VPA Residential June 2013

Five of us from the VPA team had a 2 night residential in the Peak District National Park. We stayed at Brunts Barn in Grindleford, Derbyshire. We undertook conservation work for 2 days with the Peak Park Rangers.

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Activities included: Installing a drainage pipe to prevent flooding on a footpath and helping to improove a steep footpath to ensure it was safe and even for people to use. The team cooked dinner for each other and Gareth even baked a Mary Berry recipe Victoria Sponge!
We played lots of games and had a great few days together.

Ashley, Bezel, Gareth, Hannah and Melissa.


Welcome June VPAs!


A warm welcome to our latest recruits who started on Monday 3rd June! So far our new team have been learning about Groundwork, the important policies and procedures they will need to know, playing team building games including ‘zombie chair game’ and the conservation group even went on a 2 night residential with PPCV – phew! More on this in a post soon to come.
If you check the ‘Current VPA profiles’ tab you can hear from the latest team what they hope to gain from the programme. We will also be tweeting our adventures @GwOR_VPA
Really looking forward to an action packed 12 weeks with you all!


Life as a Volunteer Project Assistant: Steven P

Assisting Groundwork as a Voluntary Project Assistant (VPA) to help deliver a Practical Countryside Skills Level 1 course has proved to be a fantastic experience. Based both in the classroom and in the great outdoors, it gives the best of both worlds. As a VPA I help oversee that the volunteers are trained for their outdoor tasks, assist with the practical work and assist with teaching the written material. Work can be challenging and is in all weathers, but the camaraderie with the team (and the ready supply of tea!) makes each day a great one.

The course has involved taking our 11 strong group of volunteers to nature sites in Oldham and Rochdale, where they learn practical ways of looking after our green spaces. On the course I’ve helped to teach the team practical ways to create wildlife habitats and to regulate access to land. The team have keenly tackled hedge laying, footpath building and wire fence installation work amongst other tasks to help achieve this.

The opportunity to practice my practical conservation skills, gain teaching experience and enjoy the rewards of working with a great team of learners has made choosing to assist with the Practical Countryside Skills teaching project well worth it!

Steven Pratt, VPA April 2013

Week 10 Update :D

Crikey its week 10 already, I have no idea where all the time has gone, I suppose that old expression that times flies when you’re busy/having fun holds true. Well hello to all the readers, this week its Dan again, giving you the weekly fill of our work, lots has been happening as our placements and projects are nearing completion.

Work has been cracking on at Irkside Nature Reserve, Steve led a session on Friday where we completed the pruning and cutback of obstructive vegetation and then used this to build a large habitat pile. Aside this he has been busy in the classroom assisting the group in finalising the project work as it nears to an end.

This week Gleice and I have been busy finalising the evaluation report for the ‘Energy Efficiency & Sustainability’ project in Smallbridge. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) received the report last Wednesday and are very pleased with it 😀 The project has been very satisfying and hopefully following this successful pilot, RBH will roll out the initiative on a larger scale. I also undertook some mapping for the National Access Project (NAP) with one of great volunteers; we had a fantastic lunch, which was greatly appreciated after our healthy exercise!

The well deserved benefits of volunteering on the National Access Project.

The well deserved benefits of volunteering on the National Access Project.

Benedict has been busy completing the all-important folder, alongside this he squeezed in a day mapping on the NAP, for which I am very grateful. He has also been busy organising an exciting team building trip for this Friday, Oldham based tasting trip to support of the local economy.

Rhiannon as always has been busy working at Oldham Council. This week she has been engaging residents to set up the herb garden project and has been generating some strong interest. She also did some leafleting at a local fun-day event held in Stoneleigh Park.

Team trip simultaneously building team morale and scoring non-alcoholic beverages and supporting the local economy.

Team trip simultaneously building team morale and scoring non-alcoholic beverages and supporting the local economy.

Jo & Gemma have been busy bee’s inducting new VPA’s and marking our qualification folder work. Wednesday saw them on a photo shoot at the new soon be perma-culture site, from which the next VPA scheme will be based (starting in a few weeks at the start of May). Next week there should be a press release on this so keep a lookout if you’re interested!

Finally we have some sad news regarding our office vegetables…. unfortunately they have outgrown us and gone on to bigger and better things. I heard on the grapevine this was to do with neglect on Benedict’s behalf. They now have a new happy home outside in the big wide world where they can continue growing. We wish them all the best in their future ventures and hope that one day they provide someone lucky people with a tasty and healthy snack!

A friendly canis lupus familiaris of the golden retriver variety that may be found on the waterways.

A friendly canis lupus familiaris of the golden retriver variety that may be found on the waterways.

A year in the life of the VPA programme

A look back at the VPA Programme in 2012!


In January we welcomed 10 new VPAs to the trust. We went on a chilly residential to the Peak District – provided by Peak Park Conservation Volunteers. The team soon warmed up with an activity of Hawthorn clearance and (very safe and controlled) burning!


lili's swan raft 001 lili's swan raft 003

In February the team had some fun trips out to Lightshaw Meadows with the Greater Manchester Forest Network as part of a skills share and to Groundwork Offshoots project to learn about permaculture and food growing.

Picture 028

Picture 043

We also welcomed Jeanette and Sam who joined the All That team at the Oldham Evening Chronicle to make the second edition of the Oldham’s dedicated youth magazine.

peshkarphotosam and jeanette


In March our team delivered some fantastic projects and we celebrated their achievements. Two of our volunteers, Annie and Natalie, even got to go on a trip to Pakistan as part of a partnership project with Voluntary Action Oldham!


