Protecting the environment is close to my heart. Even before I was an MP I helped many environmental projects and as a councillor was able to bring many environmental initiatives to the forefront of council thinking.
That is why I always try and help out with environment-based issues during my volunteer week and indeed throughout the year. Once worked for sand, gravel and clay, Staveley Nature Reserve has been allowed to regenerate naturally. A rich, diverse range of plant communities has gradually crept back across much of the 40 hectares of land to establish Staveley as a true wildlife haven.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust purchased the reserve in 2002 and now manages it to maintain the area’s rich and diverse flora and fauna. If left unchecked, scrub would gradually encroach and eventually the reserve would revert to woodland.
I joined volunteers helping to create a community orchard on the edge of the site and clearing hay to encourage plant growth. So Thursday of volunteer week was a very diverse day and I think that demonstrates that volunteering is for everyone no matter what their age, ability or interests.
The Forest School is a special school for pupils aged between 3 and 16 who have a range of learning difficulties. These include moderate and severe learning difficulties, autistic spectrum difficulties, physical problems, language and communication difficulties. It has been in Knaresborough for over 40 years but is not widely known in the area.
My visit for volunteer week isn’t the first time I’ve been to Forest School but it is the first time I’ve mucked in with the teachers and pupils.
It is a fantastic place; it was an inspiring visit. I helped the teachers and children with various activities and it really brought home the dedication of the teachers as they deal with some challenging situations and the enthusiasm of the children.