Some may say that those of us who work in academic publishing are impractical people unused to manual labour. They may also say that office workers are cosseted and unwilling to brave the elements. For the past 3 years, Cambridge Journals Marketing staff (the people behind this blog) have attempted to disprove these stereotypes by battling with the weather, stubborn undergrowth, heavy fence posts and sharp tools by volunteering to maintain nature reserves around Cambridge in the UK.

We’re lucky that Cambridge University Press allows staff to use one day a year to volunteer for good causes in the Cambridge area. The Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust, which maintains a number of fragments of untouched land in the region, offers an experience which is perhaps most unlike office life. So far, Journals Marketing staff have cleared undergrowth, built fences and spent a day coppicing, an ancient technique by which certain English trees can be treated as a crop, harvested every few years to provide straight lengths of wood suitable for building and hedge-laying (another ancient English pastime, which doesn’t involve lying in a hedge). Such coppiced trees, far from being damaged by the process, re-grow after every harvest and can live far longer than natural un-coppiced trees.

Volunteering days offer a multitude of benefits to hard working desk-jockeys. There’s the chance of a day in the fresh air in beautiful countryside, some healthy exercise, and the good feeling of standing back at the end of the day and surveying what’s been achieved. There’s also often the chance to build a (closely supervised) fire in a clearing amongst the trees. There’s nothing quite like the primeval pleasure of standing around a fire in the woods on a cold day, just like the ancestors did. Perhaps best of all, volunteering is both worthwhile and a source of laughter, both at the time and for long after.

We’re now looking forward to our next volunteering day which could involve tree planting or re-creating traditional meadowland. Whichever we decide to do, we’re sure it will achieve something worthwhile for the Wildlife Trust, and provide a good source of anecdotes for the next 12 months.

So far we’ve volunteered at: Brampton Wood, Fulbourn Fen (above) and the historic Hayley Wood (top).

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