Cultivating a greener future

Toby Marchant is fast becoming Earth Trust’s very own Charles Dowding, a fan of ‘no-dig’ gardening he’s been sharing his wealth of gardening skills and knowhow with us as a Garden Volunteer, helping to develop the education team’s Kitchen Garden. He shares his experience of helping to cultivating a greener future….

Finding my path to volunteering

My journey with Earth Trust began last autumn when I attended a volunteers open day. Having used the Clumps and the surrounding woodlands for walking and recreation since moving to this area, I had always been intrigued by the progress and development of Earth Trust. When I decided to step back from full-time work earlier this year, I felt it was the perfect time to get involved and contribute to the valuable work of the Trust. In February, I officially joined the volunteering team, ready to lend a hand and make a difference.

An immersive teaching resource

My primary responsibility since joining has been the preparation and maintenance of the vegetable growing area in the Earth Lab Kitchen Garden. This role has been both interesting and fulfilling.

Collaborating with Earth Trust’s Environmental Education Manager, Stuart, and various school groups, we have successfully raised hundreds of vegetable plants this spring.

Recently, we planted them out to ensure we have good crops to show the children how and where their food grows. It’s rewarding to see the children’s curiosity and excitement as they learn about the journey of food from the garden to their plates.

The Kitchen Garden is a newly established, immersive teaching resource for visiting school groups. It’s a living, breathing example of where food comes from and a place to learn and look at foodstuffs, see how it grows, and get hands on in the garden with planting and harvesting produce. For many children, this kind of experience will be completely new.

little acorns at earth trust environmental education

earth trust kitchen garden immersive outdoor environmental education

Soil structure success

We practice the ‘no-dig’ method in our kitchen garden, which requires the soil to be in optimal condition. Digging damages soil structure by destroying natural drainage channels made by worms, disturbing fungal networks, and releasing carbon that’s locked in the soil. No-dig gardening preserves and improves the soil structure, greatly improving its overall health. Currently, some areas of the ground are heavily compacted and the soil texture is hard and sticky. To fully realise the potential of our no-dig method, we need to spend more time breaking up the soil and adding organic matter. This will ease the task of preparing the ground for future crops and ensure a thriving garden.

My hope is to see the kitchen garden flourish, providing both an educational and productive space for the community and school groups.

The rewards of volunteering

Volunteering at Earth Trust is an enriching experience. I have enjoyed meeting a new group of people and becoming involved in the various social activities connected to the Trust. Observing how school groups interact with their surroundings and benefit from their days out in the countryside has been particularly rewarding. It’s heartening to witness the impact that nature can have on young minds, fostering a sense of wonder and appreciation for the environment.

While I haven’t necessarily learned new skills, volunteering has added to my experiences in meaningful ways. Each day brings new insights and opportunities for personal growth. I look forward to continuing this journey and seeing what I can learn and contribute along the way.

If you have a love for the natural world, an interest in the history of the locality, and enjoy meeting and working with likeminded people, Earth Trust is the place to be.

The Trust offers a wide range of voluntary activities, many of which require practical and manual input. I recommend choosing an aspect that suits your abilities and seeing how you find the work before committing.

Earth Trust is very flexible about the hours and times you can volunteer, which allows you to fit it around your other commitments. Some activities require group efforts on fixed days, fostering a strong team spirit. Whether you prefer individual or group work, there’s a place for you at Earth Trust.

Volunteering at Earth Trust has given me a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper connection to my community and the environment. It’s a place where you can make a tangible difference, learn new things, and meet wonderful people. If you’re considering volunteering, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the leap. Join us at Earth Trust and be a part of something truly special.

Toby has so much knowledge about plants and growing, every hour I spend with him I find I’m learning something new!

We are tremendously grateful for his support.”

Stuart Ritchie, Environmental Education Manager, Earth Trust