About Aberystwyth Conservation Society

Image taken from @aberystwythconservation

I recently joined Aberystwyth's Conservation Society for one of their Monday socials. They invited me to their beach bonfire, warning me that this plan was weather-dependent and that they would head to the pub if the weather wasn’t great. Stepping out into the wind and rain, I was surprised to find that I had not received a text saying that they were at the pub. I continued towards South Beach, doubting that anyone would be there. However, in the spirit of their devotion to nature, there they were. Conservation Society members were crowded around an impressive bonfire. I spoke with a few members, some of whom have graduated from the university but continue to be a part of the society.  

I spoke mostly to Rachel Horton, the publicity officer, who studies wildlife conservation. They explained how being a member of the society enables them to gain volunteering experience that is crucial to their prospective career path: 'The only way you can get a paid job is to just rack up the hours of volunteering.’ This, however, seemed to be an added benefit, as it was clear that Rachel loves those involved in the society and the work that they do. ‘It’s just like a fun group of people, and I feel like the tasks we do are really rewarding, and it's just nice to be able to contribute to the environment.’ 

Rachel listed some examples of the types of their conservation work: ‘It mostly involves land management-based things like path maintenance, and more conservation-centered physical activities like invasive species removal. We’ve done quite a bit in Penglais woods, like bramble clearance to expose the bluebells.’ Rachel remarked that working in places you may come across in your daily routine, such as Penglais woods, ‘...brings a new appreciation for things that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.’  

When I asked what the members enjoy about being in the society, it was clear from their response that the tasks are rewarding in a variety of ways. Not only does the conservation work ‘make you feel good and productive’, but Rachel also said that ‘...it simply helps to have a bit of a break, to be outside.’ They described one of their favourite tasks: ‘Getting stuck into bramble clearance and stuff like that, where you can just fully go a bit wild.’ This certainly seems like it could take your mind off an upcoming essay for a little while. Rachel’s favourite memory, however, was a trip to Newquay at the end of last year. ‘One of the other members buzzed my hair off, which was quite fun. That was probably my favourite memory, but that’s not very conservation based.’ 

I was told that the club has been running for over 20 years. When I asked how they find and decide upon the tasks, Rachel informed me that they have ‘a massive list of contacts’ which they have ‘accumulated over the years’. This suggested the club’s level of establishment, not only within the university but also within the wider Aberystwyth community. This is expected, since conservation is not confined to a single space or group – it is something that requires an engagement with one’s community and environment. Bradley Powell, the society’s secretary, observed the indispensability of conservational work, as ‘...conservation is definitely an ongoing thing. I guess as conservation becomes more and more important, I want to just make sure that the society continues so that we can be there to help out where needed.’ 

They organise various weekly tasks and host socials every Monday at 7:30pm. ‘On Wednesday afternoon, we have our tasks just local to Aberystwyth, and then Saturday we have our main tasks, which are in the local area but can be a bit of a drive,’ Rachel explained. Membership costs £10, but if someone is interested in joining, they can go to a Wednesday task ‘just to try it out and see if they like it’.