Helping hands in the Forest
A growing number of people are boosting their health and well-being by volunteering in the beautiful New Forest.
It couldn’t be easier for you to join them in 2020 thanks to the hugely popular New Forest National Park Volunteer Fair.
Now celebrating its 10th year, the fair has welcomed 4,000 people from all walks of life through its doors. The fair is run by the New Forest National Park Authority and gives people living in and around the Forest a chance to learn about local organisations in a relaxed atmosphere.
People can listen to talks and find out about a range of opportunities from practical conservation and studying wildlife, to supporting local communities and even archaeology.
NPA volunteer co-ordinator Richard Austin said: “Volunteering gives people the chance to see parts of the New Forest that they haven’t before, all while making new friends, learning about this historic landscape and becoming custodians of it. They can give as much or as little time as they like.”
Organisations exhibiting this year include Exbury Gardens, Highcliffe Castle, Rockbourne Roman Villa, Minstead Trust and New Forest Mencap.
Around 750 people visited the last event, which featured 50 exhibitors and a programme of talks.
Many organisations have exhibited every year since the fair started, including the RSPB, the National Trust and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT).
Volunteer Anthony Allen, from Dibden Purlieu, has spent 100 hours pulling out non-native invasive plants such as Himalayan balsam as part of a project run by HIWWT. He said: “It’s great to wallow in mud with a lovely bunch of folk, knowing that having fun makes such an important difference. As a result of our efforts last year, the riverbank looks like a riverbank again.”
Bishopstoke resident Lesley Hancock, who has racked up a similar number of hours on the same project, said: “With all the talk about mental health and keeping active, balsam picking covers both bases as well as helping our environment.”
The volunteer fair takes place on Sunday 26th January, from 10.30am to 4pm at Lyndhurst Community Centre, Lyndhurst SO43 7NY. Entry is free.