My role as a Trustee and now Chair of the Board of is entirely voluntary. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and after moving to Perthshire in 2017 I discovered many more places to walk and I love to take photographs everywhere too.  I first came across PKCT on twitter, and a couple of years later saw an advert for ‘Trustees’. One of the reasons I became a Trustee was to do something for my local environment and to volunteer my expertise built over 35 years in conservation and environmental education and help the Trust develop discovery and engagement activity.   

Stephen beside the Birnam Oak © Stephen Woollard

I became a Trustee just before the covid lockdown of 2020 and so my first and several subsequent meetings with staff and other Trustees was online. For an organisation that promotes and supports access to the countryside across Perth & Kinross, ‘lockdown’ was a challenge, however, we used the time to refresh our strategy and this led to supporting the CEO to secure additional funding to enable new staff roles in conservation and education activity.

Whilst being a Trustee largely involves meetings through the year to support the management of the charity and its staff, it has also been great to join in tree-planting for our “tree for every child” initiative that we linked to the Queen’s Green Canopy project in 2022. I have also attended a few events for PKCT and met people, including fellow Trustees, that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. 

Stephen with Kinloch Rannoch Primary School © Ian Biggs

Volunteering is a commitment but also a pleasure and it’s a reward to know you are making a difference, helping and supporting a good cause. I’m at a stage in my career, working freelance and part-time, that I have some free time but am still engaged in my field of expertise and can bring insight to the role as well as promote the Trust to others. In my career I have regularly undertaken voluntary roles related to my work but additional to paid employment, not least as they enable connections and networks for my own work, as well as helping others.

As someone who has ‘employed’ volunteers in the past, for example as Head of Education at Edinburgh Zoo, I know how valuable volunteers are, but I also know that volunteers need to be managed and supported and are not just a ‘free workforce’. With PKCT we are looking carefully into what volunteering opportunities we can create for others to support the Trust and its work. Our mission of getting people into the heart of the countryside and the countryside into the hearts of people is so apt for this. A lot of what we do already involves local communities that engage in some volunteer activity.

At a time when many are struggling with the cost of living and there is a climate and biodiversity crisis facing us, alongside the mental health challenges that brings, volunteering with PKCT is a great way to enjoy the wonderful countryside we have, support the charity, and help to enable others to enjoy it too.