Celebrating our volunteers - Matt, Jo and Laura

By Steve Aylward

In the past year, over 1,360 volunteers have contributed nearly 68,300 hours of volunteering time and we are celebrating the fantastic difference our volunteers make for wildlife in Suffolk. Thank you for your time, knowledge, skills, experience, energy and enthusiasm. We couldn’t achieve a fraction of what we do without you.

Matt Clarke's story

Both my parents were very interested in the natural environment and as such were a great influence on me. My father retired from a career as an agricultural adviser working for the Ministry of Agriculture in the late 1970’s and almost immediately took on a role with the Suffolk Trust for Nature Conservation which later became the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. He was involved in the purchase of some of the Trusts reserves such as Landguard Point, Bradfield Woods, Lackford Lakes, Groton Wood and the Fox Fritillary Meadow.

Fox Fritillary Meadow nature reerve

By Steve Aylward.

I went with him to view these and to take photographs for him to use in his work. Picking up this interest in the natural environment I joined the Trust in the early 1980’s and have been a member ever since. Whilst I was still at work and heavily involved in a local photographic society my time for the Trust was very limited. Upon retirement in 2017 this all changed, and I contacted the Trust with a view to a volunteering role and was put in contact with Claire Rowan who asked me to co-host some of the Adult Learning Courses.

Matt Clarke - Wild Learning Host

Matt Clarke - Wild Learning Host 

This is a role that I particularly enjoy as I get to learn a lot and to meet a range and mixture of interesting people, including Hawk Honey and Giles Cawston amongst others in some of Suffolk’s most beautiful locations.

I have also been asked by Michael Strand to help in a small way with the Annual Photography Competition where I identify the species represented in the photographs entered and am booked to help judge this year’s competition later this year. In this lockdown period, I am missing these activities considerably.

One of the major highlights of my involvement with the Trust was meeting former Director Derek Moore OBE, a truly inspirational character.

Matt Clarke 

Laura Gwynne's story

When I signed up to do forest bathing training last year, I looked into volunteering locally with a wildlife organisation to be involved in nature connection in my local community. Each week since last summer I have enjoyed assisting with a children’s group based at Foxburrow Farm. We go out whatever the weather and learn all sorts of things about the environment.

We've made dens, looked at mouse footprints, identified woodland animals and explored wild spaces. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust team are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, it's inspiring to be led by them.

Laura Gwynne - Foxburrow Farm volunteer

Laura Gwynne - Foxburrow Farm volunteer 

Being outside for a few hours in the wilds within a team like this creating a healthy and rewarding experience for the children is wonderful. I'm really grateful for the opportunity and always look forward to seeing what we'll discover.

Laura Gwynne 

Jo Meadow's story

I first volunteered with the Trust in 2019 as the Ipswich learning intern. Working alongside Lucy I was keen to experience a variety of different settings, age groups and types of Wild Learning activity. The experience did not disappoint. Although there were some regular activities, each week was different, and gave me new ideas to take away.

Professionally, the biggest take-away from my internship is the confidence to be able to plan activities for, and communicate with, tots and primary age children as well as in a space beyond a classroom.

Jo Ipswich intern - teen beekeeping course

Jo Ipswich intern - teen beekeeping course 

On a more personal level, the opportunity to be outside and to meet with other likeminded people has boosted my mental wellbeing. Since finishing my Internship I have continued to volunteer as part of the Ipswich team for regular sessions with home educated children and school holiday activities. I hope to continue to volunteer and that in the future I can make a transition into outdoor learning on a more permanent basis.