My first foray into the world of volunteering was to attend a practical conservation workshop led by Simon Hawkins of TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) Richmond branch. This mid week ‘get to together’ at Crane Park/ Kneller Gardens at Mereway Nature Park (TW2 6RP) would involve various tasks in redoing the meadow area.

Feeling excited but mixed with trepidation of what the day would bring, I headed over to Eel Pie Island, Twickenham on a bright crisp morning to meet up with the team and get the show on the road. After initial introductions and some early morning banter and chat we assembled the tools, loaded up, bundled into the van and headed off to Crane Park.

Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE) describe the area as “a much-loved open space on the north bank of the Crane that links Crane Park to the west and Mereway Nature Park to the east. Kneller Gardens is an extremely important local recreation area because of its playground, tennis courts and football pitches. It is also heavily used by local dog-walkers, joggers, fishermen and anyone just needing some fresh air beneath a big open sky.”
The day’s activities (under the very knowledgeable and watchful eye of Simon) involved digging and clearing coarse grasses ahead of resowing and coppicing some of the nearby trees. The highlight for me personally was spending a large portion of the afternoon assisting one of the regular team members rebuilding a natural fence with some beech cut-offs discarded from the mornings overgrown tree canopy cull.

The tea and coffee breaks were a welcome respite and mighty impressive with Simon’s array of biscuits on offer. What can beat lunch ‘al fresco’ in one of South West London’s prettiest green areas on one of late Autumn’s sunniest and brightest days?


Throughout the day volunteers came and went but a constant feeling of team spirit and comradeship remained as everyone who participated was there focusing on the upkeep, wellbeing and future of this beautiful natural habitat and local environment. This ethos impressed me so much that weeks on from my experience I was still relaying enthusiastically the day’s events to friends and family.



By Carla Dillon, SWLEN volunteer

For further information on Crane Park/Kneller Gardens: FORCE is working with another local community group the Friends of Kneller Gardens to make sure that this park remains both an excellent area for local recreation and leisure and continues to provide a natural habitat for wildlife.

To learn more about this wonderful wild habitat and to learn more about FORCE and their invaluable work

Check out the SWLEN calendar & TCV website for more upcoming events and volunteering opportunities to help out in your local community and meet some really inspiring people: