Volunteers Week 2021
1st - 7th June 

Day 1 - Tuesday 1st June


Volunteering with the Quantock Hills AONB and the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme.

 

The Quantock Hills AONB is a protected landscape which is one of 46 other AONBs within England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Some of the main aims of the AONB are to protect and enhance the distinctive character of the Quantock Hills by enhancing biodiversity through positive management; protecting and conserving the historic environment such as the numerous scheduled monuments and encouraging strong communities and involvement of local people in the management and protection of the Quantock Hills.  

Volunteers play a huge part in the day to day running of the AONB service and we have approximately 80 active volunteers with the service (not even including the QLPS volunteers!) and there are a variety of different roles to suit everyone who would like to be involved.  Roles vary from practical countryside work, to community engagement roles, heritage monument monitoring and biodiversity surveying including surveying for bats, butterflies and nightjars to name but a few.  

The Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme will also have many and varied volunteering opportunities to get involved with.  A five-year project, in and around the Quantock Hills AONB, with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and local partners, the project area includes the AONB proper, but also takes in the surrounding ring of parishes – some 400sq km.  

Landscape Partnership Schemes are all about looking after a particular landscape and they are about partnership working, bringing a diverse range of interests together to make a real difference to people and place.  The Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme has a wide range of projects, such as restoring hedgerows, historic features, and traditional orchards through to educational work with local schools, archaeological excavations, archival research, and a wide ranging and inclusive events programme. There is something for everyone to get involved with for more information visit their website Home - QLPS, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme

We would like our team to be representative of the brilliantly diverse, fun, community-spirited area that we exist within, and we therefore welcome interest and curiosity from anyone who has a fascination with the positive work we’re hoping to achieve.  We aim to make our roles as inclusive and accessible as possible, and we even have work-from-home opportunities if access is an issue.

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Volunteer Ranger out litter picking on Quantock Common.

Butterfly ID training

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Volunteer Ranger out litter picking on Quantock Common.

Day 2 - Wednesday 2nd June

 

Within the Quantock Hills AONB there are a myriad of conservation designations protecting the nationally important and rare habitats found across the hills.  Some of these rare habitats include heathland, ancient woodlands, lowland grassland and meadows and also blanket bog to just name a few. These habitats require special monitoring, management and protection to ensure their existence into the future and that is where the AONB and QLPS volunteers come in!

The volunteers undertake a wide variety of surveying and monitoring within habitats across the hills to enable us to have a record of how wildlife populations are changing over time.  Understanding population changes help us know how to manage the landscape accordingly but it also means we can fit our data into a wider national and global picture of species change.  This is especially important as many species will experience dramatic changes and shifts in where they can live during our lifetimes due to the climate change and will experience both population increases and decreases due to this.  We also share the information we gain for out surveyors with local and national recording bodies to add to their understanding too.

The AONB volunteers currently survey for bats, butterflies, red deer, Nightjars, dormice and pied flycatchers which are some of the priority species on the hills. What we survey for does vary, depending on what we need to find out more about at the time.

Likewise, the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme will have varied opportunities for surveying and conservation, with the likes of wildlife surveying looking at species groups such as butterflies, reptiles, hazel dormice, Barbastelle bats, and birds.  There will also be other opportunities, including hedgerow surveying. These experiences give people hands-on opportunities to get involved in protecting nature and also create opportunities for more people to learn about natural heritage. 

 

For more information visit the QLPS website Home - QLPS, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme

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Green Hairstreak - Jenny Hillier

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Nightjar - Mike Richards

Day 3 - Thursday 3rd June

 

Conservation volunteering with the Quantock Hills AONB and the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Conservation work in one form or another, forms a vital backbone of the work which the AONB does - this includes both practical habitat management and heritage conservation work.

Practical conservation work is often focussed in the autumn and winter months when wildlife won’t be disturbed and is mostly led by the AONB ranger team, Andy and Owen, and can include woodland management work such as coppicing, tree thinning (to increase woodland biodiversity) or hedge laying.  Other practical conservation work includes gorse clearing on species rich grassland; strimming pathways or maintaining fences as a few examples.  AONB volunteer groups which undertake these practical tasks include the Quantock Countryside Group (in partnership with the National Trust); the Volunteer Rangers and other community groups which also get involved.

The Heritage Surveying Volunteers play a key part in surveying the 51 scheduled monuments on the Quantock Hills which range in size from hillforts to Bronze Age Burial Mounds which are hidden under the bracken and heather all over the hills.  The surveyors look for signs of change or damage such as trees growing through the monuments and damaging them or erosion from walkers or cyclists. This then feeds back into the conservation work programme where groups may remove plant growth or even redirect pathways.

The Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme will also undertake practical conservation volunteering, such as tree planting, and develop a legacy of skilled conservation work that will exist beyond the scheme itself.

