2011 has been named the European Year of Volunteering by the European Union as a way of both celebrating the work of thousands of active volunteers and encouraging new people to take up the challenge.
Below is a list of organisations who welcome volunteers to help on projects involving gardening activities that improve our green spaces – and our communities at the same time.
For details of the EU initiative go to europa.eu/volunteering
www.ageuk.org.uk, tel 0800 169 6565
Support people in later life through a range of activities and services that include offering gardening help to those no longer able to manage on their own. Those interested in giving their time should contact their local Age UK partner to discuss opportunities. Call the number above for details.
British Trust for Conservation Volunteers
www2.btcv.org, tel 01302 388883
With its roots in conservation organisations back in the 1950s, the BTCV runs a number of volunteer programmes for both individuals and groups. The projects are aimed at improving community environments for the people who live there, as well as the local wildlife. Projects include scrub clearing, path building and park maintenance.
www.gardenorganic.org.uk, tel 024 7630 3517
The UK's leading organic growing charity, established some 50 years ago, is dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food. More than 80 volunteers already offer help as gardeners, guides, with events and admin, and with the Heritage Seed Library. Help is also needed with developing the Education Programme and Garden Organic are calling for volunteers with an interest and/or skills in horticulture, healthy eating, environmental concerns, working with children and education.
c. Garden Organic
If you know of an unloved roundabout or a miserable patch of pavement you could consider a spot of guerilla gardening. There are groups internationally and London's chief guerilla Richard Reynolds has become a celebrity in his own right.
www.nationaltrust.org, tel 01793 817632
This well-established volunteering network provides opportunities in a range of activities on Trust property. You can help with renovation work on larger landscape properties or assist head gardeners in the upkeep and maintenance of herbaceous borders and vegetable plots. A great way to learn new horticultural skills and knowledge while assisting in long-term conservation of historic properties.
c. NTPL/Arnhel de Serra
Royal Horticultural Society
www.rhs.org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Offer your time to help in one of the RHS's four gardens, picking up gardening knowledge in a range of activities, or take up a more administrative role at the society's head office in London. There are even opportunities to help out at the Chelsea Flower Show on one of the RHS stands.
London's Royal Parks offer access to some much-needed urban green space. The public allotments in Kensington Gardens and Regent's Park are a fantastic resource for education groups and general visitors alike. Those interested in helping to prepare the beds and maintain them throughout the year should get in touch with Nick Lane for the Kensington Gardens allotments – email@example.com, or Amy Solomon for the Regent's Park Allotment – firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a limited number of other volunteering opportunities in other Royal Parks. To find out about these contact Jen Estwick, Education Volunteer Coordinator on email@example.com.
www.thrive.org.uk, tel 0118 988 5688
Established charity that champions the benefits of getting involved in gardening, particularly for those with a disability. Thrive teaches techniques and practical applications to ensure they get the most out of the time spent in the garden. Volunteers offer thousands of hours' worth of work, helping with fundraising, open days and maintenance in the charity's gardens in Battersea Park, London and Beech Hill, near Reading.