The spice of volunteering life

They say variety is the spice of life, and speaking to one of our long-standing volunteers, Sally Wehmeier, about her time volunteering at Earth Trust, it would be hard to disagree. Initially signing up to look out for sheep on the Wittenham Clumps, Sally has found herself doing everything over the years from marshalling races to weaving wreaths.

As many of us stay tucked up indoors and enjoy the frosty views of nature from our windows, we’re sharing this winter warmer story. Ideally read with a steaming cup of tea in one hand and some leftover chocolate in the other, read on for some January comfort and inspiration for the year ahead as Sally looks back at 15 years of volunteering with Earth Trust.

From counting sheep …

Ahead of retirement, Sally reduced her working hours and used her new-found time to volunteer. Each week she headed up the Clumps to count and check on the sheep, making sure that none were limping, stranded or stuck, and that the fences and hedges were all still intact.

It wasn’t long before this led to volunteering at Earth Trust’s lambing events, where Sally helped out in the lambing shed and talked to visitors. From there, Sally began supporting our farm tenants Norton and Yarrow with their goats at the event, which soon became a favourite role.

Volunteering at lambing

“I loved showing off the goats and kids. Kids were usually very amenable to being held by enthusiastic children and it was delightful to see.

One day was so bitterly cold that I remember holding one of the kids (a goat, not a child, though his name was Brian) and clutching him to me like a hot water bottle.”

… to weighing pumpkins

Since then, Sally has surveyed hedges, interviewed visitors to the Clumps, pressed apples, weighed and sold pumpkins, checked first aid boxes and supported Christmas wreath workshops, acted as a marshal at running events, and litter picked at Castle Meadows in Wallingford.

“I was perversely pleased whenever I spotted a clutch of beer cans or crisp packets. Very satisfying, and actually very pleasing, too, to see how relatively litter-free the whole area was even before we arrived wielding our grabbers.”

Sally has also taken on shifts at the Centre pop-up café, which she describes as one of her volunteering highlights:

“It was full-on and there was never a dull moment. I cursed the invention of time-consuming ‘posh’ coffees though – how much easier it was when there was only black or white!”

Volunteer Sally Wehmeier

Each year, volunteers like Sally provide over 16,000 hours of time to Earth Trust, supporting our work to enable more people to access green spaces and engage with nature, inspiring action for the natural world.

Volunteering variety:  The spice of life

Earth Trust is well known for its land management volunteer groups, but for those who fancy doing something a bit different there are so many other opportunities to get involved, as Sally’s experience shows.

“Not a hedge laid, tree coppiced, thistle pulled, or grass scythed. I’ve left all that to my husband, Jurgen, who joined me volunteering when he retired in 2014 and became a stalwart member of Friday land group.”

Looking to the future, Sally plans to continue enjoying a variety of roles, including volunteering at events and taking on office admin tasks to help with the running of the Centre.

If you’d like to know more about our volunteering community and the wide range of roles available, take a look at our volunteering pages or email our volunteering officer, Nicola Williams, at [email protected]  for an informal chat. Why not add some volunteering spice to your life this year?