In The Spotlight…An Interview with Volunteer Paul Littlewood
It’s all about the trees… and so much more: North England staff and volunteers share their nature joys
Today we would like to introduce volunteer Paul Littlewood……..
Paul is the volunteer warden for How Tun Wood in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. Along with his wife, Lilian, also a volunteer, they act as the eyes and ears for the Site Manager, going over and above the call of duty by walking their dog Esther through the wood and doing a litter pick every day.
But Paul’s commitment to How Tun goes back a long way… to 1999, in fact, when the wood was created from a bare field as part of the Trust’s ‘Woods on Your Doorstep’ project which created 250 new woodlands in celebration of the Millenium.
I met Paul in the middle of ‘his’ wood to ask him about volunteering with the Trust. Or I could have, since lockdown restrictions are now reduced, but we did what has become the norm these days – a zoom meeting – with Paul’s screen background being one of his many photographs of the wood.
Paul told me he’s had a lifelong interest in trees, and in working with wood, and he became an official volunteer with the Trust in 2004, after falling in love with what he says is quite literally his wood on the doorstep. Not content with looking after How Tun, he’s also a volunteer speaker, guided walk leader, and works with local schools engaging children in nature projects based in and around How Tun.
We want to celebrate our volunteers’ nature favourites in this series of articles, so I asked Paul about some of his: trees, obviously, and what else in the natural world appeals to him.
“For trees, I think it’s the alder – it’s been so successful in How Tun” he said, “but mainly with trees it’s the overall ‘green moment’ of spring I appreciate… so many different shades of green.” We chuckled at that and decided there were definitely more than 50.
“And I love otters, but unfortunately we’ve no river here in the 35 mile cul-de-sac of the Furness peninsula, though I have seen them elsewhere with other Woodland Trust colleagues. I also like deer, but don’t see them very often either.” We decided one compensation of that was no chewing of bark, although Paul commented wryly that in an urban wood, humans can do much worse than deer.
“With an urban wood, any wildlife is a benefit” Paul added, “and fortunately species are increasing here all the time… we’ve seen jays recently, and a rookery is building… and although we don’t have red squirrels here like elsewhere in Cumbria we have our greys and people walking in the wood like to see them – it’s a contact with nature.”
Throughout our interview, Paul’s joy and love for all his different volunteering activities had been clearly evident, but I was particularly taken by his more than 20 year connection with How Tun and I asked him about his favourite ‘joy point’. I had to press him, as he said there were so many.
“ I get pleasure from informing people about the wood, and the importance of it for nature and for the community. If I can get someone else to like it as much as I do, they become an ally.”
“Although I’ve enjoyed so much of the wood establishing itself over the years, watching it grow and grow, I love it that it’s looking after itself now”, he added with a smile of satisfaction.
Perhaps, but thank goodness it still has its guardians in Paul, Lilian and Esther.
Daphne Pleace – Volunteer Whittle Reporter