The average day in the life of a volunteer

Tom Behrens, from Germany, spent three months in Dumfries and Galloway, from August until  November 2023, helping to manage our diverse sites in the area, each with their own unique conservation goals. He shares his account of an average day in the life of a volunteer with the Scottish Wildlife Trust in the South of Scotland.

Tom at Carsegowan Moss clearing birch scrub
Tom at Carsegowan Moss clearing birch scrub

Depending on your morning routine you will wake up around between 6am – 7am in the morning to see a sleeping Dumfries hidden in the mists. You will get ready, eat breakfast and put on your work clothing (a certain German brand with an ostrich logo would usually be my preferred choice), pack your lunch and something to drink and usually some waterproofs (always useful here).

truck and trailer
Truck at the Falls of Clyde with the tractor ready to remove the old base from the peregrine view point

Depending on where you live in Dumfries you will have to leave your home between 7:30am to 8am to catch the bus to Castle Douglas at the train station. In the bus you will probably meet a bus driver who you will recognise from previous journeys and you will see the same people that always take the bus at 8:10am in the morning. By this time, you might meet the first of your volunteer colleagues to share the ride with. On your way you will quite often see the weather clear up, while you drive to the hospital and through the small villages of Crocketford and Springholm (all of these serve as way markers on your 45 minute journey). Towards the end of your journey comes the first challenge of the day. You will need to drop off on the penultimate bus stop, which unfortunately comes only a few hundred meters after the stop before, so it requires perfect timing and your eyes need to be on high alert! After dropping off you only have to walk for a few minutes past the Tesco, a morning roll shop (I hope you had breakfast already, you might not make it past this point otherwise) and children’s nursery (beware of driving parents) to get to the Trust’s workshop.

Do not be discouraged on your first day, when you see only a car repair workshop, I was confused as well on my first day, but there is a hidden door that is easy to find once you know it is there. In the workshop you will find Chris Archbold the Reserves Project Officer, probably writing an email as you come in, to welcome you for the day. After some early morning banter and chitchat he will tell you the plan for the day (which can always be quite different from what you might have had planned yesterday) and you will pack the truck with all the necessary tools and equipment. Depending on where you will go for the day, the journey in the beautiful old faithful white Isuzu pick-up truck will take between 30 – 90 minutes. On your journey you will see stunning landscapes that can change completely within minutes and more often than not you will also get to see interesting birds of prey and the occasional road treasure!

Tom Brehrens
Tom in the Muck Water at Dalmellington Moss cutting back willow, removing rubbish and unblocking the river

The time in the truck is usually well spent chatting with Chris or trying to listen to the radio (on a good day it sometimes works). When you arrive at the reserve where you will work for the day, you have to gear up with whatever is necessary for the job and get going. This can entail a wide variety of practical management work from repairing site infrastructure like fences, gates or boardwalks, to surveying trees or cutting them down (thanks to the ash dieback there will be a lot of work in that department over the next couple of years) and mowing flower meadows, to prepare them for the new season. There are more tasks that you will encounter as time goes by but these are the most common ones (especially in the latter part of the year, when I stayed in Dumfries and Galloway).

Tom Brehrens
Repairing the reserve sign at Southwick Coast

Around noon someone in the team will feel a small rumbling in their stomach and you will stop and sit down for lunch, this is usually in a place with beautiful scenery and also a time for more banter! This is also a good time to talk about interesting caterpillars or birds you might have seen or better, you can show a picture you took of said animal. But do not worry, because even during work there will be always the time to witness the marvels of nature and stopping a second to see whether that raven up there is actually a golden eagle will always be appreciated! After a good day’s work is done, you will get back in the truck and head to Castle Douglas and head to the swimming pool … you might wonder why going to the swimming pool is part of an average day here, but do not worry, I am not suggesting you need to shower more often but rather the swimming pool is the bus stop, where the bus back to Dumfries will depart.

L-R Peter Fuller – seasonal ranger, Tom Behrens – volunteer, Chris Archibold – Reserve Project Officer, Nicole Wallace – Falls of Clyde Ranger with OVO employees and on the far right Lilli Wallner – volunteer

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay with the Scottish Wildlife Trust working with Reserves Project Officer Chris Archbold and other volunteers in the South of Scotland, which has a huge variety of amazing nature habitats and wildlife. I will always cherish the experiences and the friends I made along the way during my stay here and never look back with regret at the decision to come here.

Find out about some of our reserves Tom helped to manage in Dumfries and Galloway.

Carsegowan Moss One of the best examples of a lowland raised peat bog in Galloway.
Southwick Coast A stretch of coastline with wooded cliffs and extensive saltmarsh.
Dalmellington Moss A raised bog on the floodplain of the River Doon.

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Tom Behrens, from Germany, spent three months in Dumfries and Galloway, from August until  November 2023, helping to manage our diverse sites in the area, each with their own unique …

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