Smithills Volunteer Update – 6th Feb 2020

Hello all



Welcome to two new volunteers – John (Woodland Working Group and Wildlife Group), and Darran (Woodland Working Group, Wildlife Group and History Group)

Welcome also to Roberta Gleaves, who has joined us as Charlotte’s maternity cover!

Also helping us out while we recruit our new Site Manager and Assistant Site Manager are Colin Riley (the Site Manager for Lancashire & Greater Manchester, who some of you know from your volunteering at Lady Mabel’s Wood), and Ben Walker (Asst Site Manager for the North). They are here on Mondays.



The next all volunteer group meeting is on Tuesday 18 Feb, 6.30pm at the Hall – featuring the first ever Smithills Volunteer Awards! I have had numerous nominations which I am currently collating… please send in any suggestions for awards and who you think should receive them!


Site Update

The new entrance on the Mast Road is installed, which means that the road is closed to vehicles outside of office hours. We hope that this will reduce anti-social behaviour and littering further on the Mast Road.

Colin and Ben are carrying out tree safety surveys and you may see some trees which have been felled in Walker Fold Woods and in the woods at Barrow Bridge. We have also removed some diseased trees near to Lomax Wife’s farm, and as part of this there has also been some rhododendron removal.

Fly tipping continues to be an issue. Thank you to everyone who has been reporting this to me. It’s really helpful – if you do see something and can send me a location, we can make sure our contractor collects it.

Natural flood management work has been carried out near to Newfields, removing a culvert and slowing the flow of water. You’ll now see a stream meandering through the field.


Woodland Working Group

The first task day of 2020 went well, ably led by Alex and Pete. On the day the group checked the tree planting done in November (at the field next to Burnt Edge Lane) and reported that the trees were doing well.



Wildlife Group

The Wildlife Group met on 28 Jan (minutes have been sent to the group today), and discussed plans for habitat monitoring throughout 2020. We aim to monitor woodland, moorland, heathland and grassland, with training provided, and also to have regular transects walked for butterfly, riverfly and fungi monitoring. The group have also been noting species listed on the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project, a citizen science project helping us to understand the effect of climate change on habitats. Each month, there is a list of species to look out for, so that we can see their earliest appearance at sites across the country. Bev has been co-ordinating this with the Wildlife Group, but anyone can learn more about it here:


The group have had a couple of recording walks – including some riverfly monitoring, some lichen spotting and some birdwatching! Some lovely photos from this, as always. Here are a few from Richard Cooke:


L-R Chaffinch; blue tit at Holden’s Plantation; raven on the TV mast; redwing at Holden’s


The group are out on a recording walk again on Saturday, hoping the current clear skies stay for them and we get more great images and records!

Stuart Fraser, of Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, who is leading the group at the moment, is currently mapping our species records, giving us a quick way to visualise all of the data the group is collecting. All of the monitoring lined up for 2020 is directly linked to our Estate management plan, and will give us crucial data on how our habitats are faring. We will keep you updated on the findings!


History Group

The history group visited the archives in January and had a look at a number of historic maps. One aim of their visit was to learn more about the history of Burnt Edge (example map below). They also began to look through the Ainsworth papers – the Ainsworths being the family who owned Smithills Hall and the Estate until 1938. The papers gave info on the running of the Estate. Tony is collating the group’s findings.


The oral historians met on 25 Jan for a training session, and formulated a list of potential interviewees. The aim is to cover a variety of themes and stories through the interviews we carry out (so we might speak to people with stories of living on the Estate, or of working here, or of visiting for leisure), with a mix of recent history and older stories. After a slow start to this part of the project, the first interview is scheduled to happen next month!


Photography group

The photography group headed out on a walk and spotted some fascinating things! Take a look at these – crowded parchment, hazel bud bursting and pixie cup lichens, all by Alan Booth.



Plans for an exhibition in the summer are continuing, with a potential venue identified… watch this space!



The Wardens have been working with Ben and Colin on numerous tasks… cutting back overgrown trees along paths, checking the condition of fencing, helping to map out of date signage, checking our visitor counters, reviewing Estate patrol routes. They have now finished the interior design challenge of the Wardens’ room… definitely no muddy boots! They also had some training recently on risk assessment and health & safety with Nick Hall.



Guided Walks Group

The Guided Walks group met this week to plan volunteer-led walks for 2020. Each of our four routes will be listed as part of the Greater Manchester Walking Festival in May, which is fantastic. In addition, Alex, Pete, Clive and Doug led walks with groups from the MyPlace project (run by Lancashire Wildlife Trust). We have had requests from a number of other community groups too, and will be welcoming a group in March through the NHS, which Alex and Paul will be leading.

We are also looking at creating leaflets to accompany each route, with support from the Woodland Trust comms team.

The group are also getting together to plan a walk around the borders of the Estate (a route of about 11km), which will likely be in summer – this will be open to volunteers to join!


Social enterprise

The Cakery have been awarded the tender to operate their food concession from Walker Fold car park for 2020 – many of you will already have sampled their tasty cakes and excellent coffee, we are happy to see them continue to provide refreshments to visitors this year!

We also welcome Blue Sky Learning onto the site, who will be using the forest school compartment off Smithills Dean Road one day a week.


Dates for your diary

Regional volunteer gatherings are now available to book –,4ZJQ,1LIYUV,I65C,1

Regional training is also now open for booking – next course at Risley Moss is on 19 April (Woodland Ecology)



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