London Wetlands Centre – THE place to visit… or volunteer

Image above: London Wetlands Centre; photograph Jim Frame

‘Right now bitterns are a star attraction’

Phrases you never thought you’d hear someone say in London. But, right now, bitterns are the star attraction at the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes.

People often ask us about places to do volunteer work in West London. Jim Frame has spent the last year offering his services to the London Wetlands Centre, run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. He recommends it highly as a place to volunteer, or just to visit.

Image above: Welcome to the London Wetlands Centre; photograph Jim Frame

Guest blog by Jim Frame

It was around this time last year that I thought about doing some ‘volunteering’ at WWT London. Not heard of it/them? Well, they’re very close. WWT London is in Barnes, by the side of the Thames. It’s often referred to as the London, or Barnes, Wetlands Centre.

I discovered next that, not only did the London Wetlands Centre welcome new volunteers, but that they had lots of different volunteering roles to choose from… Grounds Maintenance, Visitor Welcome, Membership Support, (Bird) Guide in the Hide, to mention just a few possibilities… something, it seemed, for every skill (or lack of it in my case!) and ability.

I decided the best match to my current limited skills was ‘Visitor Welcome’, and I was welcomed into my new role by Heather, the Engagement Manager in Barnes. She went to give me a few tips and guidance on what to do and expect.

Today, not only have I welcomed many visitors – not least those visiting for the first time and who especially appreciate tips on what to see and when – I have also helped lead some groups on our autumn Bat Walks. Who knew how many different species of bats we have living close by, and with the aid of bat detectors we are able to locate?

Finally, and to my own amazement, I have given some short (10-15 min) talks on the fascinating history of the WWT’s founder, Peter Scott (pioneering son of ‘Scott of the Antarctic’) and the background to how the Wetland Centre came to be in Barnes from its opening in 2000. Enough though… if you want to hear any more on that, you’ll really need to come along yourselves!!

Image above: Statue of Sir Peter Scott; photograph Jim Frame

Each volunteer at Barnes Wetlands can find their own niche area. I must admit to being in awe of those volunteers who are fit and take part in the Ground Maintenance/Gardening activities, or indeed those whose knowledge of bird life makes them wonderful Guides in the Headley Hide.

You can imagine, with this great variety of roles, that more volunteers at WWT London are always very welcome.

I need now though to give you a little taste of our Wetlands Centre for, if you haven’t visited yet, you really must! It’s a wonderful place, in the heart of the London metropolis, not just to ‘watch nature’ but to see the huge impact on it of the changing seasons.

This is something we often lose sight of when we’re living in a big city. Equally, it’s a place just to have fun, whether on your own or with the family. You can always be guaranteed to see our two resident otters – they’re fed twice daily and they really do entertain.

Image above: Otters at London Wetland Centre; photograph Jim Frame

Or to try to spot unusual or rare birds, whether resident or just passing through – right now bitterns are a star attraction, as they ‘play hide and seek’ in the reeds with visiting bird-watchers. This link to WWT London website shows Wildlife Sightings daily.

Not least though, it’s a place to bring along the kids to enjoy some of the many interactive experiences. Outside, this includes the Wild Walk, Pond Dipping and the Explore Playground, while inside, there’s the Discovery Centre, Kingfisher Kitchen and a well-stocked shop.

There’s far more to see and do than I can possibly do justice to here. So, to see more, visit, or even volunteer, follow this link to London Wetland Centre  – you won’t regret it!

Image above: London Wetlands Centre; photographs Jim Frame

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