Feb 16 2022

New groups flourish in Leicestershire

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve set up two brand new woodland working groups (WWGs) and have re-started a third group across the National Forest area, which covers parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.


The National Forest has a unique story and the new WWG’s will have a positive impact to it’s ongoing success. In the past, much of the Midlands was dominated by coal mining and heavy industry. These industries declined and eventually stopped in the mid-80’s, leaving a scarring of the landscape. A group of people at the Countryside Commission got together in 1987 and came up with the vision to create a National Forest. The plan was to link the remaining ancient forests of Charnwood in Leicestershire and Needworth in Staffordshire together, through woodland planting, tree planting in urban areas and throughout. This was a huge effort with many people working together, resulting in 200 square miles of heavily wooded landscape!


Map of Woodland Trust woods in the National Forest area ( Georgina’s Wood not shown)


The Woodland Trust manages a number of woodlands in the National Forest area, including two sites where we’ve launched new WWG’s and a third where we have re-launched a group. We’d originally planned to set up these groups over a year ago, but COVID and other issues prevented this, so we are pleased to be running the first sessions of the groups now, welcoming in brand new volunteers to the Woodland Trust.


Based over in Swadlincote, one of our new WWG’s helping us with practical conservation work is at Top Wood. This is a young woodland which was planted as part of the ‘Woods on your Doorstep’ project. A huge volunteer effort saw 100,000 trees planted on site and after two decades the wood is well established, made up of a mix of wooded areas, grass lands and ponds. Acting as an important buffer for the surrounding ancient woodland, many wildlife species can be found at Top Wood. Within the wood, remnant ridge and furrow ploughing methods can be seen – a glimpse back to medieval times, and an old embankment exists which supported the old mineral railway, providing a link from the coal mining days.


Mark Beer, the leader of the group talked about what the group has got up to so far. “We have had a fantastic start to the new year with Top Wood Working Group in the National Forest since launching this brand new group in January. An ever increasing number of volunteers are now signing up to be part of the group from the local area and it is fantastic to make a start on tasks. The site was previously farmland and planting of trees began in 1997 by local school children and volunteers. The National Forest Way walking route runs through the woodland and it is a popular site for locals. We started with some Rhododendron clearance and then moved on to clearing an embankment left over from the coal mining trains that historically went through the site to create habitat for reptiles once the sun finally makes an appearance. Hopefully before the nesting season gets into full swing we will have started work on an area of coppice and widened a few of the rides. In the summer months we are planning to carry out some wildlife surveys and hoping to see butterflies and other invertebrates.”



The second new WWG is at Martinshaw Wood. Based close to Ratby and Groby, Martinsaw Wood is steeped in history and points which provide clues to the former uses of the wood include possible iron age features and ancient stone quarries. In the past it was used to keep deer, to produce timber and later on the site was planted with conifers. The site was clear felled until the Forestry Commission took it on in 1950, where it planted a mix of native and exotic broadleaves and conifers for commercial plantation. The Woodland Trust took it on in 1986 and due to it being designated a Planted Ancient Woodland (PAWS) site, has been working to restore it, slowing removing the conifer crop as part of an incremental restoration process. Martinshaw Wood is home to a dazzling array of wildlife including wood anemone, rare eared-sallow, candlesnuff fungus, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker and gatekeeper butterflies to name a few.



The WWG at Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood (QEDJW) is making a welcome return after few years of dormancy. The group was originally established to help with the planting of the wood in 2012, which was created in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Thanks to volunteer help we were able to plant 300,000 native broadleaf trees between 2012-2015 and it is now a beautiful site made up of both semi-natural ancient broadleaf woodland and wetlands. This is an ideal combination of habitats for a variety of wildlife species including tawny owl, redwing, weasel, tufted duck, terns and curlews. Now that the woodland is more established, there are many practical conservation activities to carry out in order to maintain the site, so the re-establishment of the WWG has come at the right time.


Gerald Price, the Woodland Working Group leader for QEDJW reflected on the changes to the siteThe QEDJ Wood is barely 10 years old but in places has grown dramatically. Our newly formed work group are coppicing an area of willow, which has inter planted oak so as to give the latter its place in the sun.  Muscles that we had forgotten about are being exercised whilst gradually making the patch look tidier. A most therapeutic experience.”


Thank you so much to Mark, Tim and Gerald for volunteering with us as WWG Leaders for Top Wood, Martinshaw Wood and QEDJW respectively. We simply would not be able to run these groups without you! We are so pleased to be able to welcome our new volunteers and really appreciate them giving their time up to helping our cause! Some of our new volunteers are helping at more than one group, which we are most grateful for!


David Logan, site manager for the woods across Leicestershire thanked the volunteers “These new volunteer groups will make a huge difference to each site. There are always loads of jobs that I see that wouldn’t be cost effective to get a contractor to do so these people coming forward is just fantastic”.


Amanda Brookes- Volunteering Development Officer (Central England)

Feature image and map by David Logan (Site manager: Central England)

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