Reserve Volunteers

Our dedicated volunteers carry out conservation tasks every week of the year!

Our practical conservation volunteers fulfil a very important role for the Trust, their hard work and dedication help maintain our wonderful nature reserves.

For two mornings a week, every week of the year, our Muckers (as they’re affectionately known!) carry out conservation work on the Trust’s land - making sure our nature reserves are maintained in the best possible condition.

Most tasks are completed without mechanical means, using traditional methods and hand tools such as scythes and sickles wherever possible, as this helps increase the conservation value of the land.

In 2015, this small, dedicated band of volunteers completed an amazing 3,000 hours of work - saving the Trust valuable money and positively contributing to the environment!

The result of all this work is well-managed reserves, providing biologically diverse land for all sorts of wildlife to thrive on, and wild places for the public to enjoy!

Can you help?

If you are feeling energetic and hanker for the great outdoors then why not get involved? We’d really appreciate your help.

Read on to find out what you can expect from volunteering for us; what we need from our volunteers & what we supply; what type of work we do throughout the year. Then, if you would like to get involved, contact us!

What can I expect?

The work is very rewarding: A brilliant way to contribute to the Trust, to get outdoors and exercise, meet like-minded people, and to see the beauty of the reserves and how they change throughout the seasons.

There are plenty of tasks for everyone, you don’t need to have lots of experience or be an expert - we thrive on being a diverse group with a wide range of abilities, and everyone is appreciated for the time they are able to give and the work they complete.

The Tuesday tasks tends to be focused on our smaller reserves, it’s when the more technical tasks, such as gate-hanging and river work are carried out. Our Thursday tasks are generally bigger tasks needing lots more people, such as cushag and thistle pulling, hay-raking etc.

What’s required?

  • We meet every Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 9am to 1pm.
  • We come from all walks of life, and cover all ages, but you must be 16 years and over to join us.
  • You should be physically fit, but you don’t need to be a marathon runner! Everyone works at their own pace. An up-to-date tetanus jab is a good idea.
  • You don’t need conservation, DIY or gardening experience, we’ll welcome you regardless of your experience.
  • We’ll make sure you receive training and are teamed up with experienced volunteers to learn the ropes.
  • If you have specific skills, let us know - we’ll be delighted to make the most of them! We’re very lucky, Godfrey is a wonderful carpenter, Carole makes fantastic cakes for our tea break!
  • You don’t need any tools, we’ll supply them.
  • We will also supply hot drinks and cake to keep your energy level, and your spirits, up!
  • You should wear old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, preferably outdoor/walking gear, and good stout boots or wellies. Long sleeves and long trousers are a must. A hat, in both summer and winter, is useful.
  • Suntan lotion and midgey spray are always good to have on hand in the summer/autumn. We don’t mind a bit of weather, so come prepared!
  • We have reserves across the island, but most are situated in the north, and that’s where the majority of the tasks are held.

How do I get involved?

To find out how you can help, please contact the Trust’s Reserves Officer Tricia Sayle, by phone: (01624) 844432 or by email: tricia@manxwt.org.uk

What’s the work like?

The work is year round, which means you get to see the results of all your earlier hard work as the year progresses - it’s wonderful to see the seasons change on the reserves.

Tasks are influenced by the seasons too, with the jobs breaking down in line with the seasons:

  • November to March: Clearing grasses and branches from around fences and gateways to make sure they don’t get damaged, keeping the ditches clear of leaves and branches to ensure water flows through, not across our, and others’, land; clearing fallen trees and branches to aid access and safety; removing scrub and brambles to let light reach the soil in time for spring
  • April to June: This is our quietest time of year, when birds and mammals are nesting and we’re careful not to disturb them. We take this opportunity to check each of our open reserves to ensure access is good, repairing bridges, handrails and steps, repainting hides and checking footpaths, ahead of our busiest time of year for visitors to our popular reserves and prepare Close Sartfield for visitors to the annual orchid walks when the hay meadows are covered in many thousands of marvellous, blooming orchids - the “eighth wonder of the world” according to a recent visitor!
  • July: We pull out any cushag and thistle plants that have flowered in our meadows, to ensure they’re not cut and brought in with the hay when the time comes to cut the meadows.
  • August to October: The raking season, when we go to sites that tractor and baling machinery cannot reach, to cut and then rake up the hay meadows by hand.

More about our reserves:

Local products funding local conservation!

Muckers also get involved with traditional coppicing, which takes place on a five-year cycle. The resulting products are sold to the public to raise money that is then reinvested back in to the reserves. So, if you want to get involved in making wattle fences, brushwood for horse jumps, and other timber products – or you want to buy some products from us – get in touch!

Well-deserved recognition!

• Muckers were honoured with the prestigious "Blue Turtle" award from the Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC) for all their hardwork in keeping our reserves in tip-top conditions;
• The work of the Muckers in keeping the hay meadows at Close Sartfield in great shape and producing abundant wildflowers helped the reserve receive recognition as one of the best wildlife-rich meadows in the British Isles when it was awarded Coronation Meadow status.
• Muckers featured on BBC’s flagship countryside programme, Countryfile, talking about the 338 hours they’d dedicated to restoring the bog habitat at Close Sarfield.

About our reserves

The work of the Muckers enables the Trust to maintain a good number of reserves that are open to the public all year round. We encourage everyone to visit these reserves to enjoy the valuable habitats and wildlife present, enhanced by the practical conservation tasks carried out by the Muckers throughout the year.

Our open reserves are all great examples of all the main habitat groups, for example: Close Sartfield for wildflower meadows; Cooildarry for woodland; Cronk-y-Bing for coastal dunes; and Dalby Mountain for heathland. The work to ensure these sites are kept in the best possible condition for enable wildlife to flourish is supplemented with tasks to ensure footpaths and hides are maintained for public use, to enable people to visit and enjoy the reserves throughout the year.

The Trust also maintains other sites that are prioritised to provide protection for valuable habitat for both common and rare species. While these aren’t suitable areas to open up for general access, Muckers do visit them to carry out many important tasks throughout the year.

Other volunteering opportunities

The Midweek Muckers carry out their work on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. However, the Trust does occasionally organise special projects that require practical volunteers, on an ad hoc basis, and they sometimes include some weekend work. If this fits your schedule better, please contact the office to register your interest in helping with future weekend projects, by phone: (01624) 844432 or by email: enquiries@manxwt.org.uk

Our Southern Group organises work parties to carry out tasks at Ballachurry in Rushen (usually held on Saturday mornings, approx once a month). Contact Janet Thompson for more information: jthompson@manx.net