If you watch Countryfile this weekend (Sunday 8th Feb, 7pm BBC1) you’ll have the privilege of getting to know one of our most treasured volunteers, David Cole. David has been volunteering at Rutland Water since its creation; he’s gifted us with countless hours of his time during the past 40 years and has witnessed the reserve grow and flourish in both habitat and popularity. There is nothing the staff here could do which could ever repay the debt of commitment, enthusiasm, skills, and everything that he has contributed during his time here. All we can say is thank you, from the very depths of our hearts, and know that David leaves a legacy for future generations as a result of his hard work, in the wildlife he has helped to protect and the people he has helped to inspire.
David is one of a highly committed team of over 350 volunteers developing that legacy. It’s no understatement to say that they’re all absolutely vital to the running of the reserve. Volunteers from all walks of life, ages and abilities are involved in every aspect of its day to day life, from welcoming visitors at our two centres, to the practical management of habitats and monitoring the variety of birds and other taxa found here. Our biggest public event, Birdfair, which is held annually in August, is also our biggest volunteering event. It relies on over 200 volunteers to sell tickets, run lecture theatres, sell merchandise, and act as stewards.
Watch our thank you video to see just how much our volunteers contribute to the reserve each year:
But there’s so much more to volunteering than making a difference to our organisation and its work. Whilst it’s an incredible way to help us, it’s immensely rewarding for our volunteers as individuals. Rutland Water Nature Reserve is a community, volunteering unites people from different backgrounds and builds camaraderie – it’s a great way to make friends and socialise with like-minded people. We watch our volunteers grow in confidence, self-esteem and empathy towards others and there is a huge sense of pride and identity from our teams. Volunteering keeps the blues and bay and makes you healthier. It’s an opportunity to gain new skills and share talents with others. And for many, it’s a much needed escape from the norm.
That’s why we’re making sure we have the best facilities to look after our volunteers. With thanks to generous funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Anglian Water and others, as well as money raised by our volunteers and local community through our Wild Lives Appeal we’re building a Volunteer Training Centre. It’s going to provide much-needed facilities, including training and learning areas, bunk rooms for residential courses, meeting spaces, a kitchen and a mess room, workshop with storage for tools and equipment, wash-rooms and drying facilities.
The Training Centre will allow us to provide essential natural heritage training and countryside skills in fit-for-purpose facilities, engage with new volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, deliver comprehensive and inclusive programmes of volunteer support, development and training and enable more people to connect with and enjoy our wonderful natural heritage.
No act of kindness from our volunteers is ever wasted. You can see this from the thousands of people we inspire to care about their local wildlife and wild places each year. From the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised by Birdfair which helps support conservation projects around the world. By the fact that we have helped to bring Ospreys (and other species) back from the brink of extinction. By the superb habitat we create and maintain, and allow visitors incredible access to. And lastly, because Rutland Water Nature Reserve is here to stay, to be enjoyed by people and wildlife for generations to come.