Meet the couple who travel 60 miles to help keep ‘second home’ Rufford Park in tip-top condition

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If you want a new challenge this year, take inspiration from volunteers helping Rufford Abbey country park with important conservation work – come rain, shine or even snow.

They include retired couple George and Susan Thompson who make the 60-mile round trip from their home in Doncaster to volunteer at Rufford Abbey, which is managed by Nottinghamshire County Council.

George (65) and 64-year-old Susan travel from Doncaster to clear away dead branches, work in the wetlands and take part in activities such as hedge-laying. And if snow falls, they help clear paths and lay grit in the car parks to aid other visitors.

They have made lifetime friends having volunteered at Rufford for more than a decade treating it almost as a ‘second home’.

George is a retired IT engineer and Susan was a primary school teacher.

Susan said: “We love Rufford - it is a wonderful country park. We enjoy the fresh air and the outdoors and with Rufford’s history of Cistercian monks it offers quite a zen-like atmosphere at times so is great for reducing stress.

“We do not mind severe weather at all. Once it was snowing and we were at the park and just decided to stay to help with the clear up. It gives us a great deal of satisfaction to see the work we do to help keep the park looking lovely.”

Other long term volunteers include Phil Kerr from Tuxford and Linda Bantoft, from Farndon.

Phil (84) is the oldest serving volunteer who works within the park every Monday from the springtime when the weather gets warmer.

He gets a lift in from a friend each week from his home and said: “I love Rufford and really enjoy the volunteer work.

“I would do more if I lived closer to the country park and recommend it to others as a great opportunity to get involved.”

Their collective efforts have been recognised by the council’s culture committee chairman, Coun John Knight at the annual Greenwood Community Awards, who said: “Their contribution is fantastic and we are grateful for everything they, and all of our volunteers do at Rufford each year, and how they go out of their way and give so much time to help.”

Assistant site manager Leanne Wombwell added: “There are some real benefits to volunteering like helping to stay fit and healthy and socialising as well as giving people some vital skills to help with future employment opportunities.

“We would be keen to hear from others aged 18 or above who wants to involved.” If you are interested, contact Leanne via email at: leanne.wombwell@nottscc.gov.uk or call 01623 821338.