Ralph Mills

RALPH AT LARGE


THE JOY OF VOLUNTEERING


I first volunteered in, I think, 1964, when I spent a summer vacation excavating a medieval site within cycling distance of my homes in Sittingbourne, Kent. I would have been 16 or so. Ever since then I’ve done all sorts of stuff for nothing — pushed elderly ladies around in wheelchairs, taken part in strange events for the Canadian Cancer Society, helped to organize clubs, cleared rampant vegetation from rights of way, sat on committees, helped at museums. Most recently I’ve been joining committed and energetic volunteers on Vancouver Island as they fight the invasion of non-native plants.

I suppose habitat restoration is a replacement for my voluntary work restoring canals and assisting on archaeological excavations. There are sadly no abandoned canals in British Columbia, and I have no experience yet of western Canadian archaeology.

I was alerted to the major impact of invasive plants here on Vancouver Island by the colourfulk yet pernicious swathes of blossoming Scotch Broom beside many highways, and the vast tangles of Himalayan Blackberry everywhere. Isearched online for a suitable outlet for my energies and eventually signed up with View Royal Parks volunteers and with CRD volunteers.

I soon discovered that there was a significant list of invasives, including Daphne, Poison Hemlock, English Ivy, Burr Chervil, thistles and others, all of which are threatening sensitive native habitats, crowding out, smothering and shading natuive plants. I soon became a little obsessed, and every hike became punctuated by my cries of hoprror as I spotted yet another invasive

a formal photograph of a primary school class
I help a local school and the Peninsula Streams Society clear invasive plants from tgheir playing field and the site of a future garden.
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You can follow my various environmental activities, which now include being a Park Stward at Francis/King and Thetis Lake Regional Parks, on my blog.

Ralph wielding loppers
Death to all invasives!
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Last updated 16th March 2022

A volunteering miscellany

A cluster of Sctch Broom plants
Scotch Broom before.
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Area cleared of invasive plants.
Area after clearance of Scotch Broom.
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Area covered with invasive plants.
Himalayan Blackberry before.
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Area cleared of invasive plants.
After clearing blackberry.
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Area covered with invasive plants.
Another area of Himalayan Blackberry.
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Area cleared of invasive plants.
Area after clearance.
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Area covered with invasive plants.
A mass of Poison Hemplock at Elk Lake Regional Park.
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Area cleared of invasive plants.
Area after removal of Poison Hemlock.
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Four different kinds of ball
A selection of lost balls I found when clearing Himalayan Blackberry from outside a secondary school fence!
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