For the past 60 years TCV - the community volunteering charity, has worked across the UK creating healthier and happier communities for everyone.
Today TCV delivers 140,000 volunteer days each year, supporting people taking action to improve their urban and rural surroundings. Each project improves our world in small but profound ways, connecting people and green spaces to deliver lasting outcomes for both.
Where the movement started…
In a warm February weekend in 1959, 42 volunteers, botanist David Bellamy among them, gathered at Box Hill in Surrey to improve the landscape and wildlife value of the area by clearing away scrub to encourage the natural chalkland flowers to grow.
I was a young botanist at the time, living near Box Hill. I was out walking with my research director that day in 1959 and we stumbled across the group of Conservation Corps clearing the scrub, and mucked in.
David Bellamy OBE
Their efforts were the very first activity of BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers), or the Conservation Corps, as we were known back then.
The Conservation Corps
TCV started life as the Conservation Corps, set up by the Council for Nature in 1959. The Council for Nature was an umbrella body of natural history organisations, including the RSPB and WWF.
The Conservation Corps was born out of a mix of environmental and social need and tapped into a growing enthusiasm for conservation work at the time. Although the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act had become law in 1949, supporting the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it was soon realised that these areas needed to be maintained if their natural splendour were to be properly preserved.
The Conservation Corps gave young volunteers the opportunity to carry out practical conservation to protect the environment and in return give them new skills and a sense of purpose.
So, the Council put out an advert for an organiser of the Conservation Corps and in January 1959, Brigadier Edward Armstrong was appointed to the position. He had served in Burma during World War Two.
It was Brigadier Armstrong who led that first task out in Surrey on 22 February 1959.
I have a very vivid recollection of our opening weekend at Box Hill. We were blessed with a summer-like weekend of warmth and sunshine. The goodwill, the comradeship and happiness which have always been the features of our working parties, were quickly established among our team. It was a great and happy start to the life of the Conservation Corps.
The late Brigadier Armstrong, speaking in 1989
That first year, hundreds of people came forward to volunteer for the Conservation Corps. There were seven further tasks in 1959, and twice as many people volunteered as could be involved.
Founded in the 50s
The Conservation Volunteers' roots are established through the creation of the Conservation Corps.
Brigadier Armstrong is appointed by Council for Nature to form the Conservation Corps in order to involve volunteers in practical conservation work.
First project held at Box Hill in Surrey. Forty-two volunteers, including David Bellamy, clear dogwood to encourage the growth of juniper and the distinctive chalkland flora.
Stretching in the 60s
The Conservation Corps expands its programme of practical tasks with most practical work taking place at nature reserves in the countryside. A training and education remit are introduced.
Conservation Corps expands its activities to include education and amenity work in the countryside.
Conservation Corps moves from a basement office at Queen's Gate, Kensington to new premises at London Zoo in Regent's Park.
The first training course for volunteers marks the beginning of an ongoing commitment to the provision of training for volunteers and staff.
Membership has increased to 600 and volunteers are completing 6,000 work days per year.
The first ever international exchange visit to Czechoslovakia, where volunteers study the wildlife and land management of the Low Tatra Mountains paves the way for a series of international exchanges, resulting ultimately 20 years later in the international project programme.
Striding into the 70s
The Conservation Volunteers is established as an independent organisation and opens offices around England, Wales and Scotland. Volunteer numbers continue to rise.
Conservation Corps takes over its own responsibilities and operates under the new name of British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). The new horse chestnut leaf logo is launched.
HRH Duke of Edinburgh KG KT becomes Patron.
Local group affiliation scheme is launched (TCV’s Community Network). By 1974 a total of 57 groups have joined.
Conserver magazine makes its debut and the Cooks Handbook and Organising a Local Conservation Group are published, both as a result of volunteer effort.
The number of registered volunteers reached 3,000
"Conservation Corps Week" in October results in a dramatic rise in enrolment and a BTCV membership scheme is introduced.
As part of Jubilee year, BTCV works with Environment Committee of the London Queen's Silver Jubilee Committee to set up a unique ecological park opposite Tower of London.
BTCV moves to new headquarters in Reading. The first group from Northern Ireland affiliates to BTCV.
Expanding in the 80s
The focus of BTCV's activities begins to shift to include the urban environment and community action.
There are 350 local groups affiliated to BTCV and the number of BTCV Natural Breaks has reached 280 per year.
BTCV joins the Nature Conservancy Council, Civic Trust and Shell (UK) as a partner in the 12-year-old Shell Better Britain Campaign.
A separate Northern Ireland region is established as Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland (CVNI).
Links are established with the newly established Groundwork Trust in North West England and the two organisations work together to improve the urban environment.
Midweek projects are introduced with the aim of involving unemployed and retired people in conservation work.
BTCV's new Wallingford headquarters is officially opened.
Six conservation volunteers travel to Iceland to help the Icelandic Nature Conservancy Council to set up a conservation volunteer movement. During the summer several BTCV groups help to repair a badly eroded footpath in Skaftafell National Park.
In response to the losses incurred by the 1987 hurricane, BTCV launches the Million Tree Campaign with the support of Esso and the Countryside Commission.
