Jul 27 2021

Volunteers enjoy a wander around Willesley Wood

Our latest volunteer network event for central England took place at Willesley Wood in Leicestershire. It was a scorching hot day, with temperatures reaching 29oC in the local area. Meeting at the Oakthorpe car park, we gathered around the map of the site (socially distanced of course!) and Ian Retson, our super volunteer and walk leader for the afternoon gave us an overview of the site.  


Situated in the heart of the National Forest, Willesely Wood is 58 hectares divided up into 4 main areas, new plantation, grassland, mature secondary woodland and wetland. It has industrial links as it’s part of the Leicestershire coalfield where deep, open cast mining took place in the past.  


Our Willeseley expert Ian took us on a lovely walk around the wood, pointing out the many features of interest and spotting various wildlife species as we went. Whilst we were on site we walked along the pathways that weave in and out of the woodland and wildflower areas and alongside areas of wet woodland and grasslands. 



We spent some time admiring Thortit lake, a haven for wildlife, especially in the soaring temperatures! The lake was formed gradually in the 80’s as a result of subsidence caused by the old mining works and is now a habitat for a wide range of aquatic species. It is fringed with wetlands, making it an ideal place for waterfowl and amphibians. In fact, we spotted a small froglet crossing the pathway, perhaps on its way to the closest area of water.  



Ian led us to a calm and peaceful area on site which is dedicated to rememberence. In February 2002 the Ashby de la Zouch’s Royal British Legion Remembrance area was created, a 1ha grass area surrounded by oak trees with seating for people to sit quietly and reflect and remember loved ones.


Later on in the afternoon, when it started to cool down (very slightly), we saw families exploring the woods, making the most of the dappled shade that the trees provide.  


This session was a brilliant way to get volunteers together, most travelling from the local area and some carrying out the same volunteering roles. This gave woodland working group leaders the chance to talk about their roles, discuss management of their own sites and plans for the future.


There is so much to talk about that I haven’t even mentioned – in particular the sites rich history, so please head over to my previous article for more information!  Thanks so much to Ian Retson for leading the guided walk for us! 


Amanda Brookes – Volunteering Development Officer (Central England)


Feature Image: Ian Retson

Other images: Amanda Brookes

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