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East Sussex volunteer takes up residence at RSPB reserve

Last modified: 07 November 2011

View to Minsmere from Dunwich

A volunteer from East Sussex has been ‘Stepping up for Nature’ by becoming a residential volunteer with the RSPB.

Luke Verrall, age 22 from St Leonards-on-Sea, near Hastings, was given the opportunity to take up the placement as part of his undergraduate degree in Environmental Conservation.  He volunteered at Minsmere in Suffolk for eight months.

Luke said: “I wanted to get closer to nature, and the residential volunteering scheme looked likely to provide such an experience.  

“I saw this as a fantastic way to build upon the small amount of practical conservation experience I already had, making me a more attractive candidate to prospective employers.”

“The chance to live on-site with a nature reserve as your back garden for eight months whilst gaining new skills and experiences every day was what sold the residential volunteer experience to me. “

Residential volunteering is just one of the ways people can ‘Step up for Nature’.

Volunteers are critical to the RSPB’s work and provide an invaluable contribution to nature conservation while also gaining useful experience. Individuals can volunteer from two weeks to a year on the scheme, taking their pick from 43 RSPB sites in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  

You not only get to live in some of the most beautiful locations and be part of the reserve team but you’ll also know you’re helping with vital conservation work.

Luke said of his experience: “I received a lot of training as a residential volunteer and gained a number of qualifications too.

“During winter a lot of time was spent cutting and burning reed in some of the largest reedbeds in the country to provide breeding habitat for rare species, such as the elusive Bittern. I can recall several moments when a group of us were working in the reedbed and had a bittern or marsh harrier fly straight over our heads! Awesome!”

“I also got involved in a lot of species surveys. One of my favourite surveys took place on the heathland between 9pm - 11pm for a couple of weeks only – nightjars! The ‘churring’ noise nightjars make to defend their territory and attract a mate was much louder and bizarre than I could have imagined - what an experience!”

And if you’re a people person there are also opportunities to get involved in working face to face with the public or help with promoting the reserve. You could be writing newsletters telling people about all the important work being carried out, giving talks to the local community or helping out run events.

Luke said: “I can honestly say that being a residential volunteer for the RSPB has been such a fulfilling position to hold, allowing me to achieve above and beyond my hopes and expectations for my time with them.

“If you want to work alongside other volunteers and experts in the field of conservation, working to protect and preserve nationally important species and locally significant areas of biodiversity, the residential volunteering scheme may well be for you.”

Jenny Sweet, the south east volunteer development officer said: “This just shows how valuable volunteering can be, enabling those who’d like to pursue a career in conservation some really excellent practical experience. 

“Alternatively, we have other volunteers who simply like to spend a couple of weeks at a reserve to enjoy a working holiday.”

To download a residential volunteering scheme brochure and application form, visit our website at

The RSPB’s ‘Stepping Up for Nature’ movement encourages everybody to take steps, no matter how big or small, in order to help protect nature and ensure the Government meets its target to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2020.

For more information on what you can do visit

Nature reserves

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