WORK­ING FOR NA­TURE Richard Hin­son

Im­prov­ing ac­cess to the coun­try­side, York­shire All over the world, de­voted in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing their bit by vol­un­teer­ing to get in­volved with wildlife. Jo Price meets a man work­ing with a ded­i­cated team to con­serve lo­cal wildlife habi­tats.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - OUR WILD WORLD -

Ev­ery week and in all weath­ers, Richard Hin­son is out work­ing for wildlife. For over a decade, he’s vol­un­teered for Open Coun­try, a Har­ro­gate­based char­ity that im­proves ac­cess to the coun­try­side for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

As a mem­ber of the char­ity’s Trail­blazer and Con­ser­va­tion teams, he meets other vol­un­teers twice a week to work on a va­ri­ety of pro­jects. The work-party days are led by one staff mem­ber, four non-dis­abled vol­un­teers and up to eight dis­abled mem­bers, in­clud­ing

Richard. Much of their work is in Nid­derdale Area of Out­stand­ing

Nat­u­ral Beauty, North York­shire, with oc­ca­sional vis­its to the York­shire Dales and North York Moors Na­tional Park.

“We help main­tain a range of rich wildlife habi­tats, in­clud­ing wood­lands, wet­lands and grass­lands, as well as foot­paths and cy­cle paths,” says Richard. Re­cent pro­jects have in­cluded help­ing to plant bog species, with the aim of in­creas­ing the amount of bog habi­tat in the lo­cal area, and a scheme to make church­yards more wildlife friendly – build­ing and in­stalling nest­boxes and com­post bins, and man­ag­ing wild­flower ar­eas.

“The mem­bers gain a lot from the work they do, not only on a phys­i­cal level, due to be­ing out­doors and ex­er­cis­ing, but men­tally as well,” says Open Coun­try’s Coun­try­side Ac­tiv­i­ties Of­fi­cer Chris Hunter. “They get a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion from the grat­i­tude given to them for their hard work by part­ners we work with, which is valu­able for their self-es­teem.” Be­ing out­side and work­ing with oth­ers has ad­di­tional up­sides, too. “Ca­ma­raderie be­tween the work-party mem­bers re­duces the so­cial iso­la­tion of­ten felt by dis­abled mem­bers of the com­mu­nity,” ex­plains Chris.

In 2018 and 2019, Richard and other Open Coun­try vol­un­teers spent 1,904 days con­serv­ing na­ture, in­clud­ing plant­ing over 3,000 trees and im­prov­ing over 2km of path.

“The most ex­traor­di­nary thing about what they do is that the qual­ity of the work is so high and there­fore well re­ceived,” says Chris. “They chal­lenge the pre­con­cep­tions about what a dis­abil­ity group can achieve.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing an ac­coun­tancy course at Brad­ford Col­lege, Richard plans to con­tinue study­ing as well as vol­un­teer­ing: “We hope Richard con­tin­ues to ben­e­fit from what na­ture has to of­fer, as well as giv­ing some­thing back to both wildlife and the com­mu­nity,” says Chris.

S Mem­bers gain a lot from the work they do – phys­i­cally and men­tally. T

FIND OUT MORE For more in­for­ma­tion on Open Coun­try’s work, visit open­coun­try.org.uk

Richard and the team’s con­ser­va­tion work is chal­leng­ing pre­con­cep­tions about dis­abil­ity.

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