Feb 10 2020

New woodland working group at the birthplace of the Woodland Trust

A new woodland working group in the Avon Valley Woods near Loddiswell in South Devon, has recruited 20 new volunteers in it’s first two months.
Avon Valley Woods are the birthplace of the Woodland Trust. A mix of ancient woods clinging to the steep sided valley of the River Avon, and more recently acquired and planted woodland offering stunning views over the rolling Devon countryside; they form 139 hectares of important habitat for wildlife.
 
Since a number of taster days in November and December, 20 new volunteers have signed up and are learning traditional crafts like coppicing in the young woodland which was planted between 2000 and 2004. These new foresters have been hedge laying and working to clear overgrown footpaths and widen rides, ensuring better access to the woods and more light for butterflies like the silver washed fritillary. 
 
The establishment of the new woodland working group follows the completion of two new car parks for the cluster of woods that make up the Avon Valley Woods, and is part of a programme of engagement with local people, that will include walks, and working with third parties such as forest schools and nature connection groups.
 
Site manager Paul Allen says: “We’ve found there is a real appetite to get more involved in this wood and I’m look forward to building new relationships with the local community to care for and cherish these special woods”.  
 
Local woodsman and ecologist, Dave Barker who leads the group said: “With so much bad news about the natural world, volunteering in the Avon Valley Woods is proving to be a great way to engage in some meaningful environmental work, learn how tree planting can really improve habitats for the plants, birds, and insects around us, and understand what we need to do to protect and improve these wild places.”
     
New volunteer Amanda says, “I’ve really enjoyed working outdoors as part of a team that is doing something positive for wildlife. We are learning so much about woodland management, trees and wildlife from our expert team leader, Dave.  And I’m meeting some lovely new people too!”
 
The group will also start learning wildlife monitoring techniques like surveying breeding birds and doing butterfly transects so the Trust can see how the woodland management is making a difference to the wildlife of these woods. The idea is that volunteers will learn these skills so they can come out on a regular basic to survey throughout the summer. The aim is to build a real body of knowledge here that will contribute to national data about wildlife and the environment, how it is changing due to things like climate change and what we need to do to support it.
 
Kenneth Watkins bought a wood in the Avon Valley on behalf of the Trust in 1972 because of fears it would be felled and converted to conifer plantation. 
Written by Rachel Harries Engagement & Communications Officer South West
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