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Volunteering with Changing Chalk

Volunteers working on the white horse at Litlington
Volunteers tending to the white horse sculpture at Litlington | © Dan Fagan

Changing Chalk is a multi-project initiative aiming to connect nature, people and heritage across a 458 sqkm area of the eastern South Downs. Its purpose is to restore lost habitats, bring histories to life, and provide new experiences in the outdoors. We need the help and support of local people to support this ambitious project. Read on to find out how you can get involved.

Fancy being a scrub basher, a sheep lookerer, a seed sower, a bug counter, or a monument mentor?

Changing Chalk volunteers play a vital role in protecting the chalk grassland and heritage of the South Downs and there is definitely no one 'type' when it comes to volunteering with us. Our current volunteers are different ages, from different backgrounds, and with different skills and experiences. What they do have in common is a desire to help their local area and make a difference.

Volunteering has a wealth of health and wellbeing benefits, is a great way to meet new people, develop skills and confidence, add to your CV and safeguard nature for future generations to enjoy. It's also a great way to:

  • meet new people and make new friends
  • learn new skills and share knowledge
  • add to your CV
  • build confidence
  • safeguard the local area for future generations to enjoy.

Whether you can commit a lot or just a little time, there's a wide range of opportunities across the partnership's 18 projects. They include roles in nature and habitat conservation, history and archaeology, community support, and administration, so there's bound to be something you feel is a good fit.

To get a taste of what volunteering for the Changing Chalk partnership is like and meet some of the team, do watch this video.

And if you see a role below that you're interested in, just complete this online form or email us.

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Get a taste of volunteering for the project

To get a taste of what volunteering for the Changing Chalk partnership is like and meet some of the team, do watch this video.

Nature and Conservation roles

Conservation Volunteer - Landport Bottom and Butt's Brow, Lewes

You can get involved with this regular monthly conservation group on the chalk grassland habitat at Landport Bottom, just outside Lewes. These roles with the Railway Land Wildlife Trust will suit you if you are interested in nature and outdoor experiences and are happy working as part of a team.

You'd be part of a friendly group working together to protect and restore this diverse and threatened habitat. As well as learning about chalk grassland ecology and developing ID skills for wild flowers, invertebrates, birds, reptiles and mammals, you'll gain practical skills in habitat management such as scrub management, invasive species control, fencing and footpath repair. You could also get involved with seasonal ecological surveying, practical estate work, occasional events and guided walks.

Conservation Volunteer - Southwick Hill, Brighton

Southwick Hill is a designated local wildlife site with beautiful and rare habitats including chalk grassland, which is home to many species found almost nowhere else. Over recent years, the condition of these habitats has been in decline on Southwick Hill due to lack of grazing and management.

We need volunteers to help us carry out important work such as scrub clearance and maintenance to support grazing livestock, which will conserve and restore the precious chalk grassland. In the spring and summer months we’ll also go for wildlife walks and carry out surveying to monitor how the Downland species are faring.

This National Trust role will suit you if you are someone who loves to work outdoors. eare nthusiastic about conserving nature and the Downs, and keen to learn new skills and share knowledge and skills. Volunteers need to be relatively fit and mobile as, although most tasks can be adapted, we're often working on slopes and uneven terrain.

Conservation Volunteer - Wilding Waterhall, Brighton

Volunteers are needed at Waterhall to carry out practical conservation tasks and citizen science surveying within the Brighton and Hove City Council's new local nature reserve. No experience is necessary, just the enthusiasm to help the rangers improve this important local nature reserve. All training and tools will be provided.

Tasks will include scrub clearance, wildflower planting and seeding, hedgerow planting, litter picking, stock fence construction and surveying for wildlife. There will also be a chance to join the City Parks Lookering programme to help with sheep, cattle, and pony grazing on the site.

Conservation Volunteer - Various local wildlife sites

Help to support nature and restore beautiful habitats across local wildlife sites on the South Downs. You'll learn about the rare chalk grassland habitat and help to restore it, providing important stepping-stones, or corridors, for wildlife across the landscape. This is a practical role for outdoorsy types, with activities such as chopping, sawing, raking, lopping, hammering, fencing, burning or making habitat piles, and clearing scrub. In summer you may get invovled with plant and animal surveying. You'll need a reasonable level of initial fitness, but you'll work at your own pace, as well as being in some great countryside sites alongside skilled nature conservation professionals.

Pollinator Monitoring Volunteer

This seasonal volunteering role might suit if you want to get involved but you can't commit all year round. BugLife need volunteers to monitor pollinating insects, either in your local greenspace or garden, as well as helping out on surveys for specific species of pollinator such as the Large Scabious Mining Bee.

You will learn about different groups of pollinating insects, how to identify them and how to contribute your records to national surveys. No experience is needed as training will be given and no particular equipment is needed for the training.Some sites are accessible by public transport, others require a car to get to them, but travel expenses can be reimbursed.

Wart-biter Bush-cricket Monitoring Volunteer

BugLife also need volunteers to help monitor Wart-biter Bush-cricket populations. This rare and endangered Bush-cricket is only known in six sites in the whole country, 4fourof which are in the Changing Chalk project area. They are active in the summer months, primarily during July and August, so this is a very seasonal role. We monitor them by listening for the male’s song, so good hearing is required. You will be walking across sometimes steep slopes but otherwise no specific clothing or equipment is required.

