Jess started volunteering in the Dedham Vale to learn new skills and gain different life experiences whilst studying for her GCSEs. She explains how volunteering has benefited both her future career prospects, and her health and wellbeing. 

I first got involved with volunteering in the AONB at age 16. I wanted to demonstrate that I had some real-world experience to include on my CV. When I wasn’t studying for my GCSE’s, I thought it would be good to spend some time doing something different to everyday life, explore my local area, whilst meeting new people.  I was also curious to learn about how conservation worked and why it is so important. 

A friend of the family was already volunteering for the RSPB in Flatford and told me that there was a group of people that regularly carried out conservation work. I contacted Emma Black, the coordinator, and was invited to attend the next meeting. The rest is history!

We carry out a range of different activities within the AONB and I find the tasks where you can see where you have been the most rewarding such as coppicing and hedge trimming.  I also enjoyed pond dipping and surveying the moth population as I get to identify creatures I had never seen before! Recently, I helped to build a stag beetle pyramid which was exciting as it will benefit so many insects other than stag beetles such as solitary bees.  

Through my volunteering in the AONB I have become more appreciative of conservation and how vital it is to preserve green spaces for society and the wildlife. In the future, I would like to be a part of the motorsport industry and find solutions that will make the whole industry become less damaging to the environment.

Therefore, I can take my experience of working as a team, communicating effectively and my love of nature to the racetrack! I really enjoy working with like-minded people and it is exciting to know that I will still be able to visit the AONB in the future and see how the projects have aged. I also like working outside and being with nature as it has a calming which helps to put problems into perspective. 

Group of people clearing an area around a bench
Man by a tree

 I am proud to know that I am maintaining and improving the AONB, so that future generations can enjoy the landscape as much as I do. Using the knowledge I have gained, I have even completed some projects in my own garden such as maintaining hedges, planting specific flowers to attract pollinators and making a hedgehog house.  

Volunteering has benefitted me hugely because I now spend more time outside, which has improved my mental health, and meeting new people has boosted my confidence. I have learnt so much about how conservation can impact a community and the environment positively.  

To anyone thinking about volunteering in the AONB, or in your local community, I would really recommend it. You get out what you put in and you notice the natural beauty of your local area more when you are looking after it.  

Volunteering is so worthwhile because you know that in the future you will be able to look at the projects you’ve been involved with and take pride in the fact that you have helped conserve and enhance the natural beauty for future generations.