A record number of more than 70,000 people are volunteering for the National Trust, according to figures released last week in the charity’s annual report.
In the North East, there are 1,560 volunteers covering more than 100 different jobs, who between them undertake 66,404 hours of unpaid work a year worth a phenomenal £575,058 to the Trust.
In the region, Wallington at Cambo boasts the most volunteers with 265, closely followed by Cragside at Rothbury with 235.
One of the Trust’s most industrious recruits who always goes the extra mile is Ian Chadwick.
The retired history teacher from Holywell has been supporting the Trust’s Long Nanny tern site at Beadnell for the past six seasons.
He and the other volunteers begin their day by taking a half-mile walk along a beach and dune grassland in all weathers.
But Ian – who was encouraged to join the volunteering team by coastal ranger Kevin Redgrave after stumbling across the site when out walking – does more than just keep a close eye on the 1,500-strong Arctic tern population.
He now not only helps repair ropeways, find ringed plover nests and lift grounded Arctic fledglings back into the air, but helps interpret the site for visitors and also volunteers for family rock-pooling events.
He said: “This all started five years ago when I retired early and began walking stretches of the Northumberland coast.
“I suppose the first rite of passage was being christened by tern splatter all over my hat and holding my nerve as I was dive bombed!
“I started with one day a week with the terns and the following season upped it to two, as I enjoyed it so much and we were short of volunteers on a weekend.
“There are always special memories, like the day I helped to look after the site with a coastal ranger and we found a black tern among the Arctic, followed by one of the best moonrises I have ever seen over the sea.
“In fact there have been a lot of wonderful days at the tern site and every day I volunteer something special usually happens.
“I can truly say that starting to volunteer for the Trust has been one of the best decisions I ever made.”