The joy of volunteering

Mark McVey is a member of the Coves Reservoir Green Gym in Greenock, run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and partner organisations. Here he tells us about the many benefits that volunteering delivers.

Mark McVey, Coves Reservoir Green Gym

How did you get involved in the Green Gym?  After visiting my doctor regarding mental health concerns I was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as well as the SAMH Gateways programme.  SAMH introduced me to various local and community projects, one of which was the Coves Reservoir Green Gym which I started attending in May 2017.

What activities has the group been doing?  Our activities have been very varied including path maintenance, litter picking, wildflower planting, basic forest and habitat management, along with more observational tasks such as bio-recording and dead wood surveys.

What do you get out of it – what are the benefits for you? Becoming a volunteer has brought me many benefits, both mental and physical.  Having something specific to do every week has brought a bit of structure to my life, interacting with the other volunteers along with the sense of being part of the community, and has gone a long way towards lifting the feelings of isolation and loneliness I was experiencing. I find the physical work and just being outside in nature has lifted my mood, boosted my confidence, and generally made me feel less unfit.

Have you learned any new skills?  Before getting involved with the Green Gym, I was very socially isolated and withdrawn – being part of the group has let me relearn a lot of social skills I’d lost. I’d never really done any sort of outdoor work at all before volunteering with TCV, but now I’m able to work with tools properly and confidently, as well as having a better understanding of when and why the work we’re doing is done.  I’ve learned to appreciate the outdoors more and increased my observational skills, being able to identify many trees, plants, animals etc that I never could before.  Additionally, volunteering at Coves has prompted me to learn other skills outside the Green Gym, encouraging me to obtain an Emergency First Aid certificate as well as working on my own photography and microelectronics projects related to Coves Reservoir.


What’s the best thing about your conservation volunteering?  For me, the social and community aspects of volunteering have been the most notable.  Years of isolation had severely blunted my ability to interact with people socially, but the Coves Reservoir Green Gym has provided a safe environment for me to re-learn the skills I’d lost. My ability to interact with other people as well as simply being able to go outside and enjoy the world is in no small part thanks to volunteering at Coves.

The weekly Coves Reservoir Green Gym is organised by Rebecca Strofton, TCV Senior Project Officer: or 0141 552 5294/07739 447964

Find out more @

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