Alistair Budd

Why I volunteer

Having lived in Berkhamsted for 20 plus years. I enjoyed the delights of Ashridge through the seasons walking the dog  at weekends. Whilst during the week I was one of those early birds on the station platform heading into town to sit in some glass palace, where I moved from one meeting  room to another . With brief interruptions to peer into my laptop . Strangely I enjoyed it all . But with  retirement came a need to see the sky , smell the soil , be part of the outside world . I am really a country ‘bumpkin’ at heart  . To do something different and yet something worthwhile . So for me volunteering at Ashridge was a no brainer . I appeared at Barrack square on a cold November day  and was welcomed by Arthur [ our leader ], the other volunteers appeared a friendly , jolly lot . There was lots of chat and banter . So off we went to some corner of the estate to undertake some outdoor task , it might have been the destruction of invasive laurel , together with the building of a huge bonfire . Other tasks followed , making tree boxes , pruning  bridleways, dead hedging, more scrub clearance and bonfires, fencing, building habitat piles the list goes on .

I was hooked , my inner child ignited by the whole outdoors experience [ yes ok it was the bonfires ].  Thursday mornings were  on the calendar . So much more enjoyable and cheaper  than thrashing around at the gym . Really lovely folks to be with, in a beautiful place , helping to preserve a beautiful and special place . Over the years I have had a few nice views for my mid morning coffee . But elevenses  [ that is when Arthur blows his whistle ] on a hill side over looking Aldbury , lying amongst the wild flowers and cow pats or Christmas mulled wine on Ivinghoe Beacon take some beating .

So the role of a Thursday volunteer has much to commend it . It also comes with a very flexible working pattern , i.e. you turn up when you can, as often or as infrequently as you like . So time off for holidays ,domestic and family duties , no problem . I like the non conformity , the fact that you can wear those clothes ,that have gone beyond gardening , where another burn hole is a badge of seniority .

Sadly my old Springer Charlie passed away and I became aware that a lone man walking in the woods was regarded with apprehension by other visitors . So what to do . Well the answer was to give my walks some purpose . Become the eyes and ears of the Estate . Armed with my litter picker I don my green  badge ,Polo and Fleece and leave the house as a Volunteer  Ranger . To walk the pathways, talking to the public and seeing what is going on . My first tour of duty was a revelation ,all manner of folks would walk up to me asking questions about the estate ,Was I a volunteer ? Where’s the nearest pub , what was I doing ? Discussions about litter , dog Poo , the Trust , trees , wildlife etc etc .So many chats with  some very nice people, my walks are something to look forward to as they were before .