Volunteering at the discovery centre

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Stephen and Sally Masters

Sally and Stephen Masters both volunteer at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve – I caught up with them for a chat.

Tell us a bit about yourselves, your connection to nature and Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Stephen: Retired, coming up to three years ago. I have a particular interest in bird watching, and am trying to learn more about wild flowers and insects as they are all interlinked and interdependent.

Sally: Retired primary school teacher, and I’m interested in all aspects of nature, particularly bird watching.

We moved to Rye from Hertfordshire just over a year ago, but have been visiting and holidaying in the area since childhood. We have been members of the friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve for many years, from afar.

How long have you been volunteers and in what capacity?

We have been volunteering at the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre since it opened mid-May, mainly in a ‘meet & greet’ capacity, welcoming visitors as they arrive at the centre.

Sally: I’ve started volunteering with the education team.

Stephen: I’ve signed up for some ‘guide in the hide’ sessions, and am also considering being a walk leader.

Having offered to do some general reserve maintenance, we have improved our plant recognition having spent five hours with a group pulling ragwort from an area of the reserve. We can now recognise ragwort from 100 metres!

Due to other commitments, we appreciate the option of giving our time on an ad-hoc basis, being unable to commit at a regular time each week.

What do you enjoy about volunteering with Sussex Wildlife Trust?

Spending time with like-minded people who are very keen to share their knowledge. Meeting and helping members of the public, both those visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve for the first time, and those who have been visiting or living in the area for years.

Being part of Sussex Wildlife Trust, who are a leading nature conservation group in the county, who have made us feel very welcome, with numerous opportunities to develop our interests and broaden our knowledge.

What do you make of the discovery centre?

A spectacularly designed building that sits very well in its surroundings. Provides very good facilities, including a café with lovely views. a well-stocked shop and comprehensive information boards underlining the history of the area and the variety of the wildlife in the patchwork of habitats encompassed by the reserve. The positive feedback from the visitors has been very encouraging.

What’s your favourite part of the reserve?

Hard to pick a single area, but Castle Water, the Halpin Hide, by Camber Castle is definitely one of our favourites, and we are lucky enough to be able to walk there from home which is an added bonus. As we enjoy bird watching, seeing the black-winged stilt and black-necked grebe on Castle Water was very special. The reserve offers so many opportunities to enjoy and witness the ever changing variety of the local flora and fauna throughout the seasons.

What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering with Sussex Wildlife Trust?

Do it. There are so many opportunities, covering a variety of roles, which are evolving all the time. You can commit as much or as little time as your personal circumstances allow. We have been very warmly welcomed into the trust, and feel we are contributing to support their aims. All while having a really good time.

Join us! We’re looking for more meet and greet volunteers for the discovery centre – for more information about volunteering for Sussex Wildlife Trust, see here.

Image Credits: Emma Chaplin .

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