WILD Volunteer News - Spring 2020. Update from Joanne Leigh

Our Gloucestershire FWAG volunteers are some of the most out-going, hardworking focused people. They have worked tirelessly for FWAG for the last 8 years and it’s with this dedication that I feel we should celebrate 2020 and appreciate them for giving their spare time to FWAG.

Our volunteers go out twice weekly to accomplish conservation tasks that help communities recognise the full value of their outdoor space as well as encouraging them to take part. We work predominantly in the Upper Thames Catchment, around Cirencester along water bodies leading into the Thames and Cotswold Water Park. Our aim is to improve the water body status under the EU Water Framework Directive and thus far we have worked in 27 parishes and 5 communities.

WILD fits into the Upper Thames Catchment Partnership remit as well as the Facilitation funded group Farmer Guardians of the Upper Thames, the Thames Water community project, Healthy Coln and Healthy Churn project areas. This gives our volunteers the opportunity to spread their expertise and knowledge further afield reaching out to communities across the catchment. It also provides a wider role for the types of skills being used for specialised areas of conservation work. As with all our Gloucestershire FWAG projects we feel that shared learning through the cross-over of projects allows us to collaborate with multiple partners. This brings added value and benefits to our projects by means of funding and tapping into a wider range of expertise and knowledge from those partners.

The work that the volunteers carry out is based around conservation for wildlife and improving the quality of water in our streams and rivers through bank restoration, de-shading and natural flood management. The team have the necessary skills to do light engineering and are well versed in hedge laying, coppicing and riverbank restoration. The bulk of our work takes place over winter as materials needed for summer jobs require activities needing to be done outside of the bird nesting season. This past year we have been hampered by poor weather conditions and now a pandemic but never the less the team have done great things all spring, summer and winter and we feel, with the clipped version of the new year to look forward to, we will be well equipped to carry out plenty of restoration work in the summer months.

Over the last year our team have engaged with local groups, corporate business’ and educational institutions to help bring a wide range of people into the countryside and teach them new skills that could be used in their own communities across the UK. The activities have ranged from stream clearance, riverbank restoration to coppicing and hedge laying. All groups have given positive feedback and look forward to joining us again through the year. Reaching out to these groups is as important to us as it is to them; It gives us an opportunity to skill share, socialise, integrate with all people, signpost to professional partners and offer support and guidance for those that need it.

Volunteers in the community

Some of the volunteering parties we have held over the last year have been to improve community spaces with collaboration from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust on their ‘WILD towns’ project, funded by ERDF.   We have worked in 4 communities with the local public enhancing areas for wildlife and flora


Tetbury Bluebell walk

This activity attracted a lot of public engagement over a bank holiday,2019, over 3000 native wildflower bulbs were planted along a popular circular walk to enhance the visual spectacle in spring and early summer.


Watermoor Church grounds


Cirencester tree planting                   Abbey Grounds Roman Wall – Wildflower spreading


Fairford accessibility path and hedgeplanting funded by Wild Towns ERDF


Cirencester Gumstool Brook Stream clearance with Cirencester College



Sapperton Woods Coppicing with St James’ Place business group


Cirencester Hospital with a local group funded by Wild Towns ERDF


Coppicing for hedge laying supplies


Harvest Mouse survey with Cirencester College


Hedge planting at Fairford with Friends of the Coln funded by Rivers and Wetlands Community Days

Cirencester stream clearance with Xylem Corporate group

Lower Moor Farm with Cirencester College funded by Coop Community