Our regular volunteering opportunities are fortnightly Sunday work parties. The tasks are usually outdoors and include fence building, coppicing, scrub clearance, tree planting, gardening and one-off projects such as tidying and painting buildings. We also support ad-hoc tasks such as boardwalk construction on Orford Ness and pulling Reed Mace at Flatford Mill. Many tasks involve a bonfire. There is a tea break and lunch break during the day, with hot drinks, biscuits and cake.
The Group owns and maintains a selection of tools, and instructions on how to use them safely is given. Insurance is provided by the Trust whilst we are working on its properties.
These are the properties we help maintain, and some of the activities we undertake:
- Bourne Mill – 16th century water mill – still with some machinery – on the south side of Colchester town centre. We work in the grounds, the garden, the mill pond, the sluice and the mill race as well as the mill itself
- Copt Hall Marshes – this is an area of marshland at which National Trust plays a significant conservation role. The habitat is carefully preserved with support from Natural England’s ‘Higher Level Stewardship’ scheme. Our tasks here support the ongoing conservation work
- Danbury Commons, Lingwood Common and Blakes Wood – areas of common land, incorporating heath, gorse and coppice. The area encompasses a Site of Special Scientific Interest and ancient woodland and military defences, which we help to manage and monitor
- Dawns Covert – disconnected, but right next to Pin Mill, this is also a mix of woodland and heath. Our tasks here focus on promoting heather, by cutting back gorse and bramble – so there is a lot of lopper and bowsaw use
- Dedham Vale – includes Bridges Farm, Lower Barn Farm and Dedham Hall Farm – Suffolk farms with water meadows and boathouse at Flatford. Work involves maintaining fences and fencelines, clearing scrub and small trees, cutting back overgrown hedges and reinforcing the river bank
- Dunwich Heath – Extensive lowland heath on the Suffolk coast. Tasks include clearing small trees and scrub, and culling invasive birch.
- Fen bridge – Area between Flatford and Dedham with views over the Stour valley. Lots of fencing and coppicing of diseased elms with bonfires
- Flatford – we have several worksites here, including the Dry Dock which is drained each year, and the ‘Haywain’ mill pond between the Mill and Willy Lott’s cottage. Our tasks have included planting trees and fencing around the surrounding land, and building an otter holt. When the Trust acquired parts of Orvis Farm, we installed farm gates and built culverts
- Hatfield Forest – site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve, which was formerly a Royal forest. It has since been given to the National Trust, and we began supporting the work of the property in 2022
- Ickworth – Ickworth is one of the most unusual and interesting of Trust properties; an elegant Italianate house and gardens set within spectacular parkland. The extensive grounds, created in part by Capability Brown, is a living landscape where wildlife thrives. Our work here includes gardening tasks and managing hedges, shrubs and trees
- Kyson Hill – Small, park-style open space overlooking the south bank of the Deben, just east of Woodbridge. Tasks include supporting an annual hay cut, stud post renewal, step maintenance and felling trees to retain the view of the river
- Melford Hall – a large red brick house dating mainly from the 16th century. It incorporates part of a medieval building held by the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. It stands beside the River Chad, at the northern end of Long Melford. We help maintain the gardens, and nearby wood
- Mount Pleasant Farm – part of Dunwich estate including farm fields, where we help to maintain fences and footpaths, and control invasive species of plants
- Northey Island – accessed via a tidal causeway, we have recently started supporting the property, since our expansion to include Essex. The island includes salt marsh, farmland and – of course – shoreline to manage and maintain
- Orford Ness – One of our most interesting properties. A unique shingle spit offering distinctive fauna and flora and also steeped in military and nuclear history. Access is by boat from Orford Quay (so arrive on time for this task!)
- Pin Mill (inc Cliff Plantation) – Our tasks here primarily support woodland management, including cutting back pine to promote greater diversity of species. Pin Mill also has an escarpment along the Orwell river bank. We support footpath maintenance, revetment work and cut back gorse and scrub
- Sherman’s Hall – Located in Dedham High Street is this Grade 1 listed medieval townhouse with a Georgian facade. We help National Trust Holidays with maintenance and presentation of the grounds
- Sutton Hoo – Along with the Visitor Centre there is an extensive Trust estate at Sutton Hoo. Over the years, we have got involved with scrub and overgrowth clearances, built bridges, steps and fences, and helped to create an overflow car park for the ever increasing number of visitors!
- Thorington Hall – One of Suffolk’s oldest and most intriguing houses, this is available to book for up to 16 people as Holiday accommodation. There’s a large garden and orchard, which we help to maintain