As Volunteer Week (1-7 June) draws to a close we take a look at the important role our own volunteers play in London's eight Royal Parks.
Volunteering for a park typically conjures up images of planting flowers or litter picking but at the Royal Parks you could be involved in anything from hedgehog research and mapping anthills, to educating visitors on deer birthing season.
Over 2,000 volunteers work across the Royal Parks, either directly for us or through our partner organisations. Between them they dedicate over 120,000 hours, a commercial value worth over £2million.
Volunteering opportunities can range from long term projects such as growing fruits and vegetables at our allotments, to short term or one off projects like wildlife surveys.
Tess Pettinger, Volunteer and Programmes Manager said: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our parks and without them we would have to limit some popular spaces such as our demonstration allotments. We are really grateful for our volunteers' support and we try our utmost to ensure they get the most out of their experience, learn new skills and feel valued."
We spoke to a few of our volunteers about what they do and why they love it.
Duncan MacCallum lives in East Sheen and has been a Volunteer Ranger in Richmond Park since April 2019.
"I first started volunteering in 2018, as part of a Mission: Invertebrate citizen science project which involved measuring the sizes of the yellow meadow ant hills in Richmond Park. I’ve been a Volunteer Ranger for just over two months now and I’m really enjoying it. Our role is to engage with the public to ensure they get the most out of their visit and offer tips on how they can protect the park.
"Recently we met a father and his young daughter looking from afar at a herd of female red deer. We explained that deer had entered birthing season. The little girl revealed that it would be her birthday on the 1 June, and I told her it was very likely that a baby deer would be born on that day too. When she realised she might share her birthday with a baby deer, the smile on her face and that on her father's was priceless. Moments like that really are special."
Soyoung lives in South West London and has been volunteering for Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens in Regent's Park since May of this year.
"My general duties include planting flower beds, weeding and general maintenance. I really enjoy learning practical gardening skills and working alongside professional gardeners. I also find it therapeutic and would recommend it to others as a way to improve your physical and mental health."
Peter Charalambous from Marylebone, volunteers at the Community Wildlife Gardens and the allotment in Kensington Gardens.
"In Regent’s Park I help out at the Community Wildlife Gardens, planting, wedding and pruning and in Kensington Gardens’ Allotment Garden I help grow an array of vegetables and fruits from scratch. I’ve also recently participated in a Mission: Invertebrate project surveying hawthorn trees in Richmond Park
"I’ve been a volunteer since my retirement in 2018, and aside from learning so much about gardening I really appreciate the social aspect, meeting people from all different backgrounds and being invited to the different social events that are held for volunteers.
"I’ve lived in Marylebone for the past 40 years, so although I love all the Royal Parks - The Regent’s Park is definitely my favourite. I especially love all the different sporting activities it offers such as tennis courts, sports pitches and the boating lake of course."