SUCV - Action for Stannington
For our second task of the year we visited an old favourite, Stannington! This suburb of Sheffield is looked after by a small group of local volunteers known as “Action for Stannington” and led by legend Danny Piermattei, MBE. Their mission is broadly to make Stannington a cleaner and greener place to live, which they do so completely voluntarily, with only occasional funding from the local council. From time to time, they accept the help of external groups like us, the SUCV. It’s an honour for us to help such a committed group of volunteers. Many people don’t realise that “conservation” is as much about working with local communities as it is protecting large swathes of land for wildlife or conducting groundbreaking research and just because we’re based in the UK and not somewhere like East Africa doesn’t change this fact.
After arriving at the meeting point, the pavilion in Stannington Park, and receiving an introduction from Danny, we split into three teams, designated “The Gardeners”, “The Painters” and somewhat less self-explanatory, “The Foreign Legion”. It was unclear whether this last group was so named because of their work destination, slightly further from the other groups, or because of the gruelling physical demands placed upon them, comparable to that of the infamous French Foreign Legion.
The Gardeners had a fairly straightforward task, typical of SUCV, using loppers and shears to tidy up the local vegetation.
The Painters had the job of painting goal posts and hand rails in the park white while keeping as much of it off their trousers as possible.
The Foreign Legion, including yours truly, was assigned to multiple theatres of operation for the morning, spreading bark chippings for mulch and removing weeds around the Stannington suburbs. Ok, so we were basically another team of gardeners, but more elite; we had to rip up vegetation with our own hands, no fancy loppers or shears…
After a tiring morning’s work came the moment all had been waiting for: everyone converged back on the pavilion for the legendary Stannington buffet, a free lunch so huge the above picture can barely even contain it all (there were chocolate cookies too). Having visited Stannington five times in the past, myself, I can say with some authority that it was even better than before (Sorry, there’s no real way to say all this without making all of you who didn’t make it green with envy, so I might as well just give you the hard truth). While stuffing ourselves silly, some visitors turned up: two of the local councillors, who praised Action for Stannington’s work, thanked us for our help, gave us some help in return with the buffet and finally had a group photo with all of us and some gardening equipment.
After lunch, The Painters resumed their work from before whilst The Foreign Legion reinforced The Gardeners’ position, teaming up to deal with a massive pile of – admittedly rather pleasantly fragrant– leaf litter someone recently had decided to dump near the pavilion. Together, we shovelled the stuff into big bags and dragged it off to other, less conspicuous locations where it could be spread out and made better use of while being less of an eyesore. When it was time to leave, we had disposed of most of it.
After a great day’s work, we returned all our equipment to the pavilion and quickly snatched up as much of the buffet that was still left to take home (can’t let any of that go to waste, we’re conservationists, after all…) before bidding Danny and the other volunteers farewell.
Thanks once again to everyone who came on this task and sorry once again to everyone who couldn’t make it or didn’t manage to get a place on what was unfortunately a task with a limited number of places. To those of you who missed out, you will get another chance! We are likely to hold another task to Stannington next semester, so keep alert for those emails on Tuesday/Wednesday!
Hope to see you all soon J
Jamie (Task Leader/Ranger/Legionnaire)