Cath, 55, is a former teacher. She completed her first Raleigh Expedition in 1987 in Tasmania. Cath joined the four-week Re:Green programme as a Volunteer Manager in September 2021, spending time on an 11-day trek, and working on project sites at Kintail and Glen Affric in Scotland’s Western Highlands.
Before coming on Re:Green, I was teaching economics and business enterprise, as well as being head of careers, at a school in Dorset. I’d been doing that role for the last 14 years and had decided to take voluntary redundancy.
Re:Green appealed to me because its principles are fighting climate change, protecting the Scottish rainforest, and working with young people.
I also liked the idea of a four-week programme that would give me a chance to learn some new conservation skills and challenge myself on the trek. The first part of the project was the two-week trek from Fort William through to Kintail. I’ll be honest, I was quite nervous to take a backpack and wild camp, which I’ve not done for a very long time.
Completing the trek gave me a real sense of achievement and I don’t think I will properly appreciate it until I look back on it after a few months. I think we walked 158km in total – maybe more. It was a long way and very hilly.
The second phase of Re:Green focused on conservation work, mainly clearing drains, removing invasive plant species, and creating dragon fly ponds. I’ve learned a lot about the environment – the biodiversity, the ecosystems, the invasive species.
I didn’t know what was natural forest and what was planted by someone else, like rhododendrons. That knowledge is all new. I like the idea of rewilding and it’s something I’m really interested in.
It’s been great to learn about Scotland’s rainforest and spread the word about why we need to protect it. Re:Green is so important in terms of the positive impact on the environment and the education that spreads out from us, the local community, to people walking through the area.
My first experience of Raleigh was when I went on an Expedition to Tasmania as a 20-year-old student. Being on Raleigh in the 80s really gave me a taste for adventure and challenge. It’s a fantastic thing to do, and even more amazing to complete the circle 35 years later.
When I applied to do Raleigh way back in 1985, I was a 6th form student. In December of 1986 I flew to Hobart, Tasmania for three months. The first phase involved repairing and trekking the Overland Track. The second phase was mammalian studies. We spent three and a half weeks, looking for the Tasmanian tiger, watching wombats (who have square poos!), quolls, and all these amazing nocturnal marsupials. The final phase was the adventure phase where you could go white water rafting down the Franklin River, or hiking in Fraser national park. It was a real adventure.
I knew I had another adventure in me, so when I left my role at the school, it felt like a good time to complete the circle through Re:Green, revisit some of the things that I’d done and see how things had changed.
I’ve loved meeting new people. On Re:Green, I’ve met a breadth of people doing a range of things. People like the forest rangers, the young volunteers, and trekking with a mountain leader. I’ve enjoyed learning about people’s backgrounds and their different motivations for being there.
I think when you get to my age, you pretty much know who you are, but you can still have aims. I’ve done some big challenges – but this is the biggest one I’ve done, for a long time. I’ve got to that point in my life where I do have more choices than I ever did. And not many people would choose to come and do this. So, I’m quite proud of myself but sometimes I think I’m slightly mad – and probably am!
As someone older and as a Volunteer Manager, I think it’s good to keep learning and pushing yourself. It’s very easy to get to my age and think ‘there’s nothing else I need to know’. But that’s not true.
I’m still developing who I am and it’s really important that you never stop doing that. What I’ve learned about myself on Re:Green is that I can still do it. Age is no barrier, it’s only in your head, although it is harder – my knees hurt!
Anyone thinking about applying for a Re:Green programme should just do it – it’s fantastic, they’ll learn a lot about themselves.
For a young person that volunteers, anything that challenges them, changes their perceptions, and stretches them in any way, is going to be good. And it looks great on your CV from a careers point of view.