I am a recent Maths and Physics graduate from the University of Bristol, and during my studies I volunteered once a week at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. Whilst volunteering, I gained valuable experience working as part of a team and considerable knowledge about exotic and unusual plants; but most importantly I developed strong and valuable friendships with the team of staff and volunteers. This support network and opportunity offered the respite I needed to cope with my university studies, and ongoing problems I was facing outside of university. The University Botanic Garden is a tranquil and relaxing environment that everyone should have the chance to enjoy, as a visitor or volunteer, as a plant lover or not.
The University of Bristol Botanic Garden is within a short walking distance of Stoke Bishop residential accommodation buildings including Badock, Churchill and Hiatt Baker. Entry is free for all university students, not just those at the University of Bristol. Throughout the gardens there are plenty of places to sit, read or study. Whether you’re interested in plants or not, it is an oasis of fascinating information: with an area dedicated to local flora, such as those found exclusively in the Avon Gorge; to the giant Amazonian water lilies in the tropical house whose leaves can grow up to 2m in diameter. Whilst volunteering, I had the opportunity to work in both these areas, from simple weeding and tidying of beds, to carrying out biological control all 4 of the glasshouses. I attended multiple events and festivals dedicated to the care of plants, and also appeared on a BBC Breakfast piece on the benefits of gardening and being outdoors to mental health.
Whilst at university, you have the opportunity to use the space in the University Botanic Garden to take time out of your studies and learn something new. This could be as a visitor, or if you have some free time every week then possibly also as a volunteer. Next time you come to the garden, pop into the office and they’ll give you any information about how to volunteer in the Garden.
By Alistair Kirtley