In the Spotlight – An interview with volunteer, Dick Merriman
It’s all about the trees… and so much more: staff and volunteers share their nature joys
Today we would like to introduce you to volunteer group leader and warden Dick Merriman
Dick has been keeping an eye on ‘his’ six acres of Willoughby Wood in the East Midlands for several years and leading practical work groups there. Willoughby Wood is another of the Trust’s Millenium Woodlands and was once sheep pasture. There are remnants in the wood of the ancient ridge and furrow cultivation system, and a 200 year old pond. The main work now – apart from constant watch on the ash die-back situation – is to keep paths clear for local users and general maintenance and coppicing as required. Dick has been asked by a local teacher whether the children could become involved in a Forest School project, so that is something he is looking into.
I was thrilled to hear that Dick’s favourite tree is the lime because it’s certainly one of mine, with its gorgeous summer fragrance, but Dick said for him “it’s the colour of the new leaves… a luminescent almost yellow shade, and a real indicator of spring.” Although he did have a warning to add: “Don’t park your car underneath one though – it’ll be covered in sticky stuff!”
When we started chatting about other nature favourites, Dick told me he is a geologist by training and so he loves rocky landscapes and flowing water. He has spend a lot of his working life in such landscapes in Wales and Scotland and has done survey work on St. Kilda. He’s also one of only two geologists to have spent time on Rockall: yes – I had to ask – of Shipping Forecast fame!
I rather hi-jacked the interview at this point telling Dick about my own love of rocks (even though I know nothing about them) and that I like to pick small ones up when I visit new places, and wonder about how old they are.
“I have a rock in my garden which is a billion years old,” Dick told me. “It’s red sandstone from Scotland.” Well, that seemed like the pinnacle of rock achievement to me, so we went on to discuss other nature joys.
In terms of creatures, Dick likes woodland bird life and is particularly pleased that buzzards are now well-established around Willoughby Wood. He told me that his grandfather was a carpenter, and he thinks this is why he’s always had “a feel for wood” (as well as stones) and enjoys being in woodlands, and working with wood.
I thought – and told Dick this – how lovely it must be to have such a connection with those two very ‘earthy’ materials of wood and stone. Though he had mentioned flowing water as part of his landscape favourites, and those buzzards and woodland birds have to fly in something… so maybe he’d better do some charcoal burning, then he’s got all the elements covered!
Daphne Pleace – Volunteer Whittle Reporter