Volunteering: togetherness and purpose in a time of isolation

2020 has been a year of undoubted hardship , and the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects continue to persist into 2021. This has left people alienated and made it more difficult to feel part of a physical community, and for those with a desire to work in restoring nature it has hampered abilities to do so. However, when conditions have allowed for it, there have been opportunities to really feel part of something. For me, that specific lifeline of support has been volunteering with Lancashire Wildlife Trust at Little Woolden Moss.

A reflection of me in one of the compartment pools of Little Woolden Moss.

Ripples can make waves

In actively working to restore a habitat which locks in greenhouse gases and facilitates wildlife, it has made me feel a revitalised sense of purpose. The tiredness felt after doing this kind of work has been a tiredness of contentment – accompanied with a burning desire to do the same work time and time again. To feel like part of a solution to an ecological crisis, which at the best of times can feel all-too-big, has been to feel powerful as an individual in enacting change (a feeling that can be rare when thinking of things on a global scale).

Hidden in plain sight

Only through signing up as a volunteer with Lancashire Wildlife Trust was I made fully aware of Chat Moss and the natural places on my doorstep. My only recollection of the area prior to this was an ongoing fascination with bog bodies (such as Lindow Man) and – more broadly – ‘liminal spaces’ such as peat bogs.  A potential positive of travel restrictions, for those of us privileged enough to be in proximity to nature, has been that we were forced to engage with the natural spaces in our local area – an area which we may not have fully explored before.

“Bog talk”

In getting outdoors and engaging in a communal activity, using hands to do practical tasks and eyes to look across a vast lowland landscape, it can help develop a form of mindfulness. Perhaps it is the way in which practical conservation work distracts from everyday worries and problems – or even the nature of bogs themselves – but it feels like a special place; a place full of camaraderie and outlets for energy that would have otherwise been bottled up.

It is my hope that everybody who wishes to do so will have access to nature, and the ability to engage in practical conservation tasks – not just for their ecological impact but for mental, physical and social wellbeing too.

A section of ‘dead hedge’ created by volunteers from cleared scrub vegetation

Rowan

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