Andy Shamash gets closer to nature on his ‘giving back’ days

As a people-focused company, Socius supports and encourages ‘Giving Back Days’ for all of its employees. The initiative recognises the importance of social impact and purpose beyond the day job. Socius has therefore made a commitment to offer all of its team two days a year, taken how and whenever they like, to spend on things they’re passionate about.

Earlier this month, Financial Controller, Andy Shamash undertook one of his giving back days by volunteering with the Darlands Conservation Trust. Andy explains how he spent the day getting closer to nature, what he learnt and how his experience will help protect and preserve his local landscape for the future.

I’m very grateful to Socius for the volunteer time each year, which has given me the push to think about my own interests and has given me the opportunity to do something worthwhile that is important to me. The Darlands Nature Reserve is a large area in the middle of North London, between Mill Hill and Totteridge, which is not too far from where I live. I already knew it well from walks and the odd run. It is a truly wild place, and when you’re there, you would never know that you were surrounded by urban life.

The Trust does its best to conserve this beautiful place – particularly the lake, which is the main feature. On my recent volunteer day, I joined a group of eight others for a day of ‘’balsam bashing’’ – investigating close to the banks of the main tributaries to the lake, to identify and remove any Himalayan Balsam, an invasive weed, which although has pretty pink flowers, can spread rapidly and inhibit native vegetation. It can also cause soil erosion – inhibiting the diversity of plant life around the lake.

Led by Dianne, we quickly learnt to identify the balsam by its three-pronged leaf structure and bamboo like stems (it only flowers later in the year), and spent a satisfying day in the open air identifying and eradicating it, while chatting about other planned work on the reserve. Dianne was very knowledgeable about the plant life and wildlife on the reserve, and full of interesting facts. Among other things, I can now identify badger poo! I’m looking forward to another volunteering day with the Trust later this year.