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Volunteers' Week: Preserving natural spaces in London

Dr Anna Rebmann is a Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at King’s Business School. Outside of work, she volunteers with two community organisations that work to preserve natural spaces in London. In this interview for Volunteers’ Week, we learn more about what motivates Anna to give back to her local community through volunteering.

The community organisations that Anna supports through volunteering includes Dream for Trees, a small charity which plants mini forests in cities. On the 28th March, five volunteers from King’s planted a mix of native species at the Grove in Highgate, one of these mini forests, as part of an event Anna organised for King’s Global Day of Service. Inspired by her love for nature Anna also founded Friends of Grove Farm with her partner and members of the local community, a passion project that aims to protect this local nature spot threatened by fly-tipping and littering, as well as prevent the development of tower blocks on the site.

How did your story with Friends of Grove Farm start?

Friends of Grove Farm is particularly important to me because I feel if we didn’t exist and act to protect and care for the nature reserve and green space surrounding it we are in danger of losing it. It has been an amazing way to build up connections with the local community and meet inspiring people who want to make the world a better place each in their own way. I also feel like I am doing my little bit to support nature in my local area and it is my small contribution to helping tackle the biodiversity and climate crises.

Acting together with others makes me hopeful.– Dr Anna Rebmann, Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at King’s Business School

I founded Friends of Grove Farm because during lockdown my partner and I found an amazing green space that we could walk to in our lunch breaks. In the wild woods and fields that make up Grove Farm Park, you don’t feel like you’re in the city anymore. Unfortunately, there is a litter problem in Grove Farm which was particularly bad in lockdown, due to fly-tips from people doing up their houses.

 

It was sad to see this beautiful wild place being treated like this, so my partner approached the local councilor and park ranger about the issues. We were introduced to a local litter picking group – LAGER Can, which is hugely active and popular in Ealing. We arranged litter picking events with them to clean up the park but thought we could do more to tackle the roots of the problem.

 

Most people don’t realise that part of this area is designated a Local Nature Reserve because it has some great species, such as rare wild service trees and an abundance of wood anemones, both of which are indicator species for ancient woodland. We didn’t realise this at the beginning. It also looks like the place is uncared for with litter, lack of signs and the fact that it is meant to be wild. One of our goals is to encourage more local people to discover Grove Farm, learn about nature and through this encourage a greater appreciation for the nature reserve and the surrounding green areas.

 

I am the secretary for the Friends Group and I help to run it. This involves arranging events such as nature talks from experts, foraging tours to get locals to come in and learn about nature and monthly conservation volunteering sessions and litter-picking. Now it has also turned into a campaigning group, fighting a development that would chop down woodland on the edge of the green space.

I enjoy feeling like I’m contributing in a small way to my local community and taking some small steps to protect and improve our green and natural spaces. Along the way I get to meet lots of amazing new people, make new friends, feel part of the community, be out in nature and appreciate my local area more. I’m also constantly learning. I never realised how much woods in the UK rely on human intervention to remain healthy!– Dr Anna Rebmann, Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at King’s Business School

Who else volunteers with you? Who inspires you?

My partner was key to setting up Friends of Grove Farm. We each say we ended up setting it up because the other wanted it! Our steering committee has five members, all of whom help in running the group. One runs LAGER Can and has been an invaluable source of advice and connections.

Our park ranger has also been great. He has taught us so much about conservation and helps us set up and run the conservation days. And of course, we can’t exist without our volunteers. They are people from the local community – some come to every event and suggest different actions and projects we can take as a group. There are also many different experts in our local community who volunteer their time to run walks and talks and do research for us.

We have also connected to many other community groups who give us advice and support. For example, Friends of Horsenden Hill are a more established Friends group who lend us tools and have given us advice on how to run our group.

 

How does your volunteering with Friends of Grove Farm fit in with your work and lifestyle?

I like being out in nature and most of our activities are about being in the woods or fields. That’s why it all started. It’s also very sociable as we have a core group of volunteers who meet regularly. I also love learning about nature and nature conservation. However, running a community group can take over your life! We try to limit our activities to two Saturdays a month but our recent campaign to stop some of the woodland being destroyed has meant working most evenings on Friends of Grove Farm activities.

I really like that Global Day of Service brings people from across King’s together to work in service for local and global communities. It was great to connect with King’s colleagues from other parts of the university through volunteering.– Dr Anna Rebmann, Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at King’s Business School

Find out more

Friends of Grove Farm would love to welcome new volunteers – either just coming to events or helping with social media, communications, finance, fundraising or campaigning (from anywhere!). Look out for the opportunity on the new King’s Volunteering platform.

King's Volunteering

Discover volunteering opportunities

We’re launching King’s Volunteering, a new and exciting service for King’s staff and students.

King’s Volunteering is your one-stop shop for discovering opportunities and building connections with organisations that are driving positive change in our local, national and international communities.

Sign up to connect with charities and organisations, discover opportunities and make a difference.

 

Become a community partner

If you are an organisation with a clear social mission and are looking for volunteers to enhance the impact of your work, join King’s Volunteering and share your opportunities on our new platform.

Visit our Community Organisations page for more information.

 

Share your volunteering story and inspire others to give back

Do you have a volunteering story to share, or a question about volunteering? Contact the King’s Volunteering team at volunteer@kcl.ac.uk.

Let us know how you’re making a difference by tagging @ServiceAtKing’s on Twitter and Instagram, and by using the hashtags #ServiceAtKings #KingsVolunteering #WeAreKings.

In this story

Anna Rebmann

Anna Rebmann

Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship

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