Mucking In and Mucking Out: Volunteering Adventures with Active Gloucestershire at GLEAM

09th July 2024 | Lizzie Homer | Team members, Uncategorised

A blog written by Rob Toomer, Active Gloucestershire Senior Project Officer

At Active Gloucestershire, staff get two volunteer days each year and i chose to use one of my days to volunteer at GLEAM.

On a not so sunny Thursday, atop Ruardean hill, (the highest point in the Forest of Dean), myself and my colleague, Lisa, embarked on a volunteering challenge to help clear an overgrown farm garden used by a local charity who deliver activities for children and young people to help improve their mental health.

GLEAM is a project run by The Salvation Army, with a herd of 5 ponies, 3 sheep and 2 goats (one of whom we’ll come back to later!), they provide nature based learning experience for all ages; building confidence and self esteem through working with the animals. Our contact at the project is Judith Bellingham an experienced Trauma Informed Mental Health Practitioner, qualified Play Therapist and founder of InCahoots Therapy, Learning & Coaching (TLC). Judith is one of our trusted providers on our Activity on Referral programme and has supported several young people we have referred to her.

Lisa had volunteered with the programme previously and had recommended it as a very worthwhile way to spend a volunteering day… I did question briefly if this had been a trick when I received an email from Judith the day prior to our visit which listed ‘moving the muck pile’ as one of the big to do’s for the day!

As it turned out, thanks to the wonderful company even this uninviting task turned to be rewarding and dare I say it… quite enjoyable.

We were welcomed to the farm by Judith, Phil and Patrick. Phil and Patrick are residents at the Camp Hill Village Trust and both are regulars at the yard regularly volunteering their time to help look after the animals and maintain the site, they were keen to get stuck in and it wasn’t long before we were put to work!

Over the winter months, the yard turns into what can only be described as a mud bath due to the exposed location of the farm, making the essential upkeep for the horses and other animals very difficult. There are no workshops at the site over the winter and so the garden goes unused. Subsequently, each spring, the team undertake the task of bringing the space back to life ready to be enjoyed by the children who attend the therapeutic sessions once they restart.

Due to the long and wet winter, there was quite the list of things to do… Between us, the grass was cut, planters were weeded and the children’s mud kitchen (a firm favourite of all those who attend workshops) was rescued from a sea of stinging nettles… along with a rose bush, a small tree and numerous troughs and buckets.  We also managed to move quite a lot of the winter muck heap which had been stored temporarily in the garden as the muddy conditions had made it impossible to get to the regular heap. Phil led the way on this showing us all how it was done.

Lisa freed a willow teepee structure from a mass of weeds and we also repaired a fence and replaced the hinges on the gate to the goat pen which was being held on by tied up string. –  Mr Tumnus the larger of the two goats didn’t seem at all happy about this work taking place and having seen he and his pen -mate locking horns at several points throughout the day I was ready to drop my drill and leg it if he made any quick moves.

That said, It wasn’t all hard work, it was lovely to spend time with the Horses and other animals and Lisa brought along some lovely Lemon drizzle cake which we enjoyed with a coffee. At lunch, we were invited to visit the founder of the GLEAM project; Major Vivienne Prescott of the Salvation Army. We heard more about the work of the Salvation army across the Forest of Dean and the impact that the GLEAM project has had on some of the young people who have attended …and Viv made us all some lovely bacon rolls too.

By the end of the day there we were all exhausted, but filled with a lovely sense of wellbeing and pride from what we had achieved. – Judith was so appreciative of the help we had given and couldn’t thank us enough.  Patrick, Phil and Judith sent us a lovely thank you video and we’ve been invited back for a BBQ over the summer months which we are looking forward to.

I would definitely love to go back to help again next year and to see how the garden is developing. Perhaps you’d like to join us too? Or maybe you already have plans as to how you’ll spend your volunteer day?

If you would like to hear more about our volunteer days, get in touch at

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