You will learn what Wart-biter Bush-crickets sound like and how we monitor populations. Once trained, there is the opportunity to undertake this essential monitoring of the species as part of a small group of volunteers. You will also learn about chalk grassland and how it is managed.

our archaeology apprentice, Kayleigh, up a hill on a very windy day
Out on Mount Caburn near Lewes getting ready for Monument Mentors | © National Trust / Gary Webster

Archaeology, History and Heritage

'Downs from Above' Detective

This is an opportunity to be involved in the discovery of new archaeological sites, and discover the history that has shaped the South Downs.

Historic England have recently mapped archaeology from historical aerial photos and LiDAR surveys which has given us 190sqKM of data to visit, explore and interpret. Downs from Above volunteers will go out, either as part of an organised group or independently, to investigate the areas of archaeology on the map, discuss the interpretation of the remains, and do some more in-depth recording of the features where needed. The mapping data will be available online.

No experience needed, just an interest in history and archaeology. An eye for things that are hiding in the landscape and being able to use an online map would be useful, however there will be training for this if required. There will be opportunities to be trained in several archaeological techniques.

Monument Mentor

Monument Mentors will be helping to ensure that the 227 scheduled monuments within the Changing Chalk area - from Neolithic causewayed enclosures and Bronze Age barrows to Iron Age hillforts - are preserved for future generations to learn from. Having some knowledge of the monuments is great, but not needed. You will be trained on where to look for the monuments and how to assess the condition, but the most important thing is to have a love for the downland landscape. There is some walking involved, but the distances are dependant on the monuments visited.

As a monument mentor you will be looking at the various factors that can affect monuments, such as vegetation overgrowth, erosion and burrowing animals. We will be looking at the monuments, assessing them for damage, taking photos and updating the records.

This role is very flexible. It can be done as part of a big group or as part of your usual exploration of the Downs, and you can participate as much or as little as you like.

Research Volunteer, Eastbourne

Following June's successful Big Dig in Eastbourne and the archaeological evidence unearthed, Heritage Eastbourne are now looking for documentary evidence of how Eastbourne developed as a Downland settlement. As a volunteer you will be searching for this evidence in old documents and maps, in archives and online. If you've an eye for detail, love solving a mystery or just want to contribute to the story of the development of Eastbourne thi smight be perfect for you. All training will be provided and travel expenses can be paid.

Six small white dogs, led by two people, Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire
Chalk Life, Dog Life on the Downs | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Community-based roles

Chalk Life, Dog Life volunteer site checker - Landport Bottom, Lewes

This role will suit you if you are a dog owner who regularly walks on Landport Bottom.

By getting involved you'd be part of a friendly community working together to protect and restore this diverse and threatened chalk grassland habitat. Roughly once a week, as part of your normal dog walk, you'd note any issues with litter, dog poo, livestock health and dog behaviour in the area and report it back to the site manager. Every volunteer is taken through the risk assessment and Health and Safety considerations before starting the role, and you'd receive plenty of free training in Outdoor First Aid, lookering, dog behaviour training and ecology. You wouldn't be expected to clear any litter yourself and, although you would be potentially happy engaging with people in a non-confrontational manner about positive dog behaviour on chalk grassland, you would not be required to do anything you’re not comfortable with.

Community Volunteer Recruiter

Volunteer Recruiters love volunteering and run campaigns to inspire new people to give it a go. They love going out and about in the community talking to people and engaging them with the outdoors. They’re good at systems too and stay in touch with potential new recruits. You'd be working with project teams to identify tasks and roles where volunteers can help; helping to write role summaries; promoting volunteering in the local community; handling enquiries from potential volunteerand building our profile with local voluntary organisations. You'll be creative with good IT skills, and great at coming up with new ways for us to contact potential new volunteers. The Changing Chalk project area covers the South Downs between Shoreham and Eastbourne. You can choose to work on all or just part of this area.

Meat Share Administrator

Work as part of the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership (BHFP) team, this customer-facing volunteer role is very varied. Volunteers help with farm events and meat box collections, sort vacuum-packed cuts of meat and organise boxes, set up venues ready for the general public to arrive, use local networks to help promote the Meat Share scheme online and in their area, and share social media content and recipes online. BHFP offer free Level 2 Food Hygiene training and discounted meat boxes. Volunteers need to be able access more rural areas, and enthusiasm and passion for local food and farming is important.

National Trust Office Administrator

This role would suit someone who wants to become involved in a large-scale conservation, heritage and social impact project. You'll be keen on learning how the National Trust, Third Sector organisations, local authorities and community groups, and National Lottery Heritage Fund operate. You'll be managing a public-facing mailbox and communicating with members of the public who are interested in Changing Chalk, as well as managing spreadsheets, inputting data, supporting our Senior Project Co-ordinator to submit progress reports to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and being on hand to help our project leads with a range of office admin tasks. You'll need to have some previous office administration experience for this role but also be open to learning new techniques and skills. The role can be based at Saddlescombe Farm (no public transport links) and/or from home.

View looking over Lewes and the surrounding landscape
Lewes and Bordering Landscape, Sussex | © South Downs National Park/ Martin Offer

Latest News and Blogs

May 2023

A typical day's volunteering with Changing Chalk

There's no typical day when you are out volunteering. Here's what two of our teams of volunteers got up to with our Chalk Life Rangers on our project sites at Southwick Hill and Gayles Farm. Read more

Volunteers clear the scrub saplings on Southwick Hill
Conservation work on Southwick Hill | © Natalie Barb

Contact us


Get in touch! To find out how you can get involved with Changing Chalk email us: