Pontburn Woods Volunteer Working Day
Situated in the beautiful Derwent Valley, Pontburn Woods is a large area of ancient semi-natural woodland, and on Saturday 2nd November it served as the location for my first volunteer working day with the Woodland Trust.
The weather forecast had promised rain and gloom, and so with my raincoat donned and my flask of tea ready, I was not prepared for the picturesque, sun-soaked woodland that I was greeted by. Having lived by the Derwent Valley for most of my life, I am still not quite sure how I’d never come across Pontburn Woods before.
At 10am I set off to work with fellow volunteer David, and Living Woods North East director Mark, geared up with all the tools needed for the day’s tasks. Our main objective was to remove beech and holly, to make way for rowan and oak. As he guided us along the footpaths, Mark showed us the best ways to identify the trees from the shape of their leaves to the smell of their bark, and explained the reasoning behind all the work we were doing. Beech, as it turns out, is somewhat of an invasive species which fairs better in more temperate areas of Europe. Holly, on the other hand, can sometimes become a bit of a weed and stunt the growth of other plants. Whilst beautiful and beloved trees, sometimes they need a bit of taming.
After a spot of lunch and a catch up on the Rugby Final results, we were joined by another volunteer, Dave, and set to work on a sloped area by the stream (shown in the photos below). Here Mark gave us a demonstration of the best and safest way to fell some of the larger beech trees, before letting us all have a go ourselves. The fallen beeches did not go to waste however, as we piled them up by the edge of the stream to create what is called a check dam. These dams help to counteract the erosive damage that comes with flooding, by sifting the water through more slowly.
After a couple hour’s felling the area became much clearer, and we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of work we’d gotten done. Over the next few weeks Mark will be leading more volunteers to continue the work, and it’s safe to say I’m already itching to get back out there…