To ensure community engagement and foster ‘ownership’ in the management of the landscape, a TLS Volunteer Programme was started in 2000. Initially volunteers simply helped to pick litter and remove weeds but through the evolution of the Towpath Management Plan the work has become increasingly diverse.
A key consideration is to co-ordinate volunteer work so that it tops up statutory measures. Volunteer programmes are set annually in the TLS Towpath Management Plan and are designed to implement TLS In Action Projects. Much work is also carried out with community pay back workers and young people.
The Thames Landscape Strategy now carries out more volunteering along the river between Weybridge and Kew than any other organisation.
The Strategy is committed to working in partnership with local community groups and organisations to deliver improvements to the river corridor. At a strategic level the Community Advisory Group guides much of the TLS’s work from a grass roots level. The Strategy works closely with a number of groups including the Environment Trust for Richmond, TCV Richmond, South West London Environment, Ham and Petersham Association and Canbury and River Association (CARA) on practical volunteering initiatives throughout the year.
Though this strong partnership ethic over 350,000 volunteer hours have been clocked up over the past 20 years within the Thames Landscape Strategy area. The TLS website is a useful source of information about volunteering events happening along the Thames between Hampton and Kew.
Through London’s Arcadia, the Thames Landscape Strategy developed it’s capacity to deliver corporate volunteering opportunities with local and regional firms and businesses. To date firms including PepsiCo, BSkyB and EBay UK have given their staff time generously in undertaking practical volunteering work. Other organisations who have taken part in practical work include the Heritage Lottery Fund (London’s Arcadia’s main funder), the National Trust, the London Borough of Richmond and Action Planning.
Achievement and Success: Volunteering
The TLS volunteer programme has achieved the following:
- Re-introduced a series of traditional land management techniques to manage the riverside that would not otherwise have been feasible including: hedge laying, boardwalk construction, scrub bashing, tree planting, willow spiling, invasive species removal and survey work.
- Increased community understanding in why certain traditional land management practices are used
- Established the importance of good management to ensure the quality of landscape is maintained.
- Co-ordinated over 280,000 volunteer hours across the four boroughs since 2000.
- Targeted schools and young people (with an emphasis on those who are vulnerable or excluded), many volunteer events being linked to TLS education and outreach activities.
- Engaged with over with over 400 different groups and organisations such as, BTCV, the Environment Trust for Richmond, the Ham and Petersham Association, the German School and the Canbury Area Residents Association.
- Established an annual six month volunteer programme in partnership with the Surrey Care Trust’s community narrow boat Swingbridge
- Set a programme of works using Community Payback workers and provided a mechanism to train young people who are not in formal education focusing on the right skills to support them back into the workplace or further education.
There is always plenty of opportunity to get involved. If you are interested in volunteering with the Strategy please get in touch.
Don’t forget to visit the home page for details of upcoming events you can get involved in.