Dunwich Heath volunteer Sam Cooper

Sam scythes bracken on Dunwich Heath

Sixteen year old Sam Cooper spends a day a week volunteering at Dunwich Heath in Suffolk. A first year Countryside Management student, Sam is hoping to become a ranger.

Learning away from the classroom

 
I hated school. I’m an outdoorsy person. I hated sitting indoors in a classroom, watching the teacher at the front of the room. 
 
I learn by doing something myself. Put me in a classroom and show me a slideshow of moths, I wouldn't remember a single one. Give me an identification book and a moth net and I’d be able to memorise half of them. 
 
I started volunteering at Dunwich Heath in my last year of school. We had to find somewhere to spend a week’s work experience. I was expecting to be sat in a visitor centre, talking to people. I wasn’t expecting to do so much practical conservation work. 
 
 

Valuable work

 
It's been a year since I started volunteering at Dunwich and I’ve learned a lot. With the rangers, Richard and Lloyd, I’ve put in fencing, tried hedging and surveyed wildlife on site. 
 
I’ve also been working on my own project: setting up trail cameras to monitor otters and badgers at Dunwich. I walked the whole estate, finding two new badger sets. On the cameras we’ve seen the otters fishing and leaving spraints to mark their territory. 
 
More recently we’ve been setting up moth traps, helping us understand what moths we’ve got on site. I’d never been that interested in moths before. I’ve only been checking the moth traps for a few weeks, but I’ve already picked up so much knowledge. 
 
 

Building a career

 
I’d definitely like to be a ranger when I leave college. I love being outdoors. When you finish a job – say a line of fencing – you feel proud of the work you’ve done. 
 
That’s not something I felt at school. 
 
 
 
Volunteering at Batemans East Sussex

Volunteering events this summer 

Don your wellies and get outdoors with one of our volunteer teams this summer. Pull out some bracken or see how many bugs you can spot at one of our volunteering events around the country.