Meet our volunteers: Bill Young
Emma Chaplin catches up with Bill Young, who has been volunteering with us for a remarkable 45 years.
Tell us about yourself
I currently live in Charlton, West Sussex, one field away from Levin Down, and have now reached the grand old age of 76. Forty-five of those years have been spent as a volunteer with Sussex Wildlife Trust, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. For most of my working life I have been a laboratory technician at what eventually became University of Chichester, but have been retired for eleven years.
Tell us about volunteering with us
I became a volunteer in 1978, having picked up a leaflet about Sussex Wildlife Trust at the information hut at Pagham Harbour at Sidlesham after photographing birds at the Ferry Pool.
The idea of volunteering to help the wildlife that I was becoming increasingly interested in appealed to me, and I joined the Trust as a member. I tried out volunteering at several reserves before deciding to concentrate at the time on West Dean Woods, a place I grew to love. I didn’t start volunteering at Levin Down until around 2004, as West Dean Woods changed from weekends to Mondays and Thursdays and I couldn’t always take a day of my annual holidays to go there.
My current role with Sussex Wildlife Trust is as a Lookerer on Levin Down on alternate Saturdays. Due to developing a serious problem with my cervical spine I am no longer able to do practical conservation work. For three years I was Volunteer Reserve Manager (VRM) for Levin Down until my neck problem meant that was no longer possible.
What do you love about Levin Down?
Levin Down is a special place, and I love its huge natural diversity, with many different habitats and micro-habitats, and the views over the Lavant Valley from Singleton to East Dean. Although Levin Down has many visitors, it is still a peaceful and calming place.
My favourite time of year on Levin is the late spring and summer, when Levin is in full bloom with downland wildflowers, butterflies, and other invertebrates. A warm summer’s evening is simply magical.
What changes have you seen over the years?
Volunteering today is the same for the practical work as it was when I first started, but the opportunities now are much more varied and supported. There have been changes of Trust directors and VRMs of course, but everything is more professional today.
Has anything unexpected ever happened?
The most unexpected thing to have occurred was the effect of Covid, which meant that for some time there was no grazing on the site, and the whole of Levin that summer exploded with wildflowers.
What have you gained from being a volunteer?
I have found that volunteering has enabled me to meet many new people, some of whom have become long-term friends, and carrying out the work leads to a feeling of satisfaction and achievement.