BTCV celebrates 50 years of green volunteers

by Published Mon 01 Jun 2009 10:26
The Lost Gardens of Heligan were restored with the help of BTCV volunteers

This week will culminate on Friday 5th June with World Environment Day, a date with particular resonance for the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) in its 50th anniversary year. The organisation will be marking the day with a special event at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, combining vistor workshops with a celebration of the role and achievements of the eco-charity over the past half century.

The very first BTCV project took place on Box Hill in Surrey in 1959 with a young David Bellamy among the 42 enthusiastic volunteers clearing dogwood. Ten years later, members of the Trust headed to Czechoslovakia in the inaugural overseas exchange visit, which would eventually lead to the international project programme that today runs alongside the educational and practical conservation work undertaken in the UK.

There are now 140,000 volunteers supported by the BTCV.

The event at the Lost Gardens of Heligan will be attended by more than 100 staff and volunteers from across Devon and Cornwall, many of them showing visitors hands-on skills in a series of workshops covering bat and bird box making, willow weaving and green woodwork. Part of BTCV’s annual Spring into Action campaign, it is intended to encourage more people to try environmental volunteering.

In the course of the day a willow scuplture will be completed, to remain at Heligan as a commemoration of BTCV’s involvement in the restoration of the gardens in the early 1990s.

“I am a huge fan of the BTCV as you can imagine,” said Tim Smit, one of the founders at Heligan. “What was to become the Lost Gardens of Heligan was nothing more than a complete wilderness until a team from BTCV arrived with a wonderful motley crew to start the big clearance.

“It was addictive watching old pathways and vistas open.

“Countless gangs of BTCVers came to help through the summer and autumn of 1991 and then throughout 1992. Quite simply without them there would have been no Lost Gardens and The Nation’s Favourite Garden (as voted by viewers of Gardeners’ World) would have remained silent, undiscovered.”

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