Thoughts From Blaenavon World Heritage Site Volunteers

The Forgotten Landscapes Project at the Blaenavon World Heritage Site has been transformed to protect the heritage of the area, build new habitats and encourage wildlife.  A huge reason why this transformation and protection of the area has come about?

The Volunteers 

To showcase the project’s success with volunteers we thought we’d ask a few people who have been involved with wildlife monitoring, conservation and community engagement to tell us their thoughts!

Volunteers have been key to the projects success

Volunteers have been key to the projects success © Forgotten Landscapes

We interviewed: 
Heidi Scourfield, from Blaenavon who is involved with monitoring of the reed bed sites and is also a committee member for the project.
Julian Morgan. County ecologist.  Julian has a very personal story, as becoming a volunteer as the Blaenavon World Heritage Site helped change his life.
Nicholas Beswick, who has volunteered for Wildlife Monitoring.

1. How long have you been volunteering with the Forgotten Landscapes project?

Heidi Scourfield: “My partner and I signed up two and half years ago.”
Julian Morgan: “I signed for the project around 18 months ago, after I picked up a Forgotten Landscapes leaflet in Pontypool that was looking for volunteers.”
Nicholas Beswick: “I started volunteering at the project around two years ago”

2. Why did you get involved?

The conservation team having fun

The conservation team having fun © Forgotten Landscapes

Heidi: “As I live locally I wanted to help the area more to try and make a difference.  The project itself seemed very interesting and an excellent way to learn about the surroundings of where I live.”
Julian: “I had recently been made redundant, so I decided it was time to change my career and do something that would be more enjoyable to my life.  So I started looking for new opportunities which I thought would be more beneficial to my interests and where I could learn new skills.  In the area where I’m from it can sometimes be difficult so find such things, so when I saw the advert I applied and became a volunteer.  Since becoming a volunteer my life has changed for the better.  I have a new a job that is very similar to my volunteer job, I’ve met some incredible people and learnt plenty of new skills along the way.”
Nicholas: “As I had previous experience working for the National Trust working on bird surveys, I thought it would be good to contribute my experience to the project”

3. What do you find is the most appealing thing about the project?

Phragmites reeds on project site

Phragmites reeds on project site © Forgotten Landscapes

Heidi: “Being out and about has made volunteering a very appealing part of getting involved in the project.  I really enjoy being out in the open air, because the surrounding area of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site is stunning.”
Julian: “The preservation and conservation aspect of the project is a wonderful thing.  I love being around wildlife and nature, it’s a great feeling to be outside in the open air.  It’s been great to learn new things in terms of conservations.  As a result of the Forgotten Landscapes Project I’ve developed new skills which has helped me find new employment opportunities.  I’ve also bought my own skills to the project which has helped other people learn.  Without the project my life would be completely different, it has certainly had an impact on my own person experiences.”
Nicholas: “It’s an exciting project, which showcases a unique industrial heritage, which was an area of wasteland that has been turned into a more attractive place and transformed for wildlife”

4. Have you seen any changes to the area since the volunteer project started?

Beautiful Scenery in Blaenavon © Forgotten Landscapes

Beautiful Scenery in Blaenavon © Forgotten Landscapes

Heidi: “There have been a few changes over the last few years.  The one change, which I think, has had the most important and influential impact on the area is educating the local people.  More people in the community are now more aware of the great history that surrounds the area.  The lectures that take place at the Bleanavon World Heritage Centre have helped”
Julian: “From my own personal point of view in the eyes of a conservationist, I’ve noticed some big changes around Garn Lakes as a result of work from volunteers of the Forgotten Landscapes Project.  There has been a slow increase of wildlife as a result of activities like the laying of reed beds.”
Nicholas: “The work around Garn Lakes has been significant, before the area has no wildlife value, but has now changed dramatically”

2012-05-29 P1030212

Volunteers Hard at work! © Forgotten Landscapes

5. Where’s your favourite place to walk in the World Heritage Site?
Heidi: “The old rail line just past the cemetery on Varteg Hill, there’s an old cycle track and rail line.  Along the line you can see the Blaenavon Heritage Railway where there a historic steam trains.  There is a long stretch of forest towards Ponty and if you walk in the opposite direction you will end up at Garn Lakes.”
Julian: “The Blorenge is always a special place to visit, the scenary is beautiful and it’s also nice to see the changes to the area which the project has influenced.”
Nicholas: “The are a number of walks, such as heading up the North Ridge of the Garn Lake area.  There are areas where Red Grouse can be spotted.  It’s also nice to see the positive changed to the area.  Half a century ago the ridge was subjected to open cast mining, so it’s an interesting walk, but might not be for everyone.

6. Where’s your favourite spot to visit?
Heidi:
“It’s hard to say I enjoy it all…”
Julian: “I enjoy all of the areas, there is something different in ever place around the Bleanavon World Heritage site, whether it’s history or nature.”
Nicholas: “I find the hill pit part of the World Heritage Site fascinating.  It’s an iconic part of one of the earliest eras of the industrial revolution, the chimney was carefully constructed without the use of mortar, which makes it even more impressive.”

7. What do you think is the most important part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site? 

Plenty of iconic sites

Plenty of iconic sites © Forgotten Landscapes

Heidi: “I think the most stand out place in the town would have to be the Iron Works.”
Julian: “The most iconic place has to be the Blaenavon Iron Works.  They’re historic and hugely significant to the area.”
Nicholas: “It’s good to see the local people actively engaged and appreciated by the community”.

8. Could you sum up your experience with the Forgotten Landscape project in one sentence?
Heidi: “It’s been an extremely enjoyable experience.  It’s got more people outside and active within the community.  It’s been wonderful meeting likeminded people and a good social experience.”
Julian: “An extremely enjoyable experience, that gets people outdoors, brings like minded people together, which has helped build confidence in people and the community.”
Nicholas: “It’s something that’s been a bit different, something that’s limited in scope, something that needs to be maintained by sustainably and public authority support.”

9.  Would you recommend volunteering to other people?
Heidi:
“Yes, it gets people out and about!”
Julian: “Yes, it gets people out and encourages them try new things.”
Nicholas: “Definitely, it’s something that is very rewarding.  People can see tangible changes, they can help to make a difference to the area, improve their skills and build the self-confidence.”

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