GREEN VOLUNTEERS: Bush Heritage volunteers Len and Valerie Warren on Eurardy Reserve in West Australia.
GREEN VOLUNTEERS: Bush Heritage volunteers Len and Valerie Warren on Eurardy Reserve in West Australia. Ben Parkhurst

Len and Valerie Warren are turning grey into green

RETIREES Len and Valerie Warren are using their skills and passion to preserve Australia's landscape for future generations.

They are just two of an enthusiastic army of volunteers who each year travel to remote Australian bushland settings to work on preserving Australia's landscape and wildlife for the national not-for-profit organisation Bush Heritage.

Its volunteers work on protecting Australia's natural environment through its 37 reserves and partnerships which are located across Australia taking in six million hectares.

"For us, they are reserving and preserving the landscape," Len said.

"They select properties that have conservation significance and properties that have degraded, and over the years we have seen these properties improve and return, and some of the animals start to return.

"For us it's a direct way of doing something about the environment and about climate change," he added.

Perth-based Len, a former CSIRO scientist and Valerie, previously a teacher, are both 72.

"We lost our son Roy 20 years ago," Valerie said.

"Len's brother Noel wrote and said he had made a donation to Bush Heritage in memory of Roy.

"We said, 'what's Bush Heritage', and he sent us a newsletter.

"We thought it looked good, so we started donating.

"We then got invited to a donor's weekend at the Charles Darwin Reserve.

"The managers were looking for volunteers, so we signed up."

The previous regular bush campers eagerly started at Charles Darwin Reserve, which is located about 355km north-east of Perth, doing odd jobs.

"I remember helping to pour the concrete foundations for the new generator at the reserve and doing some painting," Len said.

"We've done quite a bit of weeding at its annual weeding bee," Valerie said.

"When you are with a group of 10 or 12 people and you are all close together, even though you are weeding, you talk and so on, and it's not as bad as it sounds," Len added.

"We meet new people all the time even though there is a hard core," he added.

It's only in the last three years that they have also volunteered at the Eurardy Reserve which is located 145km north of Geraldton and where they have been doing sand pad monitoring.

"On a trip to the east coast, we managed to coincide it with volunteering at two other properties in South Australia; at Bon Bon Station and Boolcoomatta."

It's being out in the bush, learning new things and being useful that keeps the Warrens engaged with their Bush Heritage volunteering jobs.

Len has also joined with the Bush Heritage ecologists in their survey work.

"I am involved in a field where I have skills, but no experience and I have met all sorts of new people," he said.

So, while Len and Valerie may have retired professionally, they are happily keeping both intellectually and physically active through their volunteering.

They encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to talk to the Bush Heritage volunteer coordinator.

Before volunteering, Len and Valerie advise -

  • You need to love the bush.
  • Some of the properties are quite remote and the conditions are basic.
  • Knowing how to read a map helps greatly in finding the location of remote reserves.
  • A good GPS is valuable.
  • You need to be totally self-contained with your own food.
  • Most reserve accommodation has air-conditioning.
  • Volunteers can connect on-site via wifi.
  • Anybody with infrastructure skills would be valued on the reserves.

"At Charles Darwin Reserve the visitor's quarters look out across a couple of disused paddocks straight to Mount Singleton about 40kms away," Valerie said.

"The view is just fantastic.

"In May and September the sun rises directly behind that mountain; it's just a lovely place to be."

"You need to love the open air," Len added.

"And have an appreciation of the different trees and shrubs."

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