In February I went on a volunteering conservation day set up by UCSU volunteering. We went to ‘The Helm,’ in Oxenholme, which is a rural site, maintained by a group called, ‘Friends of the Lake District’. This group of conservationists work to keep the area safe from fire hazards, ensure that the wildlife in the grounds remains healthy and so that it continues to be a beautiful part of the country for residents to go walking in.
On this particular day, myself and 9 other volunteers, both from ‘Friends of the Lake District,’ and also from the Lancaster and Carlisle University of Cumbria sites, were helping to keep the area free from fire hazards.
We were to be chopping down the gorse bushes on one side of the helm and then setting up a small fire to burn them. So when we arrived, we split up into different working groups. One group were in charge of cutting down the gorse bushes, another were to drag the branches to the bottom of the hill to be burned and the third group were to start a fire but had the difficulty of keeping it small and controlled, even though there were so many branches to get through!
It was a beautiful day and the sun was out, however we could have done with more of a breeze as it was extremely hot work having to saw down trees and bushes! It was a full days’ work but we were able to have a few breaks to eat cake and biscuits throughout the day. It was important that we kept an eye on the fire during our breaks so that it didn’t burn out. ‘I enjoyed the view but it really was hard work!’ Huijie Chia, 18
I found out quickly enough that gorse bushes are a lot thornier than I had first realised and I was picking thorns out of my arms and legs for days after. Not to mention how sore my arm muscles were from all the sawing! However, the whole experience was so rewarding that it was easy to overlook these details. ‘I have never done so much sawing in my life, ouch!’ Dave Halliwell, 19.
This volunteering trip was very worthwhile and it was so satisfying to see the difference we had made by the end, in comparison to how the area had looked at the start of the day. It was great to meet other volunteers and to see how we had helped the community as a team.
The Lake District tree clearing was an enjoyable experience, with good company and some hard laborious cutting down. The experience was worthwhile.’ Zaedea Etherby, 20.