I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Woodman who is a volunteer in the NWT Community Wildlife Action Project surveying Heckingham churchyard, to ask her about her experiences volunteering within the project. This Heritage Lottery funded project is helping individuals learn about or improve their plant ID skills so that they can provide accurate surveys for Norfolk churches and County Wildlife Sites, in order that management statements can be written and consequently habitats improved.
Anna is currently doing a BA honours course in illustration and had hoped that the survey work would tie-in with her course, which it has very well. The surveying and talks she has attended has given Anna inspiration for future projects and she has been able to produce some stunning artwork based on her church surveys. She is currently focusing on grasses; drawing them in great detail, and using microscopic and digitally manipulated photography for her illustrations. “When I started I wasn’t aware there were different grasses.” She views her churchyard as being a whole new world to be looked at.
Anna has been able to attend training sessions with local plant experts, and has worked with other members of the Heckingham Community Surveyor team, and feels that her plant ID has increased enormously during the first year of the project.
“During the surveying, I have collected, pressed and photographed plant, grass and leaf specimens and have been laminating them so they can be handled and closely examined and have now begun to practice setting them in resin. I have been mapping the Heckingham site and drawing the plant, grass and tree species as well as photographing the site and church inside and out. It's been great fun!”
One of the great aspects about volunteering is that as well as helping Norfolk Wildlife Trust, individuals are usually able to gain some benefit for themselves, whether it be supporting a course, working out career options, getting exercise, socialising, learning more about wildlife or many other personal benefits. At the end of this season we will be able to report back to the church what is in their churchyard and how best to look after it to benefit wildlife with special church advice. It is fantastic that as part of this Anna has been able to use what she is learning to support her art, I very much look forward to seeing what Anna produces next year in the second year of the project and her final year at University.