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Our Very Own Harriet

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University of Manchester Volunteer of the Year Award

In May 2020, one of our volunteers, Harriet, won third place in the University of Manchester staff Volunteer of the Year awards for her wildlife and community engagement activities at Parrs Wood Environmental Centre (PWEC). Harriet works as a mental health researcher at the University, and volunteers with us in her spare time. The prize comes with a £100 award for the Centre from the University.

While many of our volunteers concentrate on our essential horticultural activities, Harriet focusses on our wildlife. Her volunteering encompasses wildlife surveying, wildlife camera operating, database inputting, contributing newsletter and blog pieces, baking for open days, weeding, harvesting and bird-box maintenance. She also creates displays for our open days about our wildlife, gardens and history, increasing public engagement and interest in our site.

Harriet initiated wildlife surveying at the site seven years ago, and inputs records of the wildlife that she and the other volunteers see here into a central Greater Manchester Local Record Centre database, held by Greater Manchester Ecology Unit. This centralised data can be used by local planning surveyors and naturalists, and demonstrates to external organisations the plethora of wildlife using our varied habitats within our urban location. She also submits Parrs Wood wildlife records to the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch. This collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, in collaboration with professionals, is known as ‘Citizen Science’.

Harriet’s displays on the Centre’s birds, butterflies, moths, fungi, orchards, herb garden and history, beneficially engage fellow volunteers and visitors. In 2019 she delved through the archives to create a substantial new display on the Centre’s social history for the Heritage Weekend. Many visitors loved seeing photos and documents from the archives, and reconnecting with their own histories and memories. In 2018 her vibrant displays also led to an invited 'Gardening for wildlife' public talk for adults and children at Didsbury’s Parsonage Gardens.

Helping to maintain our green spaces creates a better mental and physical environment for both people and wildlife. As a 'younger than average' PWEC volunteer, Harriet's youthful knees and weeding skills aid preparations for the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Britain in Bloom judging days, where we regularly win the top level ‘outstanding’ award, and in 2017 we helped ‘Didsbury in Bloom’ as a whole win in the Urban Community category.

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