
The Great Heath Living Landscape an Urban Living Landscape in Dorset will deliver the following exciting objectives:
- To provide enhanced opportunities for visitors and local residents to enjoy and learn about the area's fantastic natural heritage
- To improve physical access to local green space close to high density urban areas
- To develop relationships with local landowners in order to enhance conservation management of land in private ownership and to open up access to more greenspace in the area.
- To provide increased involvement and volunteering opportunities for people in a variety of wildlife habitats on the urban margin
- To improve access to the marine environment on the fringes of Poole Harbour to improve its conservation value and increase public awareness and enjoyment
Sites include land at Hampreston and High Mead Lane, Award Road, Ferndown Common, Delph Wood, Arrowsmith Copse, Dunyeats Hill, Corfe Lodge Road, Upton Heath, Beacon Hill, Cottage Farm (Happy Bottom), Ashington Paddock, Barrow Hill, Wimborne Road, Rushcombe Bottom, Parley Common, Tricketts Cross, Lytchett Bay and Holes Bay.
The full Great Heath Living Landscape project will cost will be £4.7 million, we have already secured £2 million and have been awarded £2.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and need to raise further funds by public appeal.
The Great Heath Living Landscape is a partnership project involving Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Erica Trust, Poole Harbour Commissioners, Borough of Poole, Dorset County Council Countryside Service and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Bournemouth Borough Council. Christchurch Borough Council, East Dorset District Council and Natural England.
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported 36,000 projects with £6bn across the UK. For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF press office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.