Volunteers have saved the taxpayer at least £30,000 in the last year, it is claimed.

The total was calculated by using the hours worked by conservationists who give up their time for Countrycare in Epping Forest using the minimum wage.

The 54 volunteers worked a record 745 days across 19 sites in the district to preserve nature reserves and wildlife sites.

The volunteers carry out jobs such as pond restoration, path building, coppicing and hedgerow management.

Safer, greener and transport portfolio holder for the district council, Garry Waller, said: “On behalf of the district council and the Countrycare team I would like to express my gratitude for all the hard work and enthusiasm put in by the volunteers.

“On those occasions when I participated with the volunteers, I found the experience extremely satisfying and a refreshing change from my usual council responsibilities.”