When we embarked on the journey of completing 10 challenges to commemorate 10 years of CHC, we couldn't have predicted that we'd find ourselves wearing some very attractive waders, donning elbow-length gloves, and wading into some questionably smelling waist-high water. Nonetheless, nothing really bonds you as a team like a hard day of physical work, a healthy dose of laughter and sitting in a pub in the sun, smelling like pondweed.
Picture this: a typical British summer day – rainy, grey and muggy. The CHC team gathered, clad in sensible shoes, and waterproof gear, ready to embark on a day of volunteer conservation work. We began the day brimming with energy, clean and blissfully unaware of what awaited us. It’s safe to say we emerged the other side, pretty exhausted and covered in pond water, algae and reed roots. Before I dig any deeper, I apologise in advance for the abundance of nature puns in this piece; it seems they've become second nature to us.
On our way from the station to the conservation centre, Polly and I speculated about the likelihood of our group ending up in the pond itself, out of all the possible activities we could have chosen. From building habits for the local wildlife, cutting the grass, pruning the trees or sowing seeds there was a wide opportunity for all nature-related activities. However, on turning the corner, we were greeted by six pairs of striking green waders, ready and waiting for us.
Our base for the day was Lavender Pond Nature Reserve, a small nature reserve nestled in the heart of Rotherhithe. This little haven of nature was born from the old logging docks and serves as a green sanctuary for the community to explore and learn about the natural world.
After a thorough safety briefing, the most enthusiastic members of our team eagerly volunteered to get their hands dirty, donning the iconic waders (see the pictures below). Our mission for the day? To remove the overgrown reeds obstructing the locals' view of the pond and replant as many as we could for another conservation group's reserve. Simple, right? Oh, how the blissful ignorance of our desk jobs betrayed us. Green thumbed we are not…
Yet, despite our initial trepidation, the team tackled the challenge with enthusiasm, manoeuvring through the algae-filled pond like seasoned waterfowl. Laughter, screams, retches, echoed from the water. It's safe to say that no one felt entirely in their natural habitat. But it was taken on with gusto!
Throughout the day, our team worked tirelessly in the water, celebrating small victories like pulling out a "good rooter" or a "multi-root." The CHC team has a knack for turning anything into a competition or a source of amusement. While this aquatic adventure unfolded, the rest of the team planted reeds and absorbed a wealth of knowledge from our leaders about the local area and various aspects of nature.
In classic English summer fashion, we experienced the highest rain fall of the month…but luckily, it was only the morning, as the day spanned two seasons, and by afternoon, the heat was sweltering. I tell you what doesn’t mix well – waders and the heat. It didn't take long for talk of cold pints and chips to fill the air. We headed to the pub, where drinks were raised, laughter was abundant, and awards were playfully distributed. The nature puns flowed freely, reaching a level of hilarity that could only be described as fun-gi.
Jokes aside, the day provided an excellent opportunity for our team to come together and step out of our comfort zones, momentarily setting aside daily agency life. As we reflect on our accomplishments as a team, we've been pond-ering the significance of making a difference not just for a day but through the small changes we can incorporate into our daily routines.
As part of our next challenge, we're encouraging the broader CHC team to adopt or continue one small sustainable habit. Collectively, these habits will create a significant impact. We'll keep you updated on our progress and the positive changes we hope to inspire, even within our small team.