Allan Archer: VolunteerBack to News
9 Oct 2018
Name: Allan Archer
Been volunteering at Pensthorpe Natural Park since: May 2018
Having been mad about nature since the age of 12, Allan always knew he would end up following his passion for wildlife and conservation.
But after a busy career in business operations and marketing Allan ended up taking time out from work in 2016 to focus on his mental wellbeing.
“Depression stops you doing the things you love. After a period of treatment I started to get my depression under control and that’s when I began volunteering. I saw it as an opportunity to reconnect with my hobby – nature” Allan comments.
It was a chance meeting with Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, where he heard about the merits of Pensthorpe as a bird-watching and nature haven. Intrigued, Allan attended the launch of Pensthorpe’s Wetland Hide back in April 2018 and it was at that moment, out on the reserve armed with his binoculars, that he saw first-hand the wonders that Pensthorpe had to offer.
“The launch of the Wetland Hide opened my eyes to the scale and beauty of Pensthorpe. I was so impressed to hear about the work they’re doing to re-establish the area for wildlife and as an author of an online conservation magazine, talk: Wildlife, it was of instant appeal.”
Allan started volunteering soon after the hide launch and before long was hosting talks about dragonflies and butterflies and conducting moth trapping in order to show all generations of Pensthorpe visitors the vast array of moths that live in the Wensum Valley.
“I get such a buzz talking to people about wildlife and the best bit comes when I see them get as enthused as me! It’s especially nice talking to families who aren’t necessarily into nature and watching them have that ‘lightbulb moment’ where they get insight into how magnificent and awe-inspiring the natural world really is.
“If you can spark that moment it’s amazing to think that you might have played a small role in inspiring a life-long love of nature.”
Allan’s warm, friendly approach and his passion for wildlife has made him an instant hit with visitors who often return time and time again to see his latest demonstration or hear one of his talks.
“The world is an outdoor classroom and it’s there for the taking. Volunteering in a job I love in an environment that I care passionately about has honestly changed my life. It’s something I should have done years ago.
“Not only has volunteering helped me to get my mental wellbeing back on track but it’s given me an opportunity to do something I love. The role gives me flexibility and it’s particularly rewarding to be part of a place like Pensthorpe, where everyone knows your name and genuinely cares about you.
“I feel appreciated and valued. Anyone who suffers with mental health disorders knows that that’s not a feeling you’re used to experiencing often and I credit volunteering with restoring my confidence and self-worth.”
Allan believes the tide is shifting towards people taking a more active involvement in nature and caring about protecting the environment. The key to this, Allan believes, is education and exposure. By engaging with Pensthorpe visitors, talking to them about nature and conservation and letting them get hands on with some of the wildlife, through activities like pond dipping and moth trapping, we can influence this shift.
The key is to rekindle the enthusiasm in the parents and grandparents, many of whom may have spent their childhood playing outdoors, introduce wildlife to parents who have not had exposure to the natural world and inspire children while their curiosity and wonder for creatures is still fresh.
This ethos is shared by the entire team at Pensthorpe, which is why the partnership with Allan is such a natural one. And inspiring visitors is something that Allan is motivated to do every single day that he steps out onto the reserve.