My Gift To You: Free Learning For Animal-Lovers & Conservationists in London & Beyond


The Very Best Places To Learn About Animal Care, Ecology & Conservation In England & Beyond

Juust to give you a taster of what’s coming up, I’ve found training courses with seal pups in Cornwall, leading horse treks in Madagascar, and whale-watching in Yorkshire. It’s kind of amazing what you can do on a budget. #budgetlearners Enjoy! And let me know which training course you choose!



Thames21 –

Cost : Free

Duration : Full day workshops throughout the year including field work on the Thames!

The picture above is me on the Thames River Watch course, which included field work in litter-monitoring, where you undertake a field survey to help clean up the Thames. You also get to volunteer going forward on any of their volunteering days on the foreshore in Battersea, Hammersmith or Greenwich! I can testify to how great it was!

Other Training Sessions include : Identifying Invasive Species and Freshwater Monitoring


Cost : Free
Duration : Depends on the project, but usually only 1 day a week

This website is great if, like me, you just want to get on and do it – so many conservation projects going on all across London and your time really could be spent doing anything from clearing a waterway to building a dead wood home for stag beetles. Just contact the training provider whose email / mobile number is given for your chosen project and off you go!




‘Safaris’ – Wildlife Walks / Tours, Whale- and Dolphin-Watching, Seashore Scavenger Hunts. These are inventive and fun events for adults, as well as being great for children.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust –

Cost : Free – OR £3, £5 or £12

Duration : 1 day or less (up to you)


MarineLIFE –

MarineLIFE are a really great training provider for anyone interested in coastal bird-watching or dolphin- and whale-spotting.

Cost: On-land identification courses are usually £50. There is also a 5 day stay offered for 14 lucky people on Lundy Island, which you voyage to by sea in HMS Oldenburg. This looks to be a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience – I have my eye on it, but it is NOT for the budget learner. I’ll get there one day.



The Conservation Volunteers – East –

Cost : Free

The Conservation Volunteers website for the Norfolk, Norwich and Essex area says this: “Projects are open to everyone over 16 (16-18 with parental permission) regardless of background, and no previous experience or specialist knowledge is necessary. We provide tools, equipment and experienced leaders”. Sounds great.

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, there are many free events going on, including 3 expert-led bat walks, which sounds kind of tempting since I’m writing this in October!



Ashbourne Animal Welfare –

Cost : Free

Duration : A commitment once a week or more

There are loads of ways you can help out and Ashbourne Animal Welfare seem to be really inclusive of all the volunteers who offer their services – dog walking, helping out in the cattery, fundraising, and company away days are all offered for you to get involved with and learn more about animal care in a rescue centre.



Surrey Wildlife Trust –

The Surrey Wildlife Trust has one of the most comprehensive lists for adult learning courses and volunteering events I’ve seen so far in the south of England.

Cost :  Adult Learning Courses range from £35 (1 day course)  –  £150 ( 2 day course )

Volunteering workshops and work parties are FREE.

Indicative Training Courses : Amphibians Ecology & Survey, Wetland Birds of Surrey, Outdoor First Aid Course (really useful). They also do a GREAT range of Christmas workshops.



Cornish Seal Sanctuary –

So I’m about to tell you about an organisation that is so close to my heart, volunteering with them is at the very TOP of my bucket list – the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek. Seals are my all-time favourite marine life and getting to work with them and learn about them is one of my dreams.

Cost : FREE!

Duration : The best thing about this sanctuary’s volunteering roles is that you don’t just get to do it for 1 day – the minimum you can do it for is 2 weeks, ranging up to 8 weeks maximum. They also do longer internship programmes.

N.B. You will have to sort out your own accommodation and transport for the duration of the placement, but the Cornish Seal Sanctuary really helpfully give you some great options in their volunteer application pack.



UpRising Environmental Leadership Programme –

Cost : FREE

Duration : 9 months, part-time

Location : Manchester, Birmingham and London

So this course would take a little more commitment than any of the ones listed above, but it is honestly an INCREDIBLE opportunity for those who are interested in making a real difference in the world. This course is open to anyone between the ages of 16 – 25. You are teamed up with your own personal mentor, meet some of the biggest environmental players in the world today, and undertake your own social campaign on a topic that is important to you. And did I mention this all comes to you for FREE? I have to say, this course is very, very tempting for someone who may well be spending close to £8,000 on a Masters in Environment and Sustainability next year to learn basically the same things…. In fact, this course might even do you even more good than a Masters because it brings you closer to those actually in the industry! Thoroughly recommend.




Cost : FREE!

This is an inspirational organisation that just can’t be overlooked when it comes to free learning about our environment… and it is definitely on my bucket list to do!

‘WWOOF’ stands for ‘Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms’, and does exactly what it says on the tin – for a £20 single joining fee or a £30 joint registration, WWOOF gives you access to a comprehensive list of farms and smallholdings across the whole of the UK which offer accommodation and food in exchange for you volunteering on their land and learning about environmentally friendly farming methods. No money exchanges hands, it is purely for reciprocal benefit.

Find out how one young family escaped the rat race by WWOOFing in England and the unforgettable experiences they had here:


Go Even Further Afield

Volunteer4Africa –

I can’t quite describe to you how mind-blowing the internship / volunteering opportunities on this website are (this is another one for the bucket list – I’m really stacking them up here!), so you will have to check it out for yourself. A one-off payment of £5 is required to access the more in-depth details for the jobs listed and I should warn you that obviously, being in Africa, you will have to pay for your flights, which will end up being the most expensive part of this learning experience. But then when you can apply for something like, oh I don’t know, one of the following, it kind of becomes worth it: ‘Volunteer Yoga Instructor in Morocco’,  ‘Protecting Endangered Sea Turtles in Kenya’, ‘Conservation Research Volunteer in Madagascar’, or ‘Volunteer for a Horse Ranch in Mozambique’. At least, I think so.



More Opportunities

If you want to learn more about the training courses and volunteering roles that are available to everyone in England, then check out these sites which offer a definitive guide to most, if not all, of the wildlife trusts that offer such courses throughout the country:

Good general list of all Nature Reserves in England – – their volunteer page –

The organisations listed below here

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