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Environmental Volunteering and the Cairngorms National Park

Volunteers are everywhere!

What – or perhaps who – do you think of when you hear the word ‘volunteer’? Maybe the many volunteers forming part of the Mountain Rescue services across the country? Perhaps helping out with your children’s sports team? Your first thought might be of those who help with Park Runs, or the volunteers at the end of the phone, supporting people in times of crisis. Volunteers are involved in every aspect of our lives, and there’s something for everyone whatever your interests and no matter if you have a few minutes or would like to be involved for days at a time.

Whatever you first think of, the chances are you know someone who volunteers. In Highland, 40% of people reported volunteering through a group or organisation in 2015! In the natural environment, volunteers play a really important role: they might be involved with surveying and monitoring rare species of plants and animals; getting hands on planting trees or controlling invasive species; monitoring or maintaining paths; or sharing their enthusiasm for an area with members of the public.

Volunteering and Walking

A lot of readers of Walkhighlands will know how strongly volunteers and walking have been linked. Walking groups – both more and less formal – are often led and coordinated by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. One of the great activities I’m involved with supporting as part of my role is the Active Cairngorms Health Walks programme. Health Walks take place across Scotland and are friendly regular walks for all abilities of up to an hour, led by trained volunteer walk leaders, for people who would like to walk more often in a relaxed, supportive and friendly group. In and around the Cairngorms National Park area there are over 25 groups, meeting every week, with over 80 trained volunteers! Without volunteers, these walks just couldn’t happen, and we’re always on the look out for people who would like to get involved. We’re particularly keen to recruit new walk leaders in the Ballater area, for example, so if you’d like to know more please do get in touch!

Volunteering: good for the environment and good for you!

What you might not know is that volunteering is good for you, too! It can reduce depression and stress, increase quality of life, help meet new people, build confidence and learn new skills. It can also be a great chance to get out and about in the fresh air and beauty of Scotland’s landscapes. Don’t take my word for it though, take a look at this video from volunteers involved with The Mountains and The People, talking about why they volunteer to maintain and repair upland paths:

Volunteer Cairngorms

I’ve recently joined the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) as the Volunteer Coordinator, to help deliver Volunteer Cairngorms, a 3 year pilot programme to support and develop environmental volunteering opportunities in the unique natural environment of the Cairngorms National Park. Part of Active Cairngorms – a strategy which aims to help people to become more physically active, to learn about, care for and appreciate the Park – and is looking to support environmental volunteering in the Cairngorms National Park in three ways:

1. We will be providing an online space for environmental groups and organisations to advertise their volunteer opportunities, and for volunteers to sign-up to participate online
2. We will be developing a Volunteer Ranger scheme
3. We will be supporting communities to form their own environmental groups, and to volunteer in their communities

We’ll be launching the programme soon, so if you would like to make a difference to the incredible landscapes and wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park, no matter how you’d like to get involved or how much time you have, please keep an eye out for updates both on our website and via our Twitter account – see links at the bottom!
Give environmental volunteering in the Cairngorms National Park a go!

The Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend is taking place on the 12-14 May. It’s a celebration of the fantastic natural heritage of the Cairngorms National Park, and with over 50 activities taking place across the Cairngorms National Park there will be something for everyone, from families to the more seasoned nature lover.

No matter what your interests, whether you’re an experienced volunteer or never tried it before, there will be some fantastic chances to get hands on with a whole range of organisations and groups. The full details of the whole programme – and details on how to register – are here, but here are some of the volunteering highlights:

On Saturday 13th May:
At Ruthven Barracks, you can help with a morning’s nest monitoring of Lapwing, 10am – 12pm;
Find out how to survey pine marten and red squirrel activity, have a go at setting up hair traps and have a peek into their secretive world at Glenmore Forest Park, 10am – 12pm;
The Mountains and The People will be taking care of paths on the 7 Bridges Walk in Ballater from 10am to 4pm;
Volunteer Cairngorms will be working in partnership with the Crown Estate Scotland to give you the chance to get stuck in with some practical conservation volunteering from 1.30pm to 3.30pm;
You can get involved with vegetation management of a Bronze Age hut circle with Rothiemurchus Estate, 2.30pm – 4pm.

On Sunday 14th May:
The Woodland Trust will be planting trees on the Invercauld Estate from 10am to 3pm on Sunday 14th May;
The Mountains and the People will be getting hands on improving path drainage in Glen Tilt from 10am – 4pm on Sunday 14th May.

I really hope this post has sparked some ideas with you to get involved with volunteering wherever you are, and if you’d like to keep up-to-date about Volunteer Cairngorms just visit our website, follow us on Twitter, or give me a ring on 01479 870 566.

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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.