Isabel Mactague was succesful in gaining a job here at Groundwork as Business Development Coordinator
Rachel Parks gained employment as a Marine Biologist down in Weymouth
Lili Briggs gained employment with Groundwork as a Heritage Project Officer
Steven Lardner gained employment as a Project Manager in London


In April we said goodbye to Sam and Jeanette and welcomed a new team of VPAs at Oldham Evening Chronicle – Natasha, Sam and Stephen

Sam went on to get a teaching job in Japan and Jeanette secured not one but two PT jobs at Barnardos as youth worker and volunteer coordinator!



In a lovely sunny day in May we welcomed a new team of 9 VPAs at Groundwork. The team worked on variety of projects – organising community events, reservoir trails, community action team and employability.


In June we said a farewell to our Oldham Evening Chronicle Volunteers – Sam, Natasha and Stephen. Sam went on to work with the team at the Chronicle and also runs ultimate frisbee sessions every Monday at Mahdlo youth zone.


In July we welcomed a new team of VPAs at the Oldham Evening Chronicle – Steph, Chris and Gary. The team took charge of the social media outlets – improved the all that blog and increased the number of followers the project had on twitter as well as getting a number of articles on young people into the paper.



In August our summer team came to an end and we celebrated with a presentation and a trip to Hollingworth Lake for some fun raft building.



In September we welcomed a smiley new team of 11 volunteers to Groundwork. One of the team was placed at Rochdale Boroughwide Housing and in week 10 he was succesful in applying for a job as a Neighbourhood Officer there.


In October our VPAs organised a series of projects on our nature sites




We also went our for a fun and rainy team trip to Brockholes to do a bit of tree ID and of course eat cake 🙂


In November we welcomed a new All That team thanks to National Lottery Awards for All funding which will enable the project to run for another year!

Daniel, Jake and Kim

In November Natalie joined the VPA team as a Princes Trust Assistant Team Leader



More recently we have celebrated reaching a landmark of 2000 VPAs at Groundwork.

It was a fantastic and busy year with 42 volunteers taking part in the programme. We are really looking forward to welcoming new volunteers both at Groundwork and with our partner organisations in February. To apply to join the next scheme please email gemma.russell@groundwork.org.uk or call us on 01616 241 444.


Don’t rain on my parade (but at least there’s cake) – week 4


Monday to Wednesday we have been carrying on with our projects. Here what few of us have been doing:

James – Turned into Mr Postman spending 6 hours stuffing envelopes but he did it singing many a tuneful song . He also learnt about the exciting new plans in Business Services

Karen – Finished drawing the bridge design.

Mac – Monday worked in the office designing posters. Tuesday consulted with a garden group and is going to write a bid so that they can by some equipment and go on trips. Also worked with children in the afternoon doing a steering group (Project our place)

Sarah and Rachel -Planned the finer details for the Spooky spectacular and maintenance events.  Looking forward to hosting the events and have lots of exciting ideas such as nature trail where we will be looking for fairy goblets (AKA Acorns)

Sharaz – Looked up bid ideas.

Liz – Was ill for Part of the week but for the rest week worked on Prezzie and emailing people

Field Trip


The Vistors centre

On a very wet and windy Thursday everyone  visited  Brockholes in Preston. With an amazing nature site, where the whole visitor centre is floating on water. First stop was the cafe with a nice hot drink and a slice of cake, Yummy!  In such a beautiful surrounding, it was a perfect place for a team meeting and to catch up on the weeks progress.  An extra bonus was the animal joke book found by James, so we could open with some delightful jokes such as “How do we know vultures are religious?” “ Because they are birds of prey” Bazinga!


The ancient Woodland

We then went for an exploration around the ancient woodland , we improved our tree Id skills along the way (What leaf can you high five? A sycamore).Half way around we escaped the rain by sheltering in the bird hide, a perfect place for a photo opportunity of the local wildlife and to jump out and scare the living daylights out of our fellow VPA colleges .

We arrived back the visitor centre felling refreshed and full of inspiration for local events, then, it was time for lunch followed by nice browse around the shop, full of interesting nature related goodies.

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Summit  Site

On Friday with limited numbers (get well soon team) we made another visit to Summit Site to do some more clearing.  We cut back the shrubs around the path at the entrance and made a start clearing the car park. We made some excellent progress as the photos show. There is something strangely satisfying about lopping trees and pulling up weeds. We had dinner around a camp fire courtesy of Jo, with some nice hot drinks and delicious vegan blueberry cakes baked by Karen.

Path afterwards

Path before we started work

Snow day @ Boarshaw

After a weekend of heavy snowfall we headed back to Boarshaw for week 2 of our planned improvements. This week we were focusing on improving the main entrance to the site and redefining the pathways. 

Before clearing the site


...........and after

Our activities for the day were slightly limited due to the snow however we had more than enough work to be getting on with through clearing the site and cutting back the dead Japanese Knotweed. As Lili went about making her slightly leafy looking snowman we started cutting down brambles ready for redefining the path once the ground has thawed.

Lili's snowman

The only downside to the snow was not being able to get the kellie kettle going at Lunch however the wintery view of the lake and ‘Elf’ style throwball fight distracted us from the lack of brews.

Lili, Phoebe and Rachel enjoying a scenic Lunch

After a week away from Boarshaw due to the icy conditions we’re hoping to return to the site to continue clearing the area and, rather optimistically, seeds have already been bought for sowing later in the year. Watch this space……

Main entrance to site before….
…..and after

– Natalie