Hannah Keeley, Project Development Officer (Communities)

What a year it’s been for everyone!

I did not imagine we would ever have to stop the extremely successful volunteer programme at Nene Park, but this year we did.

On March 17 2020, all volunteer activity at Nene Park stopped to support the efforts in curbing the virus. Our wonderful team in blue, who bring smiles, enthusiasm and community, would not be present in the Park. This felt very alien for us all and we knew their presence would be greatly missed.

To help keep us all connected, a Volunteer WhatsApp group was created. Volunteers and staff have valued and enjoyed the friendly, funny and informative exchanges since it began in March. And who knew we had so many amazing photographers? Although this was set up to support the volunteers, it soon became apparent it supported the staff too (and it carried me through many a day working from home – thank you!)

We sent weekly email updates with recipes, cleaning tips, movie suggestions, health and wellbeing advice and group quizzes. We held Zoom catch ups and supported volunteers to access the new technology.

When we began to see improvements later in the spring, we set up a focus group of staff and volunteers to plan the volunteer return. Due to the hard work of all involved and an excellent team of volunteer face mask makers making PPE for the return, we were able to restart many volunteer roles in a Covid-secure way.

Our Volunteer Ranger role expanded across all areas of Nene Park and can continue to operate in future lockdowns. The team help us carry out safety checks, collect litter and are generally the eyes and ears of the Park, supporting the Duty Ranger.

Our Conservation Volunteers returned in August in a different form. Previously, 3 groups of 20 would work on various maintenance and management tasks; now we have 8 groups of 6. We did postpone these sessions once more during the November lockdown until the New Year, but look forward to welcoming them back in the New Year once Peterborough is out of tier 4.

Our Firewood Volunteers returned in November, along with our Woodland’s Site Volunteers. Our Administration Volunteer and Parklife Audio Recorders continue to give their excellent and valued support from home and our keen Volunteer Photographers have sent in beautiful pictures of the Park throughout the lockdown period as they visited for exercise. We are still awaiting the return of a few roles – Visitor Centre, Woodworkers, Education and Events Volunteers – but we are confident these will resume safely in 2021.

During this time, we have also received a record number of new enquiries! It’s been wonderful to meet and welcome so many new volunteers to the Trust, particularly at this time. We have also managed to hold dedicated bite-sized work experience sessions for young people not in education, employment and training in partnership with Cross Keys Homes.

One thing our volunteers tell us is that since lockdown more and more visitors thank them for their work. This is wonderful to hear and they really deserve it!

So despite the most turbulent year, there have still been great achievements and I feel we are in some ways more connected than ever before.

Thank you to our amazing team in blue!

If you would like to be part of the volunteering team, email [email protected]  

The Nene Park Trust Volunteer programme is overseen by Hannah Keeley, Project Development Officer (Communities) with the support of Gary Mason, our Community Ranger (Volunteers), Gareth Lorman, Project Officer (Community Gardens), Clare Stamp, Volunteer Officer and many volunteer supervisors across the Trust.