The journey of becoming a Conservation Week Leader

1st April 2016, by Stephen Couling

Stephen Couling, a volunteer and Conservation Week Leader apprentice, tells his recent journey of moving from Australia to the Scottish Highlands and joining Trees for Life.

George Monbiot has much to answer for me finding out about Trees for Life and the ecological restoration work they do. I had first read about Trees for Life in his book Feral in 2014 whilst I was still living in Sydney, Australia. At that time I thought that one day, should I return to the UK, I might like to volunteer with them. At the same time a friend had just happened to mention that he had read Monbiot's book as well and had signed up to do a Conservation Week at Dundreggan in May 2015. Upon returning he said it had been one of the best experiences of his life and that he would come back to do another week at Corrimony later in September. By then I had decided to return to the UK and signed up to join my friend for that week too.

It was for me, as it was for my friend, one of the best experiences of my life - so much so that I was inspired to apply for training as a Conservation Week Leader to help lead their Conservation Weeks and get involved with more hands-on conservation work. Upon being accepted onto the Conservation Week Leader Training Program in February 2016, I chose to relocate to the Highlands and moved to Kinloss (just down the road from the their Findhorn office) and am now volunteering in the office. All in the space of a few months!

I am now able to lead groups alongside a more experienced set of Conservation Week Leaders to learn the ropes of holding a Conservation Week. To get myself more comfortable with the role, I have recently did my first unofficial Introductory Walk with my sister and her husband who came up from North Yorkshire on Easter Monday to visit me in my new surroundings. And what better place to go than Glen Affric on a warm and sunny spring day, and visit some of the oldest Caledonian Forest remnants. We climbed up to the fenceline of Trees for Life's first exclosure opened by David Bellamy on 1990, and then on to the rocks east and below the top of Beinn a Mheadhoin. The views from there are spectacular especially on a sun dappled, breezy afternoon. On the way down we stopped in a sunny patch of dry grass and sat down. How often do we get the chance stop and stare, and listen to the wind in the trees, and watch the clouds go scudding by? Such is the magic of the Highlands.   

"And what I am doing now, in my small way, is lending my energies to speed up the process of regeneration through the work of Trees for Life."

And on the walk I talked about Trees for Life's work and showed them how the forest is recovering naturally inside the exclosure where hungry deer cannot get at the tree seedlings. It is truly impressive how nature can recover given the chance. And what I am doing now, in my small way, is lending my energies to speed up the process of regeneration through the work of Trees for Life. It will take a long time, 250 years in fact, as that is how long Tree's for Life's vision extends to. I doubt I will be around but never mind! I love the work.  

Come and join me.


Stay connected

Sign up to our newsletter and we will send you a monthly update of news and events at Trees for Life