As University Students we can often be seen as the enemy in local communities; taking up much needed housing, partying late into the night, causing noise and disruption everywhere we go, and so it goes on and on …
It feels good therefore, to be able to give something back to the areas that we spend three or four years of our lives living in; areas that may not be close to our ‘real’ houses but nonetheless somewhere that we call home.
For a group of seven Cumbria Uni students including myself, today was exactly that; a chance to do something positive, to give a little back to the County of Cumbria which had welcomed us with open arms.
We all met up in Portinscale, a quaint village just outside the north Lake District tourist hotspot of Keswick, to link in with staff from the Environment Agency, a group of youngsters completing their John Moore Environment award and a Border Collie puppy called Badger, to help in the battle against natural erosion of a nearby riverbank along the River Derwent.
The Derwent, feeds from Bassenthwaite Lake into Derwentwater at the edge of Keswick town centre, having been joined by the River Greta just prior to the lake head; the two rivers having on more than one occasion wreaked their own havoc on the local area, most notably recently during the Storm Desmond floods of 2015.
The plan was simple; to plant dozens and dozens of tree saplings on the inner bend of a meander in the river to compliment the already established trees on the outer side of the bend.
As well as, in a few years time, providing an attractive backdrop for residents and visitors to the area alike, once the root system has established itself, it will provide extra strength and support for the soil structure and provide a natural barrier to prevent further local erosion.
Of course, Mother Nature wasn’t going to let us off lightly, and chose today of all days to remind us she is in overall charge by sending Storm Doris to visit. Luckily this corner of England’s green and pleasant lands got off lightly compared to other parts of the country.
As a zoology student I am happy to help conserve the environment and that’s why I volunteered today. It began with wrapping up warm as Storm Doris was due to arrive. Yes it was cold. Very cold. And yes it was wet, raining and windy, very windy. But none of that was going to stop our intrepid team from achieving our goal; not only planting every tree that the Environment Agency team brought with them, but by finishing ahead of our planned time.
The day was brightened no end by the presence of Badger, the 5 month old sheepdog puppy who kindly helped with the digging and rubbish collecting. Everyone kept their spirits up, a great time and at the end of the day, even the clouds lifted to give us a beautiful view of the snow capped mountains around us.
I asked several of the other Cumbria Uni students who came along to give their thoughts on the day.
Sophie Babbs said “I had an amazing day volunteering to plant the trees today, even though it was raining most of the day. It’s a fantastic feeling you get at the end of the day, when you have completed the task at hand, knowing you have manage to help the environment out in multiple ways. I would recommend this experience to everyone to try. It’s well worth it.”
Jemima Rae said “Thank you! I think it was a really good experience to make friends and help the environment! It was really good fun despite the rain and wind, would definitely do it again!!”
Hannah Dover added “I really loved tree planting, it was good fun and, although it was rainy and windy, we got to spend all day outside with friends, doing something that will benefit the wildlife for years to come”
And Kahina Beggache commented “For me this was something completely new and I enjoyed every moment of it. It was very hands on and once you get into it, was pretty straightforward. Helping the children to plant the trees was also very rewarding.”