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RSPCA volunteer found a new lease of life lending a hand at wildlife centre

RSPCA garden volunteers

The RSPCA is highlighting the work of its amazing volunteers and the massive contribution they make to the animal charity during Volunteers’ Week (June 3-9).

Volunteers’ Week, organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), is an annual celebration of the efforts made by millions of people who selflessly offer their time and skills in unpaid roles.

The RSPCA offers a range of volunteer roles, which include those of Animal Rescue Volunteers (ARVs), who undertake invaluable work as volunteer drivers, in rescuing and transporting animals to animal centres where they can be cared for and rehabilitated.

Other volunteers include foster carers who offer space in their own homes and look after animals before permanent homes can be found for them. The RSPCA also recruits microvolunteers who help with campaigning work by undertaking administration and social media work.

The charity’s  Wildlife Friends – a scheme started last year as part of the Big Help Out to mark King Charles III’s Coronation celebrations – has been hugely popular for microvolunteers who have carried out tasks to protect and nurture wildlife in their own gardens and local communities. This year more than around 1,200 have already signed up to do their bit for wildlife.

Volunteers’ Week is celebrating its 40th year and organisers are seeking out more people from all backgrounds to offer their time to make a difference in their communities. Volunteering also brings many benefits to those taking part such as providing a chance to learn new skills and boost their confidence and mental health.

Brian Corrigan, who has volunteered with the RSPCA for the last 11 years, was referred to the charity’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre at Nantwich in Cheshire by a therapist after a difficult period in his life.

Volunteer Brian Corrigan

Over the years he has pitched in with maintenance work on the site as well as helping with the release of wild animals who have completed their rehabilitation at the centre. Most recently he has helped with the establishment of the RSPCA’s RHS Garden which relocated from the Chelsea Flower Show to the Cheshire site last Autumn.

“I went through a torrid time with depression and having spoken to a therapist she suggested what would make life much better for me would be working in an animal environment,” recalled Brian, 79, from Middlewich. “I’d been a sales manager working for a safety equipment firm, spending  30 years covering the country with my job. But once I was retired I just got so fed up, not knowing what to do with myself and depression crept up on me.

“I came here and had a chat with Lee Stewart, the Wildlife Centre Manager, and I was volunteering the next day. It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life as I managed to get over a difficult hurdle in my life by joining a wonderful team here.

“I do maintenance work, gardening and animal release, which is a really nice part of the job. I’ve made some wonderful friends while I’ve been here and we get such a buzz from creating things such as the RHS Garden which has been so well received by the public. I would recommend volunteering to everybody.”

The RSPCA garden

RSPCA garden Stapeley

, designed by award-winning landscaper Martyn Wilson,  made a big impression during the 2023 RHS Chelsea Flower Show where it won a silver-gilt medal from the judging panel. After the show a major logistical operation swung into action as staff and volunteers transported and replanted the garden at Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in an area set aside for a community wildlife project.

The garden was opened to the public last month and the RSPCA hopes its wildlife-themed features and its wonderful collection of plants and flowers will inspire visitors to undertake work to protect wildlife in their own gardens.

“It was a tremendous project, everything moved on a fleet of vehicles with the trees laid down in the backs of curtain-sided trailers,” recalled Brian. “We kept all the plants and shrubs in a large tent and kept them watered for weeks during a spell of really hot weather before they were planted.

“We managed to save everything that came up from London and there were some really beautiful plants. We had a team of people coming in to hose the roots of the trees to keep everything watered.

“Now there are plans for extending the grounds at Stapeley Grange, including making it wheelchair-friendly so we can invite care home residents to come and have a look around the site. There’s a great team of volunteers who have made it all possible. Now it’s finished we are going to make sure it’s maintained to a high standard. You can’t let something like this go as it’s so wonderful.”


Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre Manager Lee Stewart said: “Our volunteers have always  been amazing and we really do appreciate their time and commitment. Brian’s enthusiasm for Stapeley is incredible, but he is one of many here that give up their time for our animals.  We think the world of our team of volunteers, we simply cannot do what we do without them.

“There are so many opportunities here. Our volunteer drivers save our officers time when it comes to picking up wildlife casualties and transferring and releasing animals, which means our officers have more time to spend on tackling animal cruelty. Our gardening volunteers (pictured above) are so important to us, particularly helping us make the relocation of the RHS Garden to Cheshire such a success. The enthusiasm for the work, such as that shown by Brian, and the expertise our volunteers can lend is invaluable.”

This year’s Volunteer’s Week culminates with the Big Help Out (June 7-9) and during the week the RSPCA’s Wildlife Friends is offering hundreds of people the chance to take to the outdoors and make a difference by nurturing and protecting wildlife. They can undertake a variety of tasks from planting wildlife-friendly plants to support ecosystems to putting up bird boxes and building bug hotels.

During 2021/22 the NCVO estimated 14.2 million people in the UK volunteered through a group, club or organisation.

Last year (2023) the RSPCA nationally received vital support from 7,013 volunteers. Of the 5,511 new volunteers signing up, around 2,000 were Wildlife Friends.

During the year the charity’s volunteers completed 7,304 microvolunteering tasks, while its 292 Animal Rescue Volunteers helped 4,075 animals by offering 10,750 hours of their time collecting and transferring animals.

RSPCA Head of Volunteering Brian Reeves said: “Volunteers’ Week is an opportunity to celebrate our fantastic volunteers here at the RSPCA. The time they give willingly, along with their commitment and dedication to animals and animal welfare is phenomenal.

“Every volunteer in every role is appreciated, and they should take pride in the fact that they are changing the lives of animals.”

RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “Our volunteers are incredibly important and we were so proud that so many signed up last year. Anyone can volunteer for the RSPCA and our volunteers come from all walks of life. Volunteering is really good for you, it’s a great opportunity to make new friends, give back to the community and it is good for your health and wellbeing.”

You can find out more about volunteering opportunities with the RSPCA here.

This month the RSPCA celebrates its 200th year of changing industries, laws, minds, and animals’ lives. To mark this anniversary the animal welfare charity wants to inspire one million people to join their movement to improve animals’ lives. Together, there are actions, big and small, everyone can take to create a better world for every animal. To find out your kind of kindness and turn it into action for animals visit: rspca.org.uk/everykind.

Join in our celebrations by becoming an RSPCA Wildlife Friend. We need as many people as possible to join us to help create a better world for animals. Because a world that’s better for animals is a better world for us all. To find out how you can join the million-strong movement for animals visit www.rspca.org.uk/200