One of the perks of my job is that once a year I get to take a day off work for volunteering. This time I was particularly lucky to take the opportunity to volunteer at the Lavender Pond Nature Park with The Conservation Volunteers.
I used to live quite close to this area, and for years I would gaze with intrigue into its gates, wondering what lay behind the old pumphouse and how to access those bridges on the pond. So when the opportunity to finally quell my curiosity arose, I pulled on my boots, tied up the hair and pulled on a pair of garden gloves, ready to get stuck in.
For those that live in London, there’s a good chance you’ve walked by one of The Conservation Volunteers’ stations, or even come across their work, but you might not realise it. They operate at small green sites all over the UK and provide a plethora of opportunities to anyone to learn practical new skills with environment management, promote community engagement with their local area and conserving and improving a local outdoor space for both people and animals to enjoy.
They operate at multiple green spots across London, and many of the plants they grow go on to live at schools and public spaces to help people learn more about horticulture and ecology. My own education with them began with skimming algae out of the lake, algae which can grow rapidly and consume all the oxygen in the lake, killing off any other organism living in the water. It was surprisingly difficult to get the majority of it out – the smaller bits hid amongst the reeds. Plus we had to be particularly careful we did not transfer any algae to tools used in Lavender Pond’s other bodies of water, as it can thrive in just about any type of aqueous environment.
Besides the ponds, Lavender Pond Nature Reserve has a complex of winding footpaths and small pockets of woodland where a variety of birds, foxes and other creatures live. Here The Conservation Volunteers team keep compost to create fertiliser, and plant small trees and flowers to either be sent to other sites in London or to thrive and act as a habitat for some critter.
Like the algae, some species of plants thrive in any condition and threaten to overrun the whole place if you don’t keep them in check. And so we spent the afternoon weeding out Wild Carrot, a ridiculously strong and stubborn plant that creates deep roots in the soil, similar to its namesake. However after getting out all the wild carrot roots, we were then ready to plant flowers in its place that would be particularly useful for butterflies and bees. By the end of the day we were famished and ready for a pint in a beer garden, but paused to explore the rest of Lavender Pond’s little pockets of wilderness.
If you are interested in volunteering with The Conservation Volunteers, check out their website for details, or if you would like to visit then simply check out their calendar – they’re usually open at least one day a month!