The government recently launched its ambition for a ‘big society’, in which volunteers will be called upon to help run local services. This is familiar ground for AONBs alike, as they have a long history of supporting volunteers, who dedicate their time and energy to improve their local beauty spots.
Cannock Chase AONB has recorded a busy year of volunteering, with more than 250 volunteers getting stuck into events and projects so far.
Emma Beaman, Assistant AONB Officer said: “We are a small team, and could not run half the projects we do, without the help of our brilliant volunteers.”
From helping to set policy through the Advisory Partnership, to conducting landscape condition monitoring, through to conservation work, volunteers are an intrinsic part of the team’s success. On why Cannock Chase AONB attracts so much support from the surrounding community, Emma continued: “We know many of our volunteers come forward because they feel a strong sense of pride and deep affection for the land. A particular project might also spark their interest and lead onto future involvement.
“We’re quick to gather support from people with a specialist interest. For example, at our events for local dog owners, we enlist ‘dog ambassadors’ to spread the word about our dog code of conduct to other local dog walkers, helping us to get one of our key messages out.”
The team recognises that local knowledge and support is vital when conducting surveys, and called upon this knowledge in 2009 when gathering views for their Peace and Tranquillity condition monitoring.
To make sure they had lots of informed views, they invited 30 volunteers to enjoy a Christmas mince pie cook-off, and used the fun event to collect important information that they fed into the monitoring exercise.
The AONB is also working to get more local businesses interested in nature conservation.
Following a successful corporate clean up in July, more than 100 Veolia employees will be working with the team on a long term condition monitoring project. “By getting involved in community work, businesses show their commitment to the area and their staff power gives us a huge boost in putting together ambitious projects.”
The team aims to build on its volunteer base, and hope to attract even more local support over the coming months. “Our volunteers’ dedication continues to amaze us. Taking part in a litter pick in last February’s snow is a good example of just how committed they are to the cause – long may it continue,” added Emma.
To find out more about our volunteering projects, or how to volunteer, contact email@example.com