Here in the Royal Parks we have some fantastic and varied opportunities for volunteers to get involved in helping to enhance the 5,000 acres of parkland, which are much loved Sites of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.
One project I look after is the Kensington Gardens allotment which has 10 volunteers working to create a growing space in the heart of London. They are a bunch of very enthusiastic, committed and passionate individuals, with excellent gardening skills which they are sharing with the parks and the public.
The group held a very successful Harvest Festival in September this year where they showed off all the hard work that had been carried out over the last planting year. They had strawberry plants available for people to take home and digging sessions with children to show them where potatoes came from. Each of the little children had at least one potato, which they took home and hopefully cooked. It was an important lesson for them - learning where our food comes from.
The volunteers also harvested a great deal of lavender, which they prepared in small bags and gave to allotment visitors in return for a small donation to go towards next year's tools and seeds.
The Royal Parks Guild sent its experts along to help answer people's gardening questions and a lot of ideas were exchanged.
Now the group is preparing for winter. A new shed and greenhouse are to be installed in the allotment over the winter. This is really exciting and will enable the group to learn more about growing the plants from seed and how to use the shelter to help propagate.
This week the volunteers have been planting garlic cloves. Hopefully those squirrels will not dig them all up! There are four varieties of garlic: Lautrec White,Elephant Garlic, Ches Nok White and Early Purples White.
The Royal Parks is twinned with the Isle of Wight and the garlic has been sent over by The Garlic Farm, based in New Church on the Isle of Wight. Later in 2013 we will be working with Northwood Primary School, also from the Isle of Wight, to look at growing vegetables, planting seedlings and then reaping the crops.
The volunteers also socialise with each other at different times throughout the year. In the summer the social may include a visit to a garden or special place they have selected. Clearly at this time of the year is it a Christmas party. The volunteers will include all of the visitors to the allotment by putting up a Christmas tree. The chickens may find this interesting, the squirrels no doubt will climb it and hopefully the visitors will appreciate it.
So I wish you season's greetings and hope you come to see the allotment and the volunteers in the New Year.
Even better, get hands on with horticulture yourself, by becoming a Royal Parks volunteer. Visit our website for more information about the full range of volunteering opportunities, which will give you the chance to get involved in wildlife monitoring, habitat management, horticulture, guided walks and much, much more.