A European Commission grant enables BTCV to employ an International Development Officer to establish working holidays in each European country.
Membership has grown to 10,000 - over 25 times the number involved in 1959 and the Natural Break programme is the largest of its kind in Britain, involving over 6,000 people each year.
New Directions for the 90s
BTCV expands throughout the decade. The emphasis is on people and society as well as the environment with BTCV emerging towards the end of the 1990s as a key player in initiatives such as the government's New Deal and Millennium Volunteers programmes.
Conservation Volunteers Ireland, the first independent organisation established as a direct result of BTCV's European Commission funded International Conservation Action Network is established.
BTCV's three-year Million Tree Campaign reaches its target with the planting of the millionth tree by Vice President David Bellamy at Watergrove Reservoir in Lancashire. A new phase of the campaign - The Second Million - is launched and the emphasis shifts from planting towards woodland management and aftercare.
BTCV runs its first Woodland Action Week sponsored by Esso. The emphasis is on nurturing the season's young trees.
The 1000th Local Group joins BTCV's Local Group Membership Scheme.
Broadcaster David Jacobs plants BTCV's Second Millionth Tree at Two Storm Wood in Richmond Park, Surrey.
The government supported Environmental Training Organisation, of which BTCV is a founder member, is launched to promote high quality training in the environmental sector.
BTCV runs its first national Pond Campaign.
The Natural Pioneers Millennium Award Scheme funded by the Millennium Commission and supported by Marks & Spencer is introduced by BTCV.
Ten conservation volunteering organisations from around the world gather at Henley Management College in Oxfordshire to debate the international future of conservation volunteering and lay the foundations for the Conservation Volunteers Alliance.
Scottish Conservation Projects Trust's membership agree to a formal amalgamation with BTCV.
BTCV joins forces with Dr William Bird of Sonning Common Health Centre in Berkshire to introduce the BTCV Green Gym project.
BTCV launches its new Urban Handbook.
BTCV celebrates its 40th anniversary with the launch of a new Strategic Plan for the period 2000 - 2004 ‘Expanding the boundaries of conservation volunteering'.
The Conservation Volunteers Alliance is officially launched in May at Clandeboye in Northern Ireland.
BTCV is the largest recipient of first round funding in the government's new Millennium Volunteers programme.
Following the success of the Green Gym, BTCV publishes "A practical guide to setting up a Green Gym" and sets up a new pilot project in Brighton.
The Noughties - New horizons for the new millennium
BTCV launches its Millennium Volunteers programme providing over 3,000 volunteering placements for young people aged 16-24.
BTCV becomes one of the largest environmental sector providers of training and support to unemployed people in the UK.
The BTCV Conservation Holidays programme wins a British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award for its project in Gomorszolos, Hungary.
BTCV is chosen by the New Opportunities Fund to run the People's Places Award Scheme, a major grants programme for community environment projects in deprived areas.
BTCV secures its first contract with a Learning Skills Council to deliver apprenticeships.
Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland Millennium Tree Campaign exceeded its targets, planting more than 1.6 million trees.
The foot and mouth epidemic has a major impact on rural activities. BTCV staff and volunteers work hard to make up for lost volunteer and environmental opportunities. Despite the outbreak, BTCV achieves its highest recorded workdays total, over a quarter of a million days.
BTCV's groundbreaking Environments for All programme reaches out to new volunteers, particularly from black and minority ethnic and marginalised communities.
BTCV launches its strategic plan Inspiring People, Improving Places setting out its vision for the next four years, including an ambitious target to involve more than 1 million people.
BTCV's innovative work in involving communities traditionally under-represented in the environment sector is recognised at our Environments for All Conference.
The Prudential Grass Roots programme is launched, enabling BTCV to support the regeneration of green spaces close to shopping centres managed by Prudential Property Investment Managers Ltd.
As part of the UK Year of the Volunteer, BTCV runs a highly successful Environment Month, recruiting many new volunteers.
BTCV launches Spring into Action backed by TV gardener Charlie Dimmock and supported by Prudential, the Cabinet Office and BBC Breathing Places. The six-week campaign engages nearly 19,000 volunteers.
Sedum House, BTCV's new head office, is opened in Doncaster by Ed Miliband, Minister for the Third Sector. It wins awards for its environmentally sustainable design.
BTCV's People's Places Award Scheme draws to a close, having awarded over £4 million to more than 500 community groups.
BTCV's Patron HRH The Duke of Edinburgh gives out the first BTCV Green Hero Awards, recognising the dedication and achievements of BTCV volunteers and groups.
BTCV launches its Community Champions Scheme.
BTCV's vital role in the sector is recognised with strategic funding for the next five years from the Office of the Third Sector.
BTCV's expertise in involving young people is recognised with the launch of two new programmes aimed at 16-24 year olds – Greenprints and My Space? Our Space!
BTCV announces a new partnership with The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) for employee volunteering events across the UK.
The Green Gym celebrates its 10th Anniversary. More than 70 Green Gyms are now in operation across the UK.
BTCV's third annual Spring into Action campaign involves more than 20,000 volunteers at 770 sites across the UK.
