RURAL MATTERS: Could you give a little time to improve your county?

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A few weeks ago, charities and other community-based organisations held their annual Volunteers Week, saying thank you to those that give their time and efforts.

Volunteers make the world go around. They fill in all the gaps in service provision that there is never quite enough money for.

Volunteers in your local hospital may be manning the helpdesk or patients shop or providing friendship and emotional support to lonely patients or stressed staff; volunteers play a huge part in our stretched emergency services (retained fire fighters, special constables, volunteer emergency responders etc); community volunteers are working now all around the place that you live; running the local community centres and many of the clubs and societies that meet there; keeping the place tidy; planting and watering flowers for the annual ‘In Bloom’ competition; running local charity shops; volunteers even run your local council as parish, district or county councillors.

Perhaps surprisingly, the organisation with the largest number of volunteers is the Football Association, with some 400,000 people running community football clubs. The Scout Association has 115,000 volunteers, the National Trust 62,000, the RNLI 31,500 (of which 4,500 are crew members) and so on.

There are volunteers in almost every area of modern life. In a recent survey, it was estimated that 1 in 5 of us are regular volunteers and more than a quarter of the country volunteer to do something at least once a year. That’s nearly 16million people.

I am one of life’s serial volunteers. I started when I was 15 with a few hours a month fitting around homework running a local club and now, a few years into retirement, I am busier with all my volunteering interests than I was when I was at work!

The Campaign to Protect Rural England relies on volunteers to get things done and always has. Nationally, there are more than 1,200 of us and in Lincolnshire about 20.

So, what can a few volunteers across a county the size of Lincolnshire do to make a difference?

Our band of volunteer judges run the annual Best Kept Village and Small Town Competition; our planning volunteers help communities and individuals fight development proposals in their community or plan for the future through neighbourhood plans; our volunteers try to hold law and policy makers to account on countryside matters; our volunteers are raising awareness of countryside issues and looking out for threats that we need to respond to.

This week, our volunteers have organised a conference on Lincolnshire’s Rural Economy, looking to the future post Brexit.

With more volunteers, we could do so much more.

If you are interested in volunteering a few hours a week or month of your time to help protect Lincolnshire’s countryside, then please get in touch at cprelincolnshire@aol.com.