The High Weald may look natural but the area has been shaped by man over hundreds of years - and needs continued management to maintain its best features. Volunteers able to lend a helping hand with wildlife and archaeology surveys, practical management tasks and path maintenance are highly valued and the following organisations provide rewarding volunteer opportunities across the High Weald AONB.
Gatwick Greenspace Partnership
What: A range of practical conservation tasks are underataken including coppicing, hedge planting and green woodworking at various sites. There is a general volunteering programme as well as a Wildlife Rangers group for 12-16 year olds and Youth Rangers for 16-25 year olds.
When: Weekly volunteer tasks, meeting on site at 9:45am, starting at 10am and normally ending at 3pm, though some volunteers stay longer. Also able to develop bespoke events for corporate and community groups.
Where: Various locations around Crawley and Horsham
More info: www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/gatwick_greenspace/index.htm
Horsted Keynes Hackers
What: Volunteers use hand tools or strimmers to manage vegetation on rights of way. There are also opportunities to replace fingerposts, stiles and gates.
When: Every second Monday and second-to-last Friday of the month
Where: Sites are all in Horsted Keynes and include rights of way and public spaces
Kent High Weald Partnership
What: There are practical conservation projects which range from coppicing, hedgelaying, tree planting and woodland management in the winter, to survey work, meadow management, fencing, step and boardwalk construction in the summer.
When: Wednesday and Thursdays (10am to 3pm) with a mid-morning tea break and lunch at 1pm. There are usually projects one Saturday a month (10:30 – 1:30). Anyone is welcome to join in on the Wednesday and Thursday tasks. We ask that groups of 8 or more contact us beforehand as we might need to add more tools or another member of staff.
Where: 4 key sites as well as other local green spaces. These are in the Tunbridge Wells, Goudhurst and Cranbrook areas of Kent. Please visit the events calendar www.khwp.org.uk/home/events for more information on the locations and directions to site.
Kent Wildlife Trust
What: Volunteers work with Weald Warden, Matt Hayes to help with the conservation management of a number of nature reserves in the Weald area. The tasks run between different reserves, carrying out a wide range of practical conservation tasks ranging from coppicing to meadow management.
When: Every Monday. Volunteering places cannot be guaranteed so please contact for more information.
Where: It rotates between different reserves throughout the High Weald that stretch between Paddock Wood, Tenderden, Hawhurst and Goudhurst.
RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
What: During the autumn and winter months (mid-September to mid-March) volunteers are mainly engaged in clearing scrub and small trees and coppicing. For the rest of the year (i.e. the nesting season) the work parties take on odd jobs such as pulling bracken, clearing old fencing, clearing and burning already cut rhododendron, etc. Occasionally volunteers help with public events and visitor surveys. Conservation work could lead to other volunteer opportunities, such as in species monitoring.
When: Fortnightly (weekday) or monthly (weekend) conservation work parties between the reserves, falling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Contact for details.
Where: Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods
Sussex Wildlife Trust
What: Opportunities to take part in a variety of practical conservation projects across east and West Sussex.
When: Projects run at different dates, times and locations. Please visit the tasks calendar on the website: http://www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/uploads/oct_%20dec2014_task_calendar.pdf
Where: Varied locations across East and West Sussex, see task calendar.
The Conservation Volunteers
What: Practical volunteering opportunities to reclaim our green spaces. There are numerous local, one-day projects with no ongoing commitment needed. Can take unaccompanied 16 and 17 year olds with prior, informed consent from a parent or guardian. Those under 16 need to be accompanied by a responsible adult.
When: Days vary depending on where you are, and projects will generally last all day. Projects from the Hastings office run on most Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
Where: Projects are scattered throughout Kent and Sussex
East Sussex County Council
What: East Sussex County Council leads a variety of volunteer groups including for Elm protection, Seven Sisters Visitor Centre and Rights of Way groups across the county.
When: Depending on what you can commit to there are opportunities for the odd afternoon, or for training over a whole year.
Where: At various locations across East Sussex.
More info: www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/conservation/volunteering/default.htm
The Powdermill Trust
What: A conservation charity managing two reserves in the High Weald. Volunteers would carry out practical conservation tasks.
When: Volunteer groups meet to maintain the Rotherfield reserve on the first Wednesday and third Sunday of the month and activities at Powdermill Wood are organised on an ad hoc basis.
Where: The Powdermill Trust manages two nature reserves within the High Weald AONB, one at Rotherfield and one within Powdermill Wood which is south of Battle
More info: www.powdermilltrust.co.uk
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (part of Sussex Wildlife Trust)
What, When, Where: Lots of different volunteer roles are available:
1. Information Centre volunteers - mornings or afternoons, Monday to Sunday. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
2. Workparty volunteers - summer months only. First and third Tuesdays, 10am - 3pm. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
3. Friends' Events volunteers - specific dates throughout the year, usually Saturday afternoons. Winchelsea Beach Community Hall.
4. Guide in a Hide volunteers - days and times to suit, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
5. Education volunteers - specific days and times, could be at Rye Harbour, Pett Level and/or Beckley.
Horsham District Council
What: A variation of practical volunteering activities to suit most ages and activity levels
When: Ongoing and variable
Where: In and around Horsham
Ashplats Conservation Group
What: A practical conservation project started by local residents. It aims to conserve and enhance the woodland for wildlife to thrive in and people to enjoy. Volunteering opportunities are open to all.
When: The group meets on the 2nd Sunday of each month (except August when it doesn't meet, and November when it is the first Sunday). Work is done from 9.45 until 3, but volunteers are welcome to leave earlier.
Where: The 28 ha wood is part of the East Court Estate in East Grinstead.
Butterfly Conservation - Sussex
What: Most volunteer work consists of clearing scrub and opening up land to make suitable habitat for butterflies. Volunteers cut and clear shrubs and make bonfires. They may work with hand tools – bow saws and loppers – but not power tools. They need to be reasonably fit as the work is physical, and some of it takes place on steep sites on the Downs. Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
When and Where: Rowland Wood, South of Uckfield, on the second Sunday of each month in winter. The session runs from 8.30 am till around lunchtime, though people are welcome to come along for as much or as little of this time as suits them. The Murray Downland Trust on their site in Heyshott, in West Sussex, on Wednesday mornings through the winter. This is a steep Downland site. There are other ad hoc meetings which are arranged as need dictates: these are published on our web site, on the events page.
Habitats that need your help: