Strewn among the beautiful rolling fields of England’s largest National Park, the Lake District, are glacial rivers, wild Fell ponies and England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike, as well as landscapes iconic Romantic poet Wordsworth described as, “A sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy". There is also a huge team of volunteers ensuring the protection of nature, wildlife, communities, over 16,000 archaeological sites and, of course, the 17.3 million visitors the Park receives each year.
Tim Duckmanton is responsible for managing the development of the Lake District Volunteer Service and its delivery of the Volunteering Strategy. He develops, promotes and coordinates volunteering opportunities within the organisation and is the first point of contact for organisations and individuals seeking volunteering positions with the National Park Authority, as well as allocating available volunteer resources to meet the organisation’s objectives.
The scope and diversity of the work supported by the National Park Authority volunteers include, among other things, repairing the network of upland paths, leading Guided Walks, maintaining the landscape through practical conservation tasks, and staffing the four visitor and information centres.
Tim already brought a high-level of expertise to his role, having completed a Masters in Sustainability of the Uplands in 2013, however, he felt his responsibilities as a manager of volunteers would benefit from his undertaking further vocational learning and he wanted accreditation of his skills. He describes his motivation for studying an Institute of Leadership and Management Level 5 VRQ in Management of Volunteers was, “To learn new ideas, refresh my skills and reflect on my work practices, as well as hoping to demonstrate my ability to apply my knowledge of volunteer management.”
With a university education background, Tim’s initial instinct was to seek a similar style of seminar-based learning to achieve his goals, however he was unable to find a course that provided the specific vocational learning he needed. PNE Development offers the Management of Volunteers vocational qualification through distance learning and had the additional benefit of being available at a price that was within Tim’s training budget.
Distance learning proved to have an additional benefit, giving Tim space to juggle the commitments of his busy work schedule and family life; letting him ease into the qualification at a pace that suited him. He commented that the assessment planning sessions with his assessor provided a useful aide memoir for returning to study effectively after breaks.
So, how has the qualification helped Tim and supported him in his responsibility to develop and manage the crew keeping the Cumbrian countryside a safe and enjoyable experience for residents and visitors? He reports his knowledge of managing volunteers went from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’, noting increased strategic awareness, improved performance management skills and an improved ability to manage change and conflict. He also feels there has been a positive impact on his professional status as a manager of volunteers, which can bring beneficial improvements in relationships with both employers, the volunteers he manages and the partner organisations they work with. Tim notes, “I have become more reflective and this has helped my strategic thinking”.
Part of what makes the Lake District so beautiful is how undisturbed much of the Parks landscape remains, ‘untouched’ by people, with sprawling fields and abundant nature. Yet, behind the scenes, an army of people are working hard to keep it that way, sharing their love for the area with its millions of visitors and ensuring it remains available for future generations to enjoy. Tim’s role organising these passionate volunteers into an effective team helps allow that to happen, and completing a Management of Volunteers qualification has supported him to progress his effectiveness in achieving that goal.