Feb 12 2022

Spotlight on… Peter Haley, Woodland Working Group Leader and Warden

This time we find out about a longstanding volunteer and support, Peter Haley, who is a key volunteer in the team at Philipshill Wood, which though relatively small at 36 hectares, sees a great deal of activity, not least from the fantastic group that regularly volunteer there. Over to you, Peter…


Peter says: “Philipshill Wood is a densely planted ancient woodland, a PAWS, on the eastern edge of the Chilterns. Almost none of the trees are more than about 70 years old. It has dense blocks of beech; conifers including pines, western hemlock and Douglas fir; curious mixed planting of larch, cherry and southern beech; and oak, ash, rowan, hawthorn, hornbeam and hazel. The soil is stony loam on chalk. There are 22 ancient woodland indicator plants and, if it’s still there, the largest single colony of green flowered helleborine in Buckinghamshire (we try not to disturb it). The Wood came into the care of the Trust in 1994 with financial help from many local people. Volunteers have been working here ever since. A felling programme is helping to move it gradually towards semi natural, regenerating woodland. The wood is also on several online lists of top class bluebell woods for photo purposes, although we’re not sure whether that’s a good thing or not.


A combination of altruism and self interest brought me, and others in the group, to volunteer for the Woodland Trust. We all enjoy being out in woodland and being with like-minded people. We also like the idea of contributing to the welfare of this particular wood and maintaining safe access to it for the community that helped to buy it for the Trust. We are second and third generation friends of the wood so we are continuing a local commitment on behalf of those living close by.

Some of the Philipshill Working Group, taken in 2019


The group’s role entails maintaining safe access, contributing to the wood’s management plan, in addition to dealing with the effects of increasing pressure on the wood from a widening range of activities, particularly in my role as a warden. We help thin dense growth of invasive species to encourage slower growing trees and the population of woodland plants. The group has also been contributing to a long term survey of tawny owl numbers for more than twenty years.


Some of us would say cutting down trees is the most enjoyable part of the role! Actually, it’s difficult to separate the physical activity that a working party offers from the pleasure of being in the wood regularly – we meet every week – throughout the year. A particularly memorable occasion was when we found a hungry and grumpy looking tawny owl chick sitting in the remains of the pigeon that was its last meal in one of the nesting boxes that the group maintains and monitors annually.”

A grumpy owl chick!


What marvellous representatives of the Trust in their local area, as are many others across the countries and regions. Thank you so much for all that you do to preserve these special habitats for generations of people and wildlife. 


Words: Peter Haley, Volunteer Woodland Working Group Leader and Warden for Philipshill Wood, and Anna Claxton, Volunteer Development Officer, South East

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