Bill Oddie, TV presenter and BTCV Vice-President, presents a Network Rail Environment Award to BTCV volunteers for work at a site in Great Stukeley, Cambridgeshire.
BTCV publishes social return on investment research that shows £1 invested in environmental volunteering can lead to a return of up to £4.
TCV opens the Greenwich Meantime Nursery, a unique project using vacant development land to create a resource for nature conservation, biodiversity and sustainability.
TCV launches Well-being Comes Naturally, a partnership with Mind which aims to engage people experiencing mental distress and to integrate them into our conservation projects.
1st May 2012 - BTCV becomes known as TCV
TCV launches the Big Tree Plant, on behalf of DEFRA. This three-year programme works with volunteers and community groups to plant 150,000 trees England-wide
The Hollybush team of staff and volunteers are trained to use British Sign Language (BSL) or Makaton to overcome the communications barrier of working with a number of deaf volunteers.
20,000 people and counting visit Skelton Grange Environment Centre with Access to Nature, an exciting project that works with volunteers to create welcoming, well managed, wildlife-rich sites across Leeds.
Health for Life – a unique food growing programme launches in Birmingham. Funded by Mondelez International Foundation and, run in partnership with Birmingham Health Education Service, the programme promotes fun activities that engage people in growing food, physical activity, healthy eating and cookery.
TCV hold a National Green Impacts Conference to share the findings of a three-year study aimed at proving the benefits of volunteering for health and wellbeing. Research showed that involvement in volunteering has a positive impact on attitudes and behaviours towards the environment, lifestyles and willingness to engage in the local community.
TCV’s Natural Communities Apprenticeship Programme launches. Natural Communities Apprenticeship Programme provides trainees with a practical and flexible methodology for engaging everyone to enjoy, understand, value and care for the green places around them.
TCV welcomes Jonathon Porritt as President
David Slater celebrates 50 years of volunteering at TCV, David is one of TCV’s longest-serving volunteers and advises anyone considering volunteering to “go for it"
TCV wins a top award from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for TCV’s ‘Growing Communities’ in Belfast. TCV won the 'Healthy Places' Award as part of Belfast’s WHO Healthy Cities initiative.
TCV launches a new partnership with OVO Energy to get the UK planting as part of the exciting ‘I Dig Trees’ planting programme. On behalf of its Greener Energy Plan, OVO funds over 158,000 free trees for volunteers and community groups to plant across the UK.
Considerable growth and recognition for TCV's Green Gym. This growth was supported by funding from the Cabinet Office and innovation foundation, Nesta.
Green Gym wins a coveted Health and Wellbeing Award from the Royal Society for Public Health. These awards recognise achievements in the promotion of health and wellbeing through policies that empower communities and individuals, improve the population’s health and address the wider social determinants of health.
TCV works in partnership with Adur and Worthing Councils (South coast of England), on a Department for Communities and Local Government's funded 'Rethinking Parks' pilot.
TCV celebrates our Vice President, Sir David Attenborough 90th birthday. Volunteers, staff and supporters of TCV join Sir David in Waterlow Park in North London to plant an elm tree in his honour.
TCV works with the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Green Network Trust (GCVGNT) on an exciting new community rewilding project also funded by the Robertson Trust. The project works with deprived communities in Glasgow and the Clyde Valley.
After five terrific years, TCV’s Kent Heritage Trees project comes to its conclusion and plants its last heritage tree. The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, demonstrated the important contribution trees make to both our environment and the cultural life of our communities.
TCV’s Natural Talent programme has run for 10 years filling the substantial gap in ecological skills across the UK. 95% of Natural Talent trainees are now active in the conservation sector, using skills and expertise gained with TCV.
TCV launches Growing Communities - a major new environmental scheme to enable communities in West Sussex to improve their health and wellbeing.
TCV’s Green Gym features in a new study commissioned by BBC2’s Trust Me I'm A Doctor to investigate the effects of different activities on stress levels.
The Roundhouse is officially opened in Hollybush, providing a warm place for volunteers to plan the day’s activities, enjoy a well-deserved break when working outdoors or do preparatory work during the cold winter months.
TCV announce a new partnership with Dementia Adventure to expand outdoor activity for people with dementia.
TCV’s practical conservation handbooks are digitised and available for a modest subscription, providing practical guidance to create and manage many aspects of rural and urban green spaces.
TCV launches new Community Network Membership benefits, providing community groups with a dedicated website, competitively-priced insurance, discounts on merchandise, funding information, access to grants and much, much more.
TCV receives significant funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery, to support our volunteering programmes in community green spaces. This funding helps to transform even more of Great Britain’s precious green spaces, improving the natural environment whilst enhancing local people’s health and wellbeing and sharing new skills and knowledge.
TCV launches a refreshed Strategy - “Connecting People and Green Spaces” to deliver lasting outcomes for Communities, the Environment, Health & Wellbeing and Learning & Skills.
TCV Green Gym celebrates it’s 20th Year with special events in recognition of the first Green Gym which started in Sonning Common and is still going strong.
TCV celebrates it's 60th Anniversary and continues to create healthier and happier communities for everyone.