News and blog Friday's Farming Thoughts Entry #25 - Maisie Jepson: The value of volunteering I moved to Marlborough, Wiltshire about 3 years ago and love that the Kennet, a beautiful chalk stream, runs through it. Growing up in Worcestershire on the floodplain of the Severn I had a very different experience of rivers; I certainly wouldn’t have waded in that, and now, most years my parents’ house will be cut off for a couple of weeks at peak flow. The Severn is mighty and intimidating, the Kennet is calm and sometimes just makes the footpath a bit soggy. In the summer this year, FWAG ran a training course for attendees to learn how to monitor riverflies. I’ll admit here that I didn’t really know what a riverfly was when I was sent along, but I am pleased to report that I do now. After receiving the certificate, I contacted Action for the River Kennet and was duly given a spot to monitor, conveniently, in the middle of town. I now go down once a month with my net, tray and pipette and look to see how the populations are doing. If they aren’t doing so well we can report this to the Environment Agency as an incident. There are about 60 of us, up and down the Kennet doing the same thing. I have also recently been helping at the Community Fridge here in Marlborough. Waitrose and Tescos, as well as residents and allotment holders, donate food that is still in good condition but past it’s “Best Before”, or surplus to requirements. They go into a large fridge in a small room, which is open three mornings a week. Anyone can come and take from the fridge, the sole aim is to reduce food waste. Anything that isn’t taken is composted. Last week, within 33 minutes of the shop being open, 22 people had been through and about 50kg of food had been redistributed. The volunteer who adds everything up reckons we have saved the weight of a giraffe from landfill! I know this is not a solution to food waste and complicated supply chains, but it is something. Before getting involved in these two positions, I hadn’t really volunteered before (except for a bit of rhododendron clearance in Cornwall when I was at Uni and helping to build an Iron-age-style roundhouse on the Lleyn Peninsular many moons ago). But these recent posts have been great for learning more and meeting people in the community. It always amazes me how much the FWAG volunteers get done, but I can see how rewarding it must be. They get to experience places they might not otherwise get to see, build friendships, and learn something new. They also get to feel a sense of satisfaction when they are driving through the countryside and catch a glimpse of a hedgerow they planted, a riverbank they protected, an orchard they pruned. As with me and the Community Fridge it is nice to be able to experience something outside of our day-to-day routines; helping a cause whilst also improving our wellbeing.