Satisfying that sense of purpose

Volunteer Debbie Lewington shares how a search for a sense of purpose led her to Earth Trust …


I worked for 30 years for a science research company in finance, contracts and project management and when I left this in 2008 I wanted to help my local community.

Trying out volunteering roles, I did gardening and  housekeeping at a local retreat centre, and helping children at a primary school.

In 2018 I trained as a complementary therapist qualifying in Reiki in 2019 and Tarot in 2021.

Then, during the Covid lockdown, like many others, I very much missed being with people and satisfying that sense of purpose. Tragically in 2021 one of my friends at the retreat centre took his own life. This very sad event followed the death of one of my sisters in 2020 and I needed to allow my grieving and healing process to unfold before I took my next step.

A landmark moment

I had been to the Wittenham Clumps many times having lived in Didcot for most of my life, and I attended the Lambing weekends, though I didn’t really know the full extent of what Earth Trust did.

Along with my husband Ian (who is a passionate birder) I have a great love for all our wildlife and beautiful places and am keen to contribute where I can to their benefit. I also have a strong love of history and archaeology and having read Peter Adamson’s excellent ‘Landmark in Time’ I was even keener to be a part of the Clumps story.

I contacted Earth Trust in February 2022 to explore volunteering opportunities with the charity and was very warmly welcomed. After a good induction (and cup of tea) I had a wander around and felt a very strong connection to the place.

Joining the team

I joined the Thursday Gardening Group. There are about eight of us usually and we look after and tend areas around Earth Trust Centre; the flower beds surrounding all the buildings, the barn courtyard and outdoor education area, the various orchards and even the rain garden.

I love learning more from my fellow gardeners, especially Julie and Patience whose extensive knowledge, skills and enthusiasm have been the mainstay in the planning and development of the gardens over this last year.

I’ve added to my repertoire recently, taking photos of the group at work and the surrounding beauty for the Volunteers Facebook page.

Land management volunteers

As my confidence has grown I have joined the Friday Land Management Group in some of their tasks in the woods and community reserves. Rangers Tristan and Tim have been very supportive and encouraging, as well as giving excellent health and safety advice.

I was unsure as to my physical capability with the heavier tasks but have learned there is always a role that fits my size and strength.

So far I have enjoyed learning scything, coppicing, log stacking, deer fence removal and construction, and all about why these tasks need to be done for the health of the trees and wildlife.

I have found all my contact with Earth Trust people, whether volunteer or staff, to be inclusive, supportive and very encouraging. The regular volunteer (and other) emails, orienteering talks and walks have been very helpful in expanding my knowledge about Earth Trust’s aims and broader work. So much so, that I  have now offered to be a part of the volunteer team that helps with office support and administration.

I feel very much at home with the Earth Trust ‘family’; welcomed, informed and appreciated. Being involved at Earth Trust has been a considerable aid in my re-connecting with the joy of being alive and re-engaging with the world. I am very, very lucky to be part of it.