It’s been a dirty 35 years for one group of environmental Good Samaritans from Sheffield.
The Sheffield Conservation Volunteers have spent the last three-and-a-half decades elbow-deep in the city’s muddy great outdoors.
Whether planting trees, cleaning ponds, laying paths, building bridges or clearing wasteland, this dedicated team of volunteers can be spotted working out and about in Sheffield every single weekend.
“We’re really starting to feel like a part of the landscape ourselves after 35 years!” said member Jess O’Neill, who joined the conservation group six years ago.
“We have a core team of 10 to 15 members out working every single Sunday, come hell or high water,” she explained.
“We’re dedicated to making, and keeping, the city at its very best and we’re so proud to be celebrating another landmark anniversary of tireless work in Sheffield.”
Since the group first started back in 1978, hundreds of volunteers have joined in its noble efforts, regularly giving up their time and pitching in to help keep the city sparkling.
So if you’ve ever been out for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon and come across a rather scruffy bunch of people drinking tea and laughing, chances are it’s the Sheffield Conservation Volunteers taking a well-earned break.
“I can only think of a couple of occasions when we’ve cancelled a Sunday outing, and they’ve both been due to really heavy snow,” said Jess.
“We’re definitely a hardcore group! Personally I go out about once a month, but everybody’s different. This means that, between us, we have a good core team, in the double digits, out working with us every weekend.”
The conservation group began 35 years ago, after two friends from Sheffield came together to help clear a neglected stream near where they lived.
They both enjoyed it so much that, the following weekend, they decided to look for another project to take on – and the Sheffield Conservation Volunteers was born. Since then, many more have come forward to share their vision of keeping Sheffield clean, trimmed and tidy.
“Some people join us just for a little while, like students who have some free time, while others stay and become lifelong members,” said Jess, who joined because she loves nature and being outdoors.
“I definitely have less time to volunteer since I had my first child earlier this year, but I enjoy the weekends when I do make it out now.
“There’s nothing quite like working outdoors and doing something useful and valuable, that gives back to your community.
“I’ve learnt so many great skills, like drystone walling, that I would never have thought I could do. The satisfaction I get from working with the group is priceless.
“Many of our volunteers relish the opportunity to get out and work with their hands, especially if they spend their working days sitting at a computer. You can’t beat good old-fashioned manual labour.”
The group works alongside Sheffield Council, local rotary clubs, wildlife trusts, ‘friends of’ groups and a number of local schools, to name a few, and they find that the work these bodies provide is more than enough to keep them busy.
“Oh there’s always something to do,” laughed Jess.
“We never get up on a Sunday and say ‘Well, I think everything’s done – let’s just stay home today!’.
“But the great thing is that every single week, and every group of people you work with, is different.
“There’s a real mix of people and ages among us, so our time together never has the chance to get boring.”
If you like the idea of helping your community, but don’t fancy digging in every weekend, you can become a Friend of SCV for just £6 a year.
Jess added: “As a Friend of SCV, you will be playing an essential part in sustaining our group and helping us to continue our good work in South Yorkshire for another 35 years.”
Visit www.sheffieldconservation.org if you’re interested in joining in with the work of the Sheffield Conservation Volunteers.