Despite starting the year with New Year’s resolutions it’s easy to slip back into familiar routines.

I’ve tried painting, joining a choir, and getting into zumba classes, briefly at least. Then a few years ago I made a resolution that I’ve actually stuck to.

I decided to volunteer at a monthly work party for the Wildlife Trust. It was close to where I live and just one morning a month, so the commitment wasn’t huge.

But the rewards have been well worth it - seven years later I’m still there.

The contribution by volunteers across the three counties to the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is equivalent to 75 full-time staff. It’s an astonishing figure and one that shows the importance of the work that all volunteers do.

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Volunteers carry out hundreds of biological surveys on our nature reserves.

The results help the Wildlife Trust to understand how habitat management work is improving the reserves and what needs to change.

But it’s not just the wildlife that benefits; there are many bonuses for volunteers too. It can ensure people stay physically and mentally active for longer.

The health benefits of this cannot be overestimated.

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My group of volunteers is made up of a whole range of people of all ages, from those in their 20s who are looking for experience in order to gain paid work in conservation to others who are retired and enjoying keeping busy and ‘giving something back’.

We get involved in a whole range of activities over the course of a year.

In winter it’s often cutting things down which is important as the space created, and new growth that results, brings so many benefits for wildlife. We cut down shrubs and small trees in woodland to allow spring sunlight to reach the woodland floor, which encourages flowers to grow, bringing insects and birds too.

Hedge-laying makes hedges sturdier as a barrier and thicker over time, providing nesting sites for birds, shelter for small mammals and, of course, flowers, nuts and berries as food for wildlife through the course of a year.

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In spring we cart wheelbarrow loads of woodchip to make a seating area for an education area where BBOWT inspires thousands of schoolchildren about wildlife and conservation each year.

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We help make habitat piles for wildlife, clear out clogged up ponds, and rake endless amounts of cut grass. It’s not just the thought that I’m helping wildlife that keeps me coming back.

I’ve made friends in the group (and managed to encourage a couple of my friends to join us too).

I get some exercise outside in the fresh air and I’ve learnt new skills – from identifying more plants and animals to the best way to rake a field.

Throughout Oxfordshire there’s a whole range of volunteering opportunities with the local Wildlife Trust on offer. Getting out and about, hands-on and in the fresh air is what I love.

But, there are plenty of other ways to get involved, from helping at events to giving a hand at the BBOWT head office in Littlemore, Oxford.

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I’m sure that if doing something useful is one of your New Year’s resolutions then becoming a volunteer for BBOWT will be a resolution that’s easy to keep.

Find out more about all the volunteering opportunities in Oxfordshire at