An award-winning young wildlife enthusiast and a retired banker are calling for local people to do something different this year and volunteer in the New Forest.
People looking for new experiences and new social circles are being invited to the New Forest Volunteer Fair on Saturday, 31 January.
Hundreds will attend the fair from 10.30am to 4pm at Lyndhurst Community Centre, where more than 30 organisations will offer opportunities to record wildlife, restore landscapes, unravel wartime secrets and help some of society’s most vulnerable.
Volunteering is also good for volunteers, helping them find friends, reach out to the community, improve their mental and physical wellbeing and even advance their careers.
The fair will be opened by two people who have benefited from years of volunteering in the New Forest National Park.
Dominik Reynolds became the RSPB’s youngest volunteer in the country at the age of nine. Now aged 14, Dominik has been volunteering for six years at the New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst, sharing his knowledge of birds and reptiles with visitors.
His dedication has been recognised recently with a string of awards including Young Animal Enthusiast of the year at the Daily Mirror and RSPCA’s 2014 Animal Hero Awards.
Dominik, from Totton, said: ‘I’ve met so many nice people through volunteering. I like talking about wildlife and I think visitors like talking to a young person about nature. I’ve lived on the edge of the New Forest all my life. It’s beautiful for walking, cycling and getting out seeing badgers, deer, birds and reptiles, all for free.’
His mother Kerry said: ‘Dominik’s been interested in nature since he was very young, going for walks in the New Forest or watching David Attenborough DVDs. I’m tremendously proud of him. He particularly likes chatting to children visiting the reptile centre, getting them excited about nature.’
Derek Tippetts, from Cadnam, was looking for a complete change of scene when he became a volunteer ranger for the Forestry Commission after taking early retirement from his finance career.
He said: ‘Although I grew up in the countryside I spent most of my life in cities. I thought I knew the Forest but I’ve learned an awful lot more about its history, customs and traditions whilst getting involved in its conservation.’
Derek is now looking to recruit active volunteers for the Pondhead Conservation Trust, using hand tools and sustainable techniques to restore an area of woodland to improve its biodiversity and public enjoyment.
He said: ‘You meet all sorts of interesting people as a volunteer. There’s plenty of fresh air and exercise, much cheaper than a gym, and you’re helping to restore a natural area right in the heart of the New Forest.’
To find out more about the New Forest Volunteer Fair visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/volunteerfair2015