The London Olympic Games 2012 have certainly increased the profile of volunteering over recent months. But let’s ask ourselves, do we as a society always take the time to appreciate the time, hard work and effort that volunteers give to support the community?
Without volunteers Penllergare Valley Woods would still be leased by a building development company and would surely by now be under threat from further development. There would be no paths to walk on. The whole area would be so overgrown and vandalised that it just wouldn’t be a safe and welcoming place for everyone to visit. Noone would know about this wonderful hidden place on Swansea’s doorstep. Without volunteers there would be no future for Penllergare Valley Woods as a free and open access woodland for all.
Thankfully this is not the case. On the contrary, we have an amazing team of volunteers from all backgrounds who work tirelessly to protect and revive Penllergare Valley Woods for public benefit. They breathe life into the place and they come together because they care about its history, wildlife and people. There has been an incredible amount of work going on behind the scenes by volunteers over the past 13 years to get us to where we are today. As we focus on the here and now of the restoration project, it’s quite easy to forget to acknowledge the people who first identified Penllergare Valley Woods as a place of national historic importance, the volunteers who carried out archaelogical and ecological surveys to discover the unknown in the early years, the volunteers who led guided walks to spread the word about the work of the Trust, and those who donated money, time and/or equipment when we really needed it.
Today, we are embarking on a major restoration project and already 6 months in, woodland volunteers in particular are driving the project forward on the ground. Just 6 months ago, the terrace gardens on the west bank of upper lake were dense with laurel, rhododendron and other foliage.
Today, you’ll see it has been cleared to uncover hidden steps, historic pathways, cascades, and walls, and historic views of the Upper Lake below have been opened up too. Can you just imagine how beautiful it’s going to be once the lake is dredged and the terrace gardens are wildly planted? Without volunteers, this lovely image in your mind would never be possible.
We may not always be able to physically see it, but we also have volunteers behind the scenes making key decisions, managing our budgets, organising events, liaising with local organisations, promoting the project, sharing their knowledge, and engaging with the community. Without them, there would be no Penllergare Valley Woods.
As you can see, volunteers and the local community have and always will be at the heart of the project to revive Valley Woods as a place for history, education, recreation, wildlife and people.
So, on behalf of the Trust and the whole community, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody – from past and present volunteers to new volunteers to come – for all of your hard work, time and effort in protecting and restoring Valley Woods for public benefit. We couldn’t do it without you!