Downlands Partnership - volunteering opportunities

Practical conservation volunteering activities this spring season 2024

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 or plant pulling 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, subject to weather, 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 Surrey Countryside Partnerships Facebook page.

Please also see our Surrey Countryside Partnerships Volunteer Handbook 2024 (PDF).

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

Spring 2024 volunteer task programme

During April to June 2024 we have the following conservation volunteering task days on offer that are suitable for new volunteers to consider:

Scheduled task dates Countryside site location Practical conservation volunteering activity
2 and 3 April The Grove, Chipstead Preparing the ground for trees that will be planted in this woodland later in the year
4 April Hooley Meadows

Small scrub clearance and scarifying the ground to remove the thatch build up to manage the chalk grassland

9 and 10 April Park Ham, Chaldon, near Merstham

Small scrub clearance to manage the chalk grassland

30 April and 1 MayChipstead DownsScrub clearance along the fenceline and stock fencing repairs
7, 8 and 9 May Addington Hills, Upper Shirley, Croydon Step installation to improve access at this heathland site
14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 MayThe Dobbin at the Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area (SWCA), Warlingham Fence replacement work and small scrub clearance to manage the chalk grassland
28, 29 and 30 May
11, 12 and 13 June
Various locations - please contact us for detailsMaintenance work and improvements to promoted routes in the partnership area.
This will include installing new waymarkers, cutting back vegetation and surfacing work.
4 June Earlswood Common, near Redhill Non-native Himalayan balsam pulling
5 and 6 June Priory Park, ReigateNon-native Himalayan balsam pulling
18, 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 June18 June: Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area
19 June: Featherbed Lane Verge and Chapel Bank, New Addington
20 June: Hutchinsons Bank, New Addington
25 June: Caterham Viewpoint
26 June: Long Hill, Woldingham and Manor Park, Whyteleafe
27 June: Nork Park and Hooley Meadows
Annual summer site condition assessments, when we survey the plant species present to check the site management is working

There are also regular scheduled practical countryside volunteering task sessions held on Mondays and some selected, seasonal Sundays with task leader Sarah at the Sanderstead to Whyteleafe Countryside Area.

The Downlands Partnership main volunteer task programme does not include weekend sessions.

Task leader Tasha at the Surrey Heathland Partnership provides one weekend scheduled task session per month, held on the first Saturday, taking place on the other side of the county in the Guildford or Woking 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 tasks, locations and session dates as detailed above are suitable for groups, so please get in touch and we can further discuss the best available options for your specific group size together and to explain the booking arrangements for groups.

The autumn and winter seasons are the best time to join in as a group, especially for larger numbers, as we run lots of scrub clearing sessions and can often offer bespoke separate team volunteering days as well. Scrub clearance is the ideal countryside volunteering activity for staff team challenges.

Please kindly note that during April and May, peak bird nesting season, we have very limited task sessions on offer that are suitable for corporate groups, so please aim for getting involved from June onwards now please.

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

We look forward to hearing from you and to developing new corporate partnerships with local companies and with those from neighbouring counties and London as well.

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 and into Bromley. We also now provide conservation grazing on some key grassland sites in the Lower Mole Partnership area and on Surrey County Council Countryside Estate sites as well.

We manage our own lambing season every spring at Old Lodge Farm, which is the base for our Downlands Partnership grazing service and welcomed 75 lovely lambs to join our flock in April 2023. Lambing season 2024 has just started from the end of March, so we are looking forward to the new arrivals joining us very soon. Old Lodge Farm 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 social media accounts:

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 on Wednesdays and Fridays 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. They have also provided very generous financial contributions towards the purchases of essential new off-road vehicles to support the service delivery of our Downlands Partnership task and conservation grazing services.

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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