Volunteering for Countryside Services
More than 400 volunteers work across Worcestershire County Council's Countryside Service and they give more than 60,000 hours of volunteer time every year, worth £399,600. In a recent survey, 94 per cent of volunteers said that they felt the support they received from the Countryside Service was good or very good.
People are able to volunteer in many different ways including:
These parish based volunteers are part of a national network promoted by the Tree Council and co-ordinated by Worcestershire County Council. Tree Wardens are volunteers with a passion for trees, appointed by parish councils or other community organisations. They carry out surveys, give advice and undertake pruning, planting and care of trees in the communities and parishes where they live. In turn they are supported by the Countryside Service which offers free training, information and a quarterly newsletter. There are currently more than 8,000 Tree Wardens throughout the UK with around 110 currently in Worcestershire across 55 per cent of parishes.
Parish Paths Wardens
PPWs volunteer in their own parishes, working with the Countryside Service to help maintain, improve and promote Worcestershire's public rights of way network, using their local knowledge. They are usually nominated by the parish or town council and then appointed by Worcestershire County Council and assist in surveying, maintaining and waymarking the network of public footpaths and bridleways that criss cross the county. By walking the network and carrying out this work they provide an invaluable service in keeping the paths open and useable, whilst getting out and about in the countryside. Parish Paths Wardens are supported by the Countryside Service with training, technical support and a quarterly newsletter. There are 180 Parish Paths Wardens across 86 per cent of parishes in Worcestershire.
Countryside Site Work Party Volunteers
Throughout the year, volunteer work parties are run at Waseley Hills and Worcester Woods Country Parks and Hartlebury Common, where members of the public can come along and work alongside Countryside Service staff on projects such as hedgelaying, coppicing and orchard restoration, making a contribution to the management of the parks, so enhancing the environment of the local area. They have the opportunity to meet new people, get fresh air and exercise and learn new skills. Volunteers receive full instruction and all tools and equipment are provided.
Heath Walks Leaders
The Walking the Way to Health Initiative aims to improve the nation's health and well being by encouraging more people to become physically active through the simplest form of exercise – walking. Organised walks can have a health impact on individuals by providing an opportunity to socialise and a distraction from everyday stress. Volunteer Health Walks Leaders are specifically trained to lead health walks, and health walks groups in Worcestershire are supported by the Worcestershire Walking Network which provides free training. There are more than 900 people regularly participating in health walks across Worcestershire.
Worcestershire Wardens Partnership
The Worcestershire Wardens Partnership (WWP) is supported by 13 different organisations throughout Worcestershire that work with volunteers in the parks and countryside sector, including local authorities, charities and community groups. The partnership aims to encourage volunteering in the environmental sector, promote best practice in working with volunteers, ensure a consistently high standard of support for volunteers, encourage collaboration between organisations who host volunteers, work together to provide training opportunities and create a sense of family amongst all volunteers in the sector – regardless of which organisation they work for. The initiative has created a bench mark for volunteering in the countryside sector and allows both individuals and organisations to share their experiences.
Parish Paths Partnership (P3) Scheme
A small number of parish councils have entered into an agreement with Worcestershire County Council to carry out survey work, primarily for signposting and summer of public rights of way. Parishes receive a grant of up to £500 plus materials.
Countryside Access Volunteers Scheme
A number of groups (some linked to parish councils, some independent of) work with WCC to undertake maintenance and improvement tasks on public rights of way. Materials, training, advice, support and expenses are provided.
Parish Lengthsman Scheme
By signing up the Lengthsman Scheme, which is co-ordinated by Worcestershire County Councils Highways Team, Parish Councils can take ownership of minor highway maintenance works such as clearing gully grates, blocked drains, vegetation and cleaning dirty signs. The benefits of the scheme mean that Parishes can prioritise local highway maintenance activities, residents can see their concerns being dealt with effectively and minor issues are dealt with locally, enabling the Highways Authority to focus its resources on more strategic maintenance issues. Positive relations within the local community can be promoted by the scheme, between landowners, residents and local councils.
If you have any questions about this scheme or would like to take part you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Worcestershire Hub on 01905 845676.
Community Greenspace Team Advice and Support to Local Communities
Historically, where a local community identified the need for local greenspace, a site would often be acquired, developed and managed by the Countryside Service. Today, the Countryside Service acts as a facilitator to identify grants, galvanize community action and offer expertise and training. This empowers local communities to manage their own greenspaces that do not require financial input or management from the Countryside Service thereafter. This has led to the development of more than 30 sites in the last five years, including Primsland Way, Bredon Playing Fields and Chaddesley Community Orchard. The benefits include enhancing the local patch, getting the job done economically, empowering local people, building community cohesion and learning new skills.100% of community groups assisted by the Countryside Service describe the support they get as good or very good. The team is nearly 70 per cent self funded through the income that it generates.
For further information on becoming a volunteer with the Countryside Service, contact the Community Greenspace Team on 01905 766155
Localism and the Community Model through Co-location
The Countryside Service works with partners at Worcester Woods and Waseley Hills Country Parks through a Community model. For example, at Waseley Hills, a small local company runs a catering business with an emphasis on local produce, and the National Trust rents office space. The three organisations have worked together to reduce costs by sharing front-of-house responsibilities (meeting and greeting visitors and working together on events on activities). At Worcester Woods, there is another successful small catering business which is now expanding, again supporting local produce, and a private childcare facility is run during school holidays. As with Waseley Hills, the three organisations collaborate closely to keep costs low. An extensive list of local third sector and public service business use the facilities for meetings, training and running public events.
Community Payback Scheme
This partnership project between Probation Trust, Worcestershire County Council and the Community Safety Partnership aims to provide offenders with opportunities for unpaid work in the parks and countryside sector in Worcestershire, contribute towards offenders' rehabilitation, carry out improvements to Worcestershire's parks and countryside. Nearly 6,000 offender hours are generated per year, worth £39,960. Much of the work achieved through the project would have otherwise cost a significant amount in either officer or contactor time. In some cases it would not have been carried out at all. It is an exemplar project, receiving several high profile visits from the Chief Crown Prosecutor and the National Offender Management Service.
For information on how to volunteer with the Countryside Service contact the Community Greenspace Team on 01905 766155.