Every day’s a school day

Erica Fairhurst shares her story of volunteering, and learning, with Earth Trust


I’m lucky enough to have a view of Wittenham Clumps from an upstairs window so when I saw that there were lots of volunteering opportunities with Earth Trust it definitely felt right to explore whether it would be for me…

Having worked full-time for the last 12 years, I moved to a job that is three days a week which has given me a day for chores and a day for me. I knew that having some structure to my ‘me’ day was vital as I can faff for England, so the question was, what would keep me active, allow me to meet new people and learning new things.

Henry Ford, the pioneer of mass production cars is thought to have said, ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.’

I had a perhaps less eloquent version of that thought in my mind when I decided to look for volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer Erica Fairhurst

Volunteer learning

An opportunity to learn new skills


I was attracted to volunteering with Earth Trust for numerous reasons (not just my view!) and a key one was that I would have the opportunity to learn new skills. I have just started my volunteering now and have been warmly welcomed by the Thursday Land Management Group.

So far, I have learnt to identify a few plants and categories of plants (sedges have edges is my favourite so far) and I have also started to learn to scythe.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the National Hedge Laying Championships this year and I’m very much looking forward to learning about this ancient technique with the skilled team of volunteers here.

I have also learnt how large a pile of cuttings I can lift with a pitchfork before my elbow twinges and that, no matter how hot it is, long trousers are always sensible in a meadow of stinging nettles!

Passionate and knowledgeable


The other volunteers are very knowledge and passionate about the environments the Trust supports, and it’s brilliant to hear their stories of flora and fauna finds.

One of my favourite things is when one of the group calls out a potential find and we all try to identify it and decide whether we are happy to see it in that location (or not!).

Plant identification books and a lot of experience usually comes up with an opinion on most finds.

Spending time with like minded people following a common purpose has been really positive and I have loved the sessions I have taken part in so far, and I know I’ll never stop learning!