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Spa Pond Nature Reserve volunteers secure jobs thanks to their charity work

Volunteers who supported the community-run Forest Town Nature Conservation Group in Mansfield have secured jobs off the back of their work with the charity.

Sam Nicholson and Joe Levick gave up their spare time to work at the historic Spa Ponds Nature Reserve, which provided invaluable experience for them.

Forest Town Nature Conservation Group was awarded £45,000 from the Severn Trent Community Fund for a programme of environmental, biodiversity and community access improvements at the site.

Sam

Both Sam and Joe worked on Severn Trent funded projects at Spa Ponds and all the new skills and knowledge that they picked up helped them to transition into brand new job roles.

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According to the Group’s Chair, Shlomo Dowen:

“We are all so proud of both these young people. Sam has proven herself time and again, and even though she is now working full time she continues to head up our water quality testing team. Joe is another treasure, who impressed us with his desire to learn.

“We are thrilled for Joe and know he will make a great apprentice and then an excellent Forest Ranger or similar, helping others benefit from his enthusiasm and growing knowledge and experience”.

Joe left and Sam right

Sam started volunteering with the group more than seven years ago, becoming a trustee of the charity as well. She identified a training gap around project management skills, and her prospective role was written into the bid enabling Sam to contribute to the management of project delivery.

Not only did everyone involved in the project benefit from Sam’s engagement, but off the back of her newfound training and experience she secured a new full-time job as an ecologist.

Joe began volunteering early in 2023, at that time he was not in employment or formal training. He had expressed a desire to work outdoors so a contact at the Job Centre
recommended the charity for him to volunteer for.

On the back of Joe’s growing self-confidence, training, and experience, he applied for a trainee apprenticeship post with the Forestry Commission, using the charity as a referee, and was successful with his application and taken on as an apprentice forest craftsperson.

Sue Heyes, Severn Community Fund Officer, said:

“To see how a project funded by Severn Trent’s Community Fund had such a huge impact on the nature reserve and people’s lives is absolutely amazing and such a pleasure to see.

“We were thrilled to support the work of the Forest Town Nature Conservation Group which gave new life to the spa ponds and also supported our wider Get River Positive commitment
to improving the health of our region’s rivers, as cleaner ponds will result in less pollution in the River Maun and we look forward to seeing the effects of the group’s work for years to come.”

The Spa Ponds Nature Reserve pre-dates 1102 when it was acquired by the King and after more than 1,000 years in royal and then aristocratic ownership it was returned to communal ownership after the group bought the site in 2014.

Severn Trent funding enabled the group to pay contractors to carry out works at a publicly accessible community-owned and managed nature reserve in a semi-urban part of Mansfield.

The project addressed barriers to access – resolving issues associated with muddy impasses – as well as improving water quality, biodiversity, resilience,
signage, and safety, thereby improving the visitor experience and creating a better place for site users whilst supporting healthier lifestyles.

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