Downlands Partnership - volunteering opportunities

Practical conservation volunteering activities this winter season 2023

The Downlands Partnership has a great selection of practical conservation volunteering sessions to try in north-east Surrey (Tadworth to Tatsfield) and in the urban fringe, neighbouring countryside areas of Croydon and Sutton.

There is something for everyone to get involved in, with different seasonal countryside tasks taking place on numerous, glorious sites across the partnership area. We recommend trying a scrub clearance task first if you are new to practical conservation work, but the majority of our tasks are suitable for all ages (over 16s unless accompanied by an adult please) and abilities, as you can work at your own pace and you will be shown exactly what to do. You do need to be fairly fit and enjoy getting out and about in the great outdoors.

How to get involved and find out more

If you have any questions or concerns, please just give us a call for a chat before deciding which task would be best for you to start with. There is no fixed commitment with our conservation crew, you can come and join in as often as you like, for full or half days. Our task sessions run from 10am and end by 4pm, with lunch and tea breaks. Exercising whilst socialising in the great outdoors with friendly, like-minded people has recognised widespread health and well-being benefits and of course, supports the maintenance and restoration of the beautiful local countryside and its rare habitats too.

Please call our task team on 01883 341140 or email us: for further information and to let us know in advance when you would like to come and join in.

To gain an insight into our Downlands Partnership conservation volunteering task days, please visit our Downlands Partnership countryside volunteers Facebook page.

Please also see our Surrey Countryside Partnerships Health and Safety Guide for Volunteers (PDF).

We look forward to welcoming you along with our fantastic conservation crew very soon.

Winter 2023 volunteer task programme

During January to March 2023, our winter scrub management task season, we have the following conservation volunteering task days on offer that are suitable for new volunteers to consider:

Scheduled task datesCountryside site locationPractical conservation volunteering activity
3, 4 and 5 JanuaryStaffhurst Wood, EdenbridgeHolly and scrub clearance to manage the woodland and improve access. Carrying on from our autumn visits to this new worksite, which is owned by Surrey County Council as part of the Countryside Estate.
10, 11 and 12 JanuaryHutchinsons Bank, New Addington

Scrub clearance to manage the chalk grassland

17, 18 and 19 JanuaryHappy Valley, Coulsdon

Scrub clearance to manage the chalk grassland in the grazing paddock

31 January, 1 and 2 FebruaryHutchinsons Bank, New Addington

A second task week visit this season, to carry out further scrub clearance to manage the chalk grassland

14 and 15 FebruaryCaterham Viewpoint

Raking up after brush cutting to manage the chalk grassland

21, 22 and 23 FebruaryChapel Bank, New AddingtonScrub clearance to manage the chalk grassland
28 February, 1 and 2 MarchThe Dobbin, part of the SWCA, WhyteleafeScrub and small tree clearance to manage the chalk grassland
7, 8 and 9 MarchLittle Woodcote Wood, near to Banstead and CarshaltonTree planting and maintenance to manage the woodland
14, 15 and 16 MarchHawkhirst Wood, KenleyRaking up after brushcutting to manage the chalk grassland glade
21, 22 and 23 MarchHooley MeadowsScrub and fenceline clearance to manage the chalk grassland
28, 29 and 30 MarchStaffhurst Wood, EdenbridgeScrub clearance to improve access and the construction of a new boardwalk. A second task week visit this season to this new worksite, which is owned by Surrey County Council as part of the Countryside Estate.

There are also scheduled practical countryside volunteering tasks held on Mondays and one Sunday per month at the Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area.

Corporate and community groups volunteering offer

We are pleased to welcome corporate and local community/school groups by arrangement, plus students completing their Duke of Edinburgh awards and work experience/voluntary training placements.

Please kindly note that not all of our scheduled task locations and dates are suitable for groups, so please get in touch and we can further discuss the best options for your specific group size together and to explain the booking arrangements for groups. Autumn and winter are the best seasons to join in as a group, especially for larger numbers, as we run lots of scrub clearing and raking up sessions, which are the ideal countryside volunteering activities for team challenges.

We have a separate corporate employee volunteering brochure which fully explains our corporate volunteering offer, which you will receive when you make a group enquiry.

Conservation grazing: voluntary livestock checkers and farm volunteers

The Downlands Partnership runs a busy conservation grazing service led by Grazing Officer Sean Grufferty and Grazing Assistant Damien Laing.

We currently have a flock of over 200 animals, comprising Herdwick, Beulah Speckled Face and Jacob sheep, Sussex cattle and British Feral goats. We manage an extensive conservation grazing programme to maintain and restore rare chalk grassland habitats for our partners, including many Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) across the Downlands Partnership area, into Bromley plus on some sites in the Lower Mole Partnership area well. We manage our own lambing season every spring at Old Lodge Farm, which is the base for our Downlands Partnership grazing service. It is a Surrey County Council owned private holding farm managed for biodiversity and the provision of environmental education, located between Banstead and Carshalton.

You can follow and find out more about our grazing family (staff, volunteers and all the animals) on the Downlands Partnership Grazing Twitter account @Downygrazers and the Downlands Partnership Grazing Facebook page.

Should you be interested in helping us to look after our animals, we currently have around 100 voluntary stock checkers that we have trained to help us to monitor our animals when they are grazing on sites across the partnership area and more are always welcome. The voluntary stock checkers work on a rota arrangement seven days a week, 365 days a year, so their support is vital, rewarding and much appreciated by the Downlands Partnership. Our grazing team also has a small group of farm volunteers that regularly help out at Old Lodge Farm and sometimes with grazing related tasks on other sites as well. Farm volunteering sessions usually run from 8am and end by 3pm.

Please contact the Grazing Team on 07968 832692 or by email: if either of these specific volunteering opportunities are of interest and to find out which current livestock checker rota opportunities are available in our partnership area.

We also welcome voluntary placements from students studying animal/countryside management, so please do contact us if you would like to join the grazing team on day release from college or for short or longer work experience/training placements.

You could support us from your sofa too!

We are always looking for further monetary support please to fund the purchase of essential items such as tools, materials or even more animals to help us to continue conserving the lovely local landscapes.

If you are unable to help by taking part in practical conservation work, you could please kindly consider supporting the Downlands Partnership by taking up a membership or by giving a donation to our registered independent charity partner, the Downlands Trust.

The Downlands Trust was established in November 2008 and is run by seven dedicated voluntary trustees that actively support our countryside management work; they work hard raising funds through memberships, fundraising and local outreach activities in partnership with us. The Downlands Trust and Downlands Partnership attend targeted public events together to spread the word about the work of both organisations and to promote volunteering and membership opportunities.

The Downlands Trust recently funded the purchase of a large selection of new tools and equipment to support our work, grazing equipment including electric fencing and goat collars, plus some new additions to the grazing flock.

Please have a look at the Downlands Trust Facebook page to find out more about their charity work and latest news.

Many thanks for your support.

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