"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
Posted on 10 May 2016 by Chloë
We weren’t to know what outdoor ecological delights awaited us as we gathered at the welcomed morning hour of 9am, WWT London Wetland Centre. One thing we did know, summer had broken. The fast fading memory of bitter temperatures and rain were replaced by entrancingly clear blue skies and an intense hum of insect activity in the surrounding everglades.
A man approached. He was complete with multi pocketed trousers, the sort that looked like they were practical as well as comfortable, a utility belt and a compact walkie-talkie worthy of the British Army. It transpired, he had been volunteering at the Trust for over 12 years. A dedicated asset to the Trust, we quickly ascertained why he was referred to as “Alpha 1” over the radio communications. This man possessed knowledge to rival that of none other than David Attenborough. This was David Cowmeadow, specialist subject: bats.
We were guaranteed two things on our volunteer day; wildlife and wetlands. David delivered on both. It is worth highlighting here that David was not alone, fellow volunteering co-pilots, Trish and Scott were assigned to steer these Acre-ites into the dock of task completion city. They, along with a meritorious platoon of active volunteers, some 300 strong and 30 permanent staff have transformed this disused Victorian reservoir into an urban oasis a mere stones throw away from Hammersmith.
No activity is complete without an instructional and edifying Health & Safety briefing. Scott, a recent transplant from the western coast of America, had to deliver to four sets of well tune dears. Which he did, quite brilliantly. Our concentration broke only by the mention of otters and viewing said otters in close quarters. Following in the many small footprints of the children before us, we pressed out noses against the high barrier of the generous open enclosure. These playful bundles of joy clearly loved an audience and fixing my attention on one we held a moment’s gaze. It was in that moment that I knew, as though an accord had struck between us. The telepathic message was clear: if I were to be an otter, I would be an otter in WWT London Wetland Centre.
Back to the task hand. Now I consider myself to be a master of many vessels and a composed sailor when it comes to walking on any unfamiliar deck. The short and stout metallic bathtub and my colleague who had drawn the short straw would disagree. The turning circle of this square boat can only be compared to a hiring manager with no budget for recruitment fees…. Negotiable. The remainder of our party had boldly loaned a pair of waders from one of many well stocked equipment sheds. We were to paint the main bridge that connected south London to this sanctuary. As if David and his staff hadn’t already instilled a high a sense of value and importance to our task, Scott elevated this to dizzying heights through an element of danger. One stray drip of paint, one misplaced paint brush or fool hardy knock of a paint pot could poison the moat of ecology and very wildlife we had come to conserve and care about.
Scott and Trish, whom hadn’t been volunteering at the Trust for all that long, had a charming narrative that revealed a wealth of knowledge and an entrenched passion for the environment that surrounds us. These jovial Trust ambassadors, who greeted every passing visitor and volunteer with boundless equal measure contributed to the welcoming culture and ambition of the Trust. Don’t just visit the WWT London Wetlands Centre, give your time and take the opportunity to get involved.