Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best Volunteer Initiative

Winner - The Parks Trust's Volunteer Strategy

Image: The Parks Trust
Image: The Parks Trust

The Parks Trust is an independent charity set up in 1992 to care for more than 5,000 acres of parks, lakes and woodlands in Milton Keynes. Community engagement is one of the trust’s core objectives and providing opportunities for local people to be involved in the trust’s work is an important element of engaging with the diverse communities living within Milton Keynes.

The Trust is supported by nearly three hundred volunteers who assist with practical conservation, environmental education, cleansing, events stewardship, photography and wildlife surveys. We also have 40 Youth Rangers who carry out some practical conservation work such as scrub clearance, insect hotels and habitat creation. The largest number of volunteers are those who carry out practical work, delivering habitat enhancements, construction jobs and other improvements in our parks. Typical activities for volunteer groups include coppicing, hedge-laying, pond restoration and building artificial otter holts.

The Volunteer Coordinator manages the existing pool of volunteers, supervises some activities on site, recruits new volunteers and liaises with other staff to find meaningful and rewarding task for the volunteers to carry out. In 2016 the volunteer team contributed over 7,000 hours to the Trust.

In addition, two ‘Friends’ groups work closely with the trust to help maintain and deliver public events in Millfield, Stony Stratford and Linford Lakes respectively.

The trust works with groups and local businesses, organising bespoke community action days and team building activities. These usually take the form of conservation work parties or large-scale litter picking days. Volunteers have assisted with ecological surveys such as breeding birds, dragonflies, otters and bats.

Volunteers receive a branded uniform, mileage expenses, training, at least four social gatherings per year, free tickets to events, farm trips and an annual coach trip.  At the ‘Annual Volunteer Awards and Celebration Evening’ we recognise and celebrate volunteer achievements and contributions to the Trust.

As well as an opportunity to engage with local people, volunteering provides participants with a range of benefits including the opportunity to meet others, improved self-confidence, better health, the chance to learn new skills, and the opportunity to give something back to the local community.

For the Trust volunteers provide a sounding board for new plans and activities, input of new ideas, eyes and ears on the ground, advocacy for The Parks Trust, support for staff in delivering more of and a wider range of Events and Educational activities and added value to our operations.

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