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The National Trails Volunteer Scheme

Volunteers perform a vital role in helping to maintain the Thames Path through an ongoing programme of maintenance and improvements.

Tasks include vegetation clearance, installation, and repair of signs, gates and bridges and some workshop tasks. Led by staff from the National Trails team, tasks take place on weekdays. All tools and training are provided and the tasks are a good way to meet like-minded people. Currently there are no vacancies for tasks Volunteers.
Alternatively, volunteers can become Trail monitors by adopting a 2-3 mile section of a Trail, walking it once a quarter and reporting back any problems.

Find out more about what volunteers do. 

Volunteer for the Trail for 25 years

Mark Robbins has volunteered for the Thames Path and The Ridgeway National Trails for the past 25 years, and we wanted to find out more about his experience of working on the Trails and what it has meant - and still means - to him.

Firstly, we asked him how he became a Trails volunteer:

It was a spur of the moment thing. I was walking in the Uffington Fort on The Ridgeway – a lovely day on the Berkshire Downs, and as I was coming down the slope towards the Vale of the White Horse I saw tacked to a gatepost a notice that read ‘Do you want to volunteer for the Trail’ with a phone number. I’d just gone freelance and was enjoying life so much more. It was my first step into the world of volunteering and this became a significant part of my life. It pointed towards a future direction with volunteering and eventually would lead me to setting up my own charity. Now I’m full time charity manager for The Freshwater Foundation giving out small amounts of money to small community and charity groups – helping them to start up or help established groups develop successfully.

So, there were ripples from that original step into volunteering that have made an impact on Mark’s life. Mark remembers his very first task which was at Kelmscott on the Thames Path on a horrible, cold, grey and damp late November day. The task was to install a heavy old wooden kissing gate, this would be around the beginning of the Thames Path’s life as a National Trail in 1996. Despite the weather Mark returned for a second task, this time brush cutting at Sonning Lock – this was a lot more enjoyable.

Why did he continue to volunteer?

I love the Chilterns and the Thames and I’d done a lot of walking in those areas so the associations were very special. Whitchurch and Goring with lovely views over the Thames Valley and the Vale of the White Horse. There was the idea of giving something back.
The good hard physical labour – and satisfaction of a job well done – combatting the huge growth overwhelming the path, man versus nature! The camaraderie… everybody working really hard – and having a really good time’.

Volunteering can set challenges with new skills to acquire, there have been changes to adapt to….

‘Since I started it has become more mechanised – using pole saws and brush cutters I have become more mechanically minded. When I first started I remember we’d had a workshop and on the Sunday I broke not 1, or 2 but 3 pieces of equipment.. then I was put to doing plain creosoting!

…and the opportunity to use existing individual strengths:

I’ve taught computer science and data analysis – and I’ve used these skills to work on analysing National Trail web audiences to help inform the advertising strategies of the Trails.

The National Trail Volunteers winning The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, (in June 2020) the equivalent of an MBE, is a source of great pride to Mark. So, after 25 years, does Mark still enjoy volunteering?

Behind the hard work it is the true public spirit – people who care about putting something back- those are the sort of people I like the most. Being among ‘the public of spirit but light of heart -that’s something that’s increased over the years.’

Thank you Mark from the Trails Team for all your work on keeping the Trail a pleasure to walk for all.

Links News page and Freshwater Charity

Volunteering Opportunities

There are so many volunteering opportunities on the Thames Path.

Newsletter/Task Diary

Our task diary has a list of all forthcoming tasks on the Thames Path National Trail and is sent to all volunteers who register onto the scheme.

Monitoring and Maintenance tasks on the Thames Path