I have just celebrated 2 years volunteering to help the work of local charity Cambridge Past, Present and Future. I have found the experience immensely satisfying. I am primarily based at Wandlebury Country Park where there are an enormous variety of tasks to be undertaken which are usually geared to the different seasons.

During the autumn and winter, working parties of regular and occasional volunteers are engaged in coppicing trees in specific areas of the park. This is done to allow more light penetration to the undergrowth and thereby promote the growth of other plants essential as wildlife habitat.  Keeping the drive free from leaves and spreading wood chippings on some of the 8 miles of footpaths are also autumnal activities in which volunteers are typically engaged. 

Sometimes working parties meet up at one of the charity’s other sites to carry our specific tasks, such as maintaining wild flower meadows at Coton Countryside Reserve and at Barnwell Meadows in Cambridge.  

My favourite task is helping to look after the Highland Cattle. These shaggy, docile beasts are moved from pasture to pasture within Wandlebury Country Park to keep the unique chalky grassland in pristine condition. Each animal has a name and is recognisable by his or her appearance and unique character. My favourite is Flo who loves having her back scratched, but she can also be mischievous when the cattle are rounded up for their biannual pedicure.

The park is sometimes a temporary home to a herd of Norfolk Horn sheep. Each morning they are counted to make sure that none has escaped during the night. It is not an easy task because they keep moving around.

Apart from being an excellent way to get fresh air and exercise, volunteering has helped me to develop new skills, such as hedge laying and the correct way to prune fruit trees. There is also the chance to accompany the wardens on some of the wild flower or tree identification walks which are run at the park.

It is a joy to see Wandlebury in each of the seasons. Such a variety of colours, sounds and smells. I always try and arrive early in the morning to enjoy the peace.  Just me, a few busy squirrels and numerous strutting pheasants.

Philip Bedford

If you would like to volunteer your time to help our charity then please click here for details.