I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got the invitation to volunteer with a group of strangers on a project about River Wellbeing. I sort of thought that I’d quite quickly become one of many, working seriously yet passionately on removing some plants from a riverside, with the only true voices coming from the birds above. This isn’t to say I thought it’d be unpleasant or boring, just that I imagined it to be focused exclusively on the work at hand. Well thankfully, I was absolutely and unequivocally wrong.
After turning up 10 minutes late, I was greeted by a car park full of smiling, socially-distanced strangers, kitted out in everything from waterproof overalls and thick hats, to regular jeans and rugged walking-boots. After stumbling into the action, saying hello and listening to Helen Carter-Emsell, today's project officer, give a little introduction on the plan of the day, we all walked towards a wooded area, chatting and introducing ourselves to each other as we went. The main task of the day was to carry out some tree maintenance and that’s what I’d prepared myself for. However, this expectation quickly changed when we arrived at the location. At its centre was a hand-crafted, wooden, communal paradise. It had a large canopy over the area, a large pond to its side and woodland all around it. Dotted around the site were bird boxes, wood heaps for insects, metal sheeting for reptiles and all sorts of other wildlife-supporting infrastructure. Within 10 minutes, Helen, pointed out a Buzzard gliding overhead. It was the perfect retreat from my regular routine.