Watatunga gives new life to this ‘Old Deer’!

by | Jan 11, 2024 | Watatunga Blog

Age is truly only a number when it comes to volunteering at Watatunga. I was 71 when I applied but I could have been any age and have come from any background. The only thing that matters at Watatunga is that you have a real interest in the work and the animals at this wonderful reserve, enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, and of course it helps that you are reasonably fit and healthy.

I had a very varied life and career before I found Watatunga but my love of the natural world probably stems from my childhood home  which was a highland farm in Scotland  where there were deer and  game birds on our hills (my friends reckon I’m still a really game old bird!) But all that was left behind as I trained as a nurse and eventually came to the Fens as a Ward Sister in Wisbech. Married and three sons later, I decided to go into business and developed a good business with 25 staff. Then came crunch day…. RETIREMENT! I really struggled with this, and searching for something new to keep me busy, I developed a successful narrow boat small business with boat trips from Upwell to March. Eventually that success meant more hard work rather than a fun hobby so after a few years I gave that up. Yet again RETIREMENT! Other things came along, and I did end of life nursing care for a while and found that very fulfilling until finally came the dreaded word ‘Covid’. By then I was living on my own and those months were a truly awful time for me. Lonely, bored and so fed up.

Sheena and fellow volunteer Bronte
Sheena preparing for a tour

Finally, we were free! What on earth was I going to do now? I needed an opportunity in the local area where I could get out to meet people, work with others and have variety in what I was doing. I didn’t want to work in a charity shop. I was too old to nurse and every idea came into my head, simply didn’t inspire me or challenge me.

I heard about Watatunga as a newish visitor attraction and decided to visit one day with one of my sons who has special needs. We were both captivated by everything that we saw and Alex our guide was so wonderful with my son and made his visit so special. I came back again and brought some more friends and as I went home, I knew this magical place was where I wanted to be. The reserve, the animals, the conservation, the people… boom! This was the whole package! This was what I wanted to do and to be part of.

Sheena, keen wildlife photographer

I wrote to the Watatunga office and was asked to come and in meet the staff. I was informed about training, what would be expected of me and was thrilled to know that I would be working with a team where we all do the same job and we all help each other. We do everything to keep the reserve running from ‘meeting and greeting’, making tea & coffee, cleaning buggies, changing tyres, feeding animals and birds, helping in the shop and yes, even cleaning the loos! There are never two days the same. The comradery is for me so special. And if you are reading this, I do encourage you to consider volunteering here. It is great fun; I’ve learned so much about the animals and loved working in a team and, as a volunteer, you always have a senior member of staff or someone to help you. It must be said that I’m not the best at changing tyres! Good training is given in first aid, safeguarding, health and safety, and so on, which all go on behind the scenes.

Sheena and Indian sambar, Orja
Sheena with a Fallow fawn at the village fete

Get togethers and parties are part of this group as well! We all get on so well together. I enjoy photography, running the BBQ hut and look forward to welcoming groups, birthday girls and boys and working with lovely chefs who make such great food!

So after the happiest of first years and another year older, here I am, raring to go for the start of the season! If this sparks your interest at any level, and happy to give it a go, don’t just sit there, come along to meet us and I look forward to meeting you and other volunteers alike this season.

Sheena, the Dave wrangler!

Written by Sheena Hartley
Volunteer at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve

To read more about volunteering at Watatunga or to apply, please click here.


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