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The National Trails Volunteer Scheme

Volunteers perform a vital role in helping inform us of problems and helping us to maintain The Thames Path through an ongoing programme of monitoring, maintenance and improvements.

There are various opportunities for volunteers. Practical 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 most weekdays covering the Trail from its Source up to Marlow. All tools and training are provided, and the tasks are a good way to meet like-minded people.

There are also opportunities to become a volunteer ‘monitor’ by adopting a 3-5 mile section of the Trail. Monitors walk their section at least once every 3 months and report what any issues they see to us via a dedicated website reporting system.

Find out more about what volunteers do. 

Volunteering Opportunities

Volunteer practical tasks

Unfortunately we currently do not have any vacancies within our practical volunteering team.

 

Volunteer monitoring

We are looking for volunteers to adopt one of the following stretches of The Thames Path. Volunteers need to be able to walk their section to check for problems and changes once every 3 months and after extreme weather conditions, and then use our online reporting website to tell us about the issues they have seen. We particularly welcome volunteers who live or work locally to these sections because it minimises travel costs and carbon. Please express your interest by emailing for an application form to NT.Volunteers@Oxfordshire.gov.uk. We will respond to applications as soon as possible.

  • Castle Eaton to Hannington Bridge (Section 10)
  • Hannington Bridge to Upper Inglesham (Section 11)
  • Upper Inglesham to Inglesham Church (Section 12)
  • Shifford Lock to Newbridge (Section 20)
  • Newbridge to Northmoor Lock (Section 21)
  • Northmoor Lock to Bablock Hythe (Section 22)
  • Bablock Hythe to Pink Hill Lock (Section 23)
  • Bell Weir Lock to Penton Hook Lock (Section 55)

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

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 practical volunteering scheme.

It is emailed in advance to registered National Trail Volunteers. If you are a registered National Trails Volunteer and see a task you would like to help out on, just contact the office to let us know. We’ll contact you to arrange meeting times and venues. Always contact us in advance to book and confirm the task, date, time and venue.

If you have any queries please email NT.Volunteers@Oxfordshire.gov.uk