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Our History

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A brief history of The Conservation Volunteers from its early beginnings to the present day.

We are proud of our history - please look through our photographic archive and let us know if they stir any memories, we are always delighted hear from our past volunteers.

1950s: Founded in the 50s

Volunteers learning to clear dogwood on Box HillThe Conservation Volunteers' roots are established through the creation of the Conservation Corps.

1959 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.

1960s: Stretching in the 60s

Volunteers at Haughley Research Farms in 1968The 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 is introduced.

1964 Conservation Corps expands its activities to include education and amenity work in the countryside.

1966 Conservation Corps moves from a basement office at Queen's Gate, Kensington to new premises at London Zoo in Regent's Park.

1968 The first training course for volunteers marks the beginning of an ongoing commitment to the provision of training for volunteers and staff.

1969 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.

1970s: Striding into the 70s

Volunteers at Loch Lomond in July 1975The Conservation Volunteers is established as an independent organisation and opens up offices around England, Wales and Scotland. Volunteer numbers continue to rise.

1970 Conservation Corps takes over its own responsibilities and operates under the new name of British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). The new logo is launched.

HRH Duke of Edinburgh KG KT becomes Patron.

1971 Local group affiliation scheme is launched. By 1974 a total of 57 groups have joined.

1972 Conserver magazine makes its debut and the Cooks Handbook and Organising a Local Conservation Group are published, both as a result of volunteer effort.

1974 The number of registered volunteers reached 3,000

1975 "Conservation Corps Week" in October results in a dramatic rise in enrolment and a BTCV membership scheme is introduced.

1977 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.

1979 BTCV moves to new headquarters in Reading.

The first group from Northern Ireland affiliates to BTCV

1980s: Expanding in the 80s

Launch of BTCV's Million Tree Campaign, Pigdown Wood in 1988The focus of BTCV's activities begins to shift to include the urban environment and community action.

1981 There are 350 local groups affiliated to BTCV and the number of BTCV Natural Breaks has reached 280 per year.

1982 BTCV joins the Nature Conservancy Council, Civic Trust and Shell (UK) as a partner in the 12 year old Shell Better Britain Campaign.

1983 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.

1984 BTCV's new Wallingford headquarters are 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.

BTCV celebrates its 25th birthday with a commemorative task at Boxhill in Surrey.

1985 Conservation Practice Ltd (CPL) is established as BTCV's trading subsidiary.

1988 In response to the losses incurred by the 1987 hurricane, BTCV launches a National Tree Planting 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.

1989 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.

1990s: New Directions for the 90s

BTCV Vice President Professor David Bellamy visits Wallingford Head Office in 1996BTCV 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.

1990 Conservation Volunteers Ireland, the first independent organisation established as a direct result of BTCV's European Commission funded International Conservation Action Network is established.

1991 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. 1993 BTCV runs its first Woodland Action Week sponsored by Esso. The emphasis is on nurturing the season's young trees.

CVNI celebrates its 10th anniversary with Professor David Bellamy.

The 1000th Local Group joins BTCV's Local Group Membership Scheme.

1994 Broadcaster David Jacobs plants BTCV's Second Millionth Tree at Two Storm Wood in Richmond Park, Surrey.

The first eight BTCV volunteers are successful in receiving the NEBSM (National Examining Board for Supervisory Management) recognised leadership awards.

1995 The government supported Environmental Training Organisation, of which BTCV is a founder member, is launched to promote high quality training in the environmental sector.

1996 BTCV runs its first national Pond Campaign.

1997 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.

SCP's membership agree to a formal amalgamation with BTCV

1998 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, funded by Barclays plc and its new Position Paper Working with People in Towns and Cities at its first Urban Environment Day attended by Michael Meacher MP, Minister for the Environment and Professor Chris Baines.

1999 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.

2000s New Millennium new horizons

Charlie Dimmock and volunteers during Spring into Action in 20062000 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.

2001 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.

2002 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.

2004 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.

2005 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.

2006 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.

2007 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!

2008 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.

The Present Day

1st May 2012 - BTCV becomes known as The Conservation Volunteers