The High Weald may look natural but the area has been shaped by humans over hundreds of years - it needs continued management to maintain its best features. Volunteers able to help with wildlife and archaeology surveys, practical conservation management tasks and path maintenance are highly valued, as are those with skills like fundraising and marketing. These organisations provide rewarding volunteer opportunities across the High Weald AONB and welcome new supporters:
Volunteer with an organisation working across the High Weald
Butterfly Conservation - Sussex
What: Mainly clearing scrub, coppicing and opening up land to make suitable habitat for butterflies. Volunteers are also needed to record butterflies from April to September and to give talks or staff stands at events.
When: On the second Sunday of each month in winter.
Where: Rowland Wood Reserve near Laughton, East Sussex, and Warnham Reserve near Horsham, West Sussex.
More info: www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/volunteer
East Sussex County Council
What: Opportunities to help with elm protection, at the Seven Sisters Visitor Centre, become a Tree Warden, or maintain rights of way through practical work.
When: From the occasional afternoon, to training over a whole year.
Where: At various locations across East Sussex.
More info: www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/conservation/volunteering-in-the-countryside
iRecord for your own wildlife sightings
What, when, where: iRecord is a website for sharing wildlife observations and photos. It’s easy and free to register. Joining to share your wildlife sightings means they can be made available to support research and decision-making, making a real contribution to science and conservation.
More info: www.brc.ac.uk/irecord
Kent High Weald Partnership (KHWP)
What: Practical tasks like coppicing, hedgelaying, tree planting and woodland management in winter, or survey work, meadow management, fencing, step and boardwalk construction in summer.
When: Wednesday and Thursdays, as well as occasional Saturday work parties.
Where: In the Tunbridge Wells, Goudhurst and Cranbrook areas, as well as other local green spaces. More details on KHWP events page: www.khwp.org.uk/home/events
More info: www.khwp.org.uk/what-we-do/volunteering
Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT)
What: Work alongside wardens carrying out practical tasks on nature reserves in the Weald area, from coppicing to meadow management. There are also opportunities to help with wildlife surveys and checking grazing livestock on a rota or adhoc basis.
When: Task days in the Weald on Mondays. Reserve management work from September to March, and monitoring and survey work in summer.
Where: Task days rotate between reserves in the High Weald in the Paddock Wood, Tenderden, Hawhurst and Goudhurst areas.
More info: www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/volunteering-opportunities
RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
What: Practical work is mainly clearing scrub and small trees, coppicing, pulling bracken or clearing and burning cut rhododendron. Wildlife surveying may also be needed. Opportunities for all ages, including from home, on a nature reserve, in an RSPB office or at events.
When: Conservation work parties take place fortnightly (weekdays) or monthly (weekend) between the reserves on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Where: Practical tasks at Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods in Kent.
More info: www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved
Sussex Wildlife Trust
What: Opportunities to take part in practical conservation projects across East and West Sussex, including corporate volunteering days. Or volunteer to help the support teams in roles like fundraising, marketing or membership.
When: Projects run at different dates, times and locations. Visit the SWT website.
Where: Varied locations across East and West Sussex.
More info: www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer
The Conservation Volunteers
What: Practical tasks from planting trees and wildflower meadows, to building stiles or clearing footpaths, including employee-supported opportunities. Unaccompanied 16 and 17 year olds can join in with prior consent from a parent or guardian. Under 16s need to be accompanied by an adult.
When: During the week and at weekends, from day-long projects to regular opportunities and training.
Where: Kent and Sussex, including Hastings, Cross-in-Hand, Horsham and Hildenborough.
More info: www.tcv.org.uk/southeast
West Sussex County Council
What: Practical tasks such as cutting back overgrowth, coppicing, maintaining nature trails and rights of way, restoring heathland and tree-planting. Volunteers can also help at a countryside information centre, with wildlife surveys, or organising activities.
When: Opportunities for a couple of days a year, or a couple of days a week.
Where: Various locations across West Sussex.
More info: www.westsussex.gov.uk/leisure-recreation-and-community/volunteering
Volunteer with a local group in the High Weald near you
Ashplats Conservation Group
What: A conservation project started by local residents. Opportunities from litter picking, coppicing, rhododendron control, to path and pond maintenance, or surveying and monitoring wildlife. Under 16’s should be accompanied by an adult.
When: Generally on the second Sunday of each month, except in November when it's the first Sunday.
Where: The 28 hectare wood is part of the East Court Estate in East Grinstead, West Sussex.
More info: www.ashplats.org
Friends of St Leonards Forest
What: Work to restore and better manage the heathland in the forest. Practical tasks, such as clearing scrub and invasive plants from open heathland areas, constructing small dams to encourage water margin wildlife, and widening tracks and paths.
When: On the fourth Sunday of each month.
Where: St Leonard’s Forest, near Horsham in West Sussex.
More info: www.friendsofstleonardsforest.btck.co.uk
T: 01293 550730 (leave contact details on the answerphone).
Gatwick Greenspace Partnership
What: Practical tasks including coppicing, hedge planting, restoring heathland and green woodworking. Also a Wildlife Rangers group for 12 to 16 year olds and Youth Rangers for 16 to 25 years.
When: Weekly volunteer tasks. Events can be developed for corporate and community groups.
Where: Various locations around Crawley and Horsham in West Sussex.
More info: www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/get-involved/community-projects/gatwick
Horsham District Council
What, when: A variety of ongoing practical volunteering activities to suit most ages and activity levels.
Where: In and around Horsham in West Sussex.
More info: www.horsham.gov.uk/parks-and-countryside/volunteering-in-our-parks-and-open-spaces
Horsted Keynes Hackers
What: Volunteers use hand tools or strimmers to manage vegetation on rights of way, with opportunities to replace fingerposts, stiles and gates.
When: On the last Friday morning of the month.
Where: Horsted Keynes rights of way and public spaces in West Sussex.
More info: www.horstedkeynesparishcouncil.com/right-of-way
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (part of Sussex Wildlife Trust)
What: Practical tasks take place mostly in late summer and autumn. You could be a 'Guide in a Hide' helping show visitors the birds, an education volunteer working with children, or on 'beachwatch' patrolling the reserve and giving visitors information. Or help at events or at the Information Centre.
When: From a few hours once a month, to a more major contribution
Where: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, East Sussex.
More info: www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/visit/rye-harbour/volunteering
The Powdermill Trust
What: A conservation charity managing three reserves in the High Weald, all in East Sussex. Volunteers carry out practical conservation tasks such as coppicing, tree planting and pond digging.
When and where: At the Rotherfield reserve on the first Tuesday and third Sunday of the month, at Powdermill Wood near Battle on the third Wednesday of the month, and at Quarry Wood in Crowhurst on the last Sunday of October, January and May.
More info: www.powdermilltrust.co.uk
Potential archaeological volunteer opportunities
Archaeological features in the Weald like minepits and sunken routeways are culturally signifificant, giving clues about past activities and how the land was worked. If you’re interested in archaeological fieldwork and surveying, you could try contacting one of these groups:
Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group: www.haarg.org.uk
Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society: www.sussexias.co.uk
The Sussex Archaeological Society: sussexpast.co.uk
Wealden Iron Research Group: www.wealdeniron.org.uk