End of an Era for YWT Volunteers

At the end of this week, John Wollaston retires. He's been Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's East Yorkshire Field Officer for the last 10 years. He's managed most of the volunteer work days I've been on since I retired seven years ago. If ever there was an 'unsung hero' of conservation, it's John.

 John Wollaston (photo: Paul Robinson)

As well as having the huge range of practical skills required for his job, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of natural history, being a skilled birder, botanist and entomologist. He's equally able to guide parties of academics around Askham Bog nature reserve, or inspire groups of primary school children at Kiplingcotes.

Mowing brambles at North Cliffe Wood, so next year's bluebells will be the best ever

There was always a relaxed and friendly atmosphere on his volunteer work days, masking the fact that many required meticulous planning. He'd arrive with a trailer loaded with just the right materials to build a section of boardwalk, for example. His sense of humour ensured that work days were always great fun, even in the worst of weather. He'd manage to get the best out of every volunteer, whether he had a group of 20 or it was just me.

Boardwalk building

John has taught me a great deal. He's been a massive help with the blog for BBC Wildlife magazine, always pointing out things I could be writing about - an interesting fungus, a rare orchid, or even a grass snake.

Jews ear fungus at Skerne Wetlands

Bee orchid at North Cave Wetlands

Huge grass snake at North Cliffe Wood

John has been a great asset to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and will be greatly missed by his volunteers. We wish him a long and happy retirement.

Lunch break in the woods

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