For more information visit the QLPS website Home - QLPS, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme

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QCV  volunteers clearing gorse on the grassland at Cothelstone Hill

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Volunteer undertaking scrub clearance

Adscombe Chapel

Day 4 - Friday 4th June

 

Volunteering and working with the public

 

Working with the public is core work for the AONB, both in helping people to enjoy and respect using the hills but also engaging and educating the public on things like species identification and habitat management.

The Volunteer Rangers are one of our volunteer groups which engages with the public using the hills the most.  They are extra eyes and ears on the ground, assisting with the management of key sites and promoted routes by carrying out regular checks, litter picking, encouraging good behaviour and reporting on areas needing remedial actions such as fallen trees or broken gates.  These volunteers therefore can often be found talking to visitors; being a friendly face to offer local knowledge and advice about the AONB.  They are also involved in our events programme, representing the AONB at local shows and fetes and giving talks to local interest groups.

As the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme comprises the surrounding parishes of the AONB, its work in these areas brings a diverse range of interests and activities that make a huge difference to people and place.  The partnership work they do will build opportunities across communities, bringing the principles of the hills closer to local neighbourhoods. It offers more people the opportunity to contribute, as well as building the capacity and skills of the volunteer base working across their project area.

There are opportunities for volunteers to provide significant face to face support at events and public engagement projects, accompanying the QLPS in a diverse programme of activities that reflect the enjoyment of bringing our work to a wide audience.  These are proactive roles for anyone interested in helping communities learn about the heritage of the Quantock Hills and surrounding areas.  Our volunteers have the opportunity to help audiences build confidence and be empowered to fully participate in the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme.

This work will take many forms, from community-based engagement initiatives that need a great deal of people power, to events that cater for specific interests – it is a chance to work alongside the brilliant organisations and individuals across an unfolding programme of events and activities that celebrate the diverse interests of communities around the Quantock Hills.

Most recently we have enjoyed working alongside partner organisations in bringing anything from gardening and guided walks to local audiences, to developing a large nature mural in an area with rich community links.  Throughout these projects we have enjoyed a flavour of the diverse work and community connections the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme creates. We welcome anyone to join our wonderfully diverse team of volunteers looking to assist across these participatory activities.

For more information visit the QLPS website Home - QLPS, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme

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Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme Volunteer

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Quantock Hills Volunteers Litter Pick

Day 5 - Saturday 5th June

 

Volunteering on Heritage Projects.

 

The Quantock Hills have history and heritage of all ages, with 51 scheduled monuments in total within the AONB boundary! A scheduled monument is an archaeological feature that is designated of national importance by the government- these include well known Quantock landmarks such as Trendle Ring, Dowsborough Hill Fort and Dead Woman’s Ditch.

Not all scheduled monuments are ancient. Monuments and archaeological remains of all dates can be given the protection of scheduling, whether they are prehistoric burial mounds, 20th-century remains of the coal industry or from World War II. Some scheduled monuments contain standing buildings or ruins but others have no visible remains above ground: it is their buried archaeology that is of national importance.

We have a variety of volunteer groups who work with the historic heritage monuments on the hills. These include the Heritage Surveying Volunteers who undertake biannual surveys of the 51 monuments on the hills to monitor the condition of them, for example whether they are being affected by vegetation or erosion. This information then feeds directly into our management work to make sure they are protected.

The Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme volunteers, along with the team’s Historic Heritage Officer, will look to uncover clues about the historic landscape of the area with practical work and examination of archaeological records as part of its wider programme to understand the natural, built and cultural heritage of the area.

The team have recently been working from home, making headway with archive-based project work. The remote work has meant that volunteers are able to patiently explore digital heritage assistance, with this work being inclusive to anyone who needs to work from home. We will continue to keep this opportunity open as there is a great deal of archival work still to achieve even though national restrictions mean we can enjoy group activities outdoors.

 

Transcribing land-tax records and interpreting and identifying new archaeological sites using LiDAR will remain invaluable tools of desk-based work and more information on these projects can be found on our website:

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Learn 3.5 Understanding the Landscape - QLPS, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme

The historic heritage volunteering offer also brings with it the chance to be involved with practical surveys, archaeology and excavations.  Research and information gathering will help to develop new areas of interest during delivery.

For more information visit the QLPS website Home - QLPS, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme

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Day 6 - Sunday 6th June

Community Engagement Volunteering Work

 

Being a beautiful piece of accessible countryside perfectly situated between several towns, engaging with the communities around us is a core part of what the AONB does.  We work hard to maintain existing links with community groups and projects and try to forge further long-lasting partnerships with other groups.

Greg Davies from the Working Well Group had this to say:

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Day 7 - Monday 7th June

Opportunities to Volunteer with the AONB and QLPS

 

Now that Covid restrictions are lifting, we are very excited to get back out there with the volunteers.  We are working through the backlog of enquiries from last year and are here to help new volunteers find an opportunity to suit them within the AONB and Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme.

If you would like to find out more about any of the volunteering opportunities mentioned during  #Volunteersweek2021 with either the Quantock Hills AONB service 

or the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme email us on:

AONBVolunteer@somerset.gov.uk

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Working Well Group Dry Stone Walling