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Volunteers eye view of the Festival – by Katherine Cockle

Thanks to one of our amazing volunteers, Katherine, for writing a lovely blog about her experience at the Bristol Festival of Nature event on the Harbourside this summer!

As a resident of Bristol I was familiar with the annual Festival of Nature and had attended many fascinating and informative events over the last few years but this year I wanted to get involved in the magic! When I saw the opportunity advertised to volunteer I jumped at the chance. With a variety of different roles there was something for everyone but the face-to-face opportunity gave me the chance to really connect with visitors about the environment, education and conservation and the amazing work that is being done in these areas – something I’m really passionate about.

Having volunteered in Bristol at the opening of the Festival that was the one thing that struck me about everyone I spoke to – the passion, it was great to be a part of it. Here is a little bit about my day:

The wheels on the bus go....Jumping on the bus I wasn’t sure what the day would hold as my view out the window was somewhat soggy! But looking past the rain I was inspired by the sight of the green, open space behind it – The Downs. We are so lucky in Bristol to have some great open spaces and a heap of plants/wildlife that inhabit it and that was what I was going to share with people. I couldn’t wait to hear how people in Bristol use those open spaces and their interactions with the wildlife that share it with us.

2The line-up of organisations involved this year was great from the Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol University and UWE, the BBC, The Woodland Trust and Bristol Zoo to name a few I was keen to find out what they are all up to.  As I got off the bus in the centre I was on the look-out for nature references and there are a surprising amount in Bristol, in the statues, the architecture and even the graffiti!

3On arrival at Millennium Square it wasn’t long before other volunteers arrived and there was hum of conversation and laughter as we shared stories and learnt a bit about the people who had given up a bit of their time to support this unique event. The mix of backgrounds and professions was fascinating with people from Spain, London and the surrounding South West of England. As we lined up for our briefing from Matt Posties (Programme Manager) wearing our Festival t-shirts the smiles were plain to see – we were raring to go, and the rain had all but stopped!

5My first stop was the One Tree per Child stall run by Bristol City Council. This was a project I was not aware of and learnt a lot about whilst there. I also got to be a bit crafty and make dream catchers and wooden keyrings with the kids (and the parents!!). Following that after a quick cup of tea and a biscuit supplied by the organisers it was off to work with Bristol Zoo. This was a chance to look more at the educational aspect of the Festival by talking about rubbish left on beaches and microbeads in cosmetic products. Again, I learnt a lot and talked to some other enthusiastic volunteers – also got to discuss ongoing volunteering activities that I might get involved in – exciting.

6The Festival was a hive of activity with talks, animals to see and hear about and interviews taking place that were broadcast on the big screen – in the BBC tent you could even try your hand at a bit of presenting yourself.  Although rain stopped play for a little bit wasn’t long before we emerged from tents and it was back to fun. My final stop was with the Woodland Trust helping to collect people’s tree related stories for their Tree Charter and in exchange they got to take home a tree sapling. By the end of the day I was tired but inspired, smiling and with lots of new friends.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I would encourage anyone to sign up for – thanks for letting me be involved!!