This January, on a frosty morning, we were met in the woods by Alex Laurie, Principal Tree and Landscape Officer at Three Rivers District Council. He had 40 broadleaf trees for us to plant in an area of the woods which has had most of the larch removed.
This is a long-term goal for our ancient woodland, to restore it to the state it would have been in had it not, in areas, been planted with a larch crop. Under Alex’s expert guidance, we planted 15 hazel, 15 beech, 5 wild cherry and 5 hornbeam with supports and guards to protect them from deer and rabbits.
We have another 40 trees to plant next month in another area of the woods.
In January contractors were in the woods tackling jobs from our 5-year GAP (Greenspace Action Plan) This included removing more of the larch from Hillas Wood and we hope that native broadleaf trees will eventually replace these. Sadly, a job that wasn’t originally on the GAP, the removal of ash affected by Ash Dieback, had to be done for safety reasons. This left the woods looking a bit denuded for a while, although by the time the logs were removed, when the ground was less muddy, the woods were looking luscious again. Also, one of the paths was widened in places as stated in the GAP to let more light into the inside of the woods and encourage a more diverse selection of plants and insects to thrive. Our volunteers were on hand to help clear up.
In February, strong winds brought down quite a few trees. Some of the larger ones were removed by contractors, but that still left many smaller ones for volunteers to clear up during February and March.
In April, one particular tree had come down between the piles of larch logs. Without electric tools, our volunteers still managed to remove the obstacle.
In Spring, everything starts to grow rapidly in the woods, and in particular the brambles. One path we call Bramble Ramble needed extra attention in May as it was getting hard to walk down.
An important path to keep clear is the one from Whitelands Avenue into the woods. This is particularly critical in June when the nettles have grown.
The entrance from the Barrel Arch was getting really overgrown over the Summer. We cleared around all the signage so visitors to the woods would get an unobstructed view.
In October we had the sad task of removing some of the young ash trees by the Chiltern Way that were suffering from Ash Dieback. Some of these were so badly affected that they could be pulled up rather than needing to be sawn down. Being so near the path, this was an essential task as one could easily have fallen onto the path as someone was walking past.
November and December are good months to thin some of the dense bits of holly in the woods as there are no birds nesting. We avoid removing holly that has berries so we don’t deprive the birds of a food source.
A crisp sunny day in December is a beautiful time to be working in the woods. This was our view over the Horse Field from where we were working on the holly.