Volunteering guide: how to get involved with wildlife, conservation and environmental projects

The countryside relies heavily on volunteers to help with conservation and environmental projects such as litter picking, wildlife spotting, tree planting and building habitats. Here is our guide on volunteering opportunities in the British countryside.

Volunteers for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust maintaining river bed at Lemsford Springs © Katie Davey

The countryside relies heavily on volunteers to help with conservation and environmental projects such as litter picking, wildlife spotting, tree planting and building habitats.

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Here is our guide on wildlife, conservation, heritage and environmental volunteering opportunities in the UK.

Wildlife volunteering

Maybe you’d like to volunteer by looking after UK wildlife? Organisations such as the RSPB have residential and fundraising opportunities, and Wildlife Trusts across the UK have many volunteering opportunities in both rural and urban areas, so you can find one close to home that suits you and protect your local natural environment.

Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) feeding, Kent, England, UK
Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) feeding, Kent, England, UK

The Wildlife Trust, nationwide

Join your local Wildlife Trust and take part in rewarding activities ranging from dry stone walling, hedge laying, vegetation identification and GPS mapping. The Wildlife Trust offers you an exciting and diverse variety of volunteering opportunities that could be close to your doorstep. www.wildlifetrusts.org/closer-to-nature/volunteer

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Wildlife surveys and field projects, various organisations

There are various citizen science projects taking place across the UK each year. These provide valuable insight to research teams and conservationists. Annual projects such as the Big Garden Birdwatch, water vole survey or puffin project are a great way to support your local wildlife and get involved in important conservation work. Keep an eye out for opportunities on our website.

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Conservation projects

If you want to help conserve the beautiful landscapes of the British countryside with hands-on practical work, there are many opportunities through a wealth of organisations. Perhaps you could become a ranger in a national park, plant trees, help build walls or lay hedges?

Planting a tree
Planting apple tree in a garden in autumn (Getty)

Voluntary Trainee Rangers, various locations

Work with the one of the UK’s countryside organisations and gain valuable experience in practical conservation. Help to assist with the management of a variety of habitats, as well as other tasks, such as guided walks. Volunteers can receive both external and internal training. Some previous experience in practical conservation is sometimes required. www.countryside-jobs.com/volunteers


Gardening

Green Gym, The Community Volunteering Charity, nationwide

Green Gyms are fun and free outdoor sessions where you will be guided in practical activities such as planting trees, sowing meadows and establishing wildlife ponds. Unlike other conservation projects, the emphasis is very much on health and fitness – volunteers warm up and cool down in preparation for a range of light to vigorous activities to suit all abilities. www.tcv.org.uk/greengym

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National Trust, nationwide

Put your green thumb to use in beautiful and famous gardens across the UK, with the National Trust offering the chance to volunteer in the gardens of their properties. Some locations also have roles of garden guides, so you can share your knowledge with visitors from far and wide. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/find-an-opportunity


History and heritage volunteering

Got a passion for the past? English Heritage and the National Trust have many spectacular properties and sites in the countryside, and these offer yet more volunteering opportunities in roles such as room guides, stewards and surveying.

National Trust houses, various locations

Volunteering in one of the National Trusts’ beautiful houses will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in British history. As well as the front of house roles, you can help bring these historic places to life by exercising your imagination when storytelling, or when working as a costumed interpreter. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/work-in-our-houses

Ariel shot of house
Aerial view of Osborne house on October 10, 2011. Located on the northern tip of the Isle of Wight, East of Cowes lies the former royal residence of Queen Victoria. (Photograph by David Goddard for Getty)

English Heritage, various locations

If you enjoy socialising with new people and have a keen interest in British heritage, then English Heritage could provide an ideal volunteering opportunity for you. Roles vary but you could find yourself helping with open days, running workshops or gardening at one of 30 historic properties located across the UK. www.english-heritage.org.uk/support-us/volunteer


Environmental volunteering

Litter picking and beach clean-ups is sadly an ongoing job. From the verges of rural roads to mountain tops and the coast, litter is a big problem worldwide.

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Taking part in a litter pick or beach clean is an excellent way to volunteer your time and help keep Britain’s natural spaces clean.

Beach cleaning events to join in 2019, various locations

Help keep the coast tidy by taking part in a beach clean – here is a selection of beach cleaning events taking place in 2019. www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/beach-cleaning-events-to-join-in-the-uk

Beach cleanup volunteer using claw to pick up litter on beach
Beach cleanup volunteer using claw to pick up litter on beach

Litter picks, nationwide

If you hate seeing the impact of littering on our countryside, here are several litter picking events you can get involved in in 2019. www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/take-action-litter-picking-events-to-join