Carpenters Wood in Chorleywood, is an ancient semi-natural ancient woodland, having been wooded for at least 400 years. Situated in south west Hertfordshire and within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the woods are of County importance for their wildlife.
Although collectively known as Carpenters Wood, there are three distinct parts – Hillas Wood, Whitelands Wood and the larger Carpenters Wood. Carpenters Wood is one of the few ancient woodlands in England. It is a designated wildlife site with 56 acres of mixed species woodland made up of ancient Beech, Oak, Ash, Larch, Birch, and particularly special Hornbeam around the boundary. The majority of the mature trees in the woods are Beech and are around 150 years old. These veteran trees and standing dead trees in the woods provide nest sites for a variety of birds including Lesser and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, roosts for bats and are a host to a myriad of fungi and insects.
When woodland archaeological expert John Morris walked around the woodland he identified saw pits, chalk quarries and found evidence of Bodgering (Bodgers were skilled itinerant wood-turners, who worked in the beech woods on the chalk hills of the Chilterns. They cut timber and converted it into chair legs by turning it on a pole lathe, an ancient and very simple tool that uses the spring of a bent sapling to help run it.) Historically Chilterns Beech woods provided timber for a wide range of uses, most notably the chair-making industry, which was centred on the town of High Wycombe. Carpenters Wood was no exception to this and depressions in the ground on the eastern boundary are thought to be old sawpits used by foresters to saw trees into planks, making the timber easier to move.
In the 1980’s parts of Hillas Wood were planted with Larch, a deciduous conifer planted as a quick growing timber crop. When these plantations came of age, areas where the Larch had been planted had become dark, dingy and devoid of wildlife. For this reason, more recently the larch has been thinned out to bring more light into the woodland and encourage the regeneration of native trees. In the main area of Carpenters Wood Bluebells carpet the woodland floor during late April and early May creating a wonderful sight for visitors. Also keep an eye out for ‘Wood Sanicle’ and the small pink flowers of the nationally rare ‘Coralroot Bitter-Cress’ which grows in certain areas of the woodland. Sheltered sunny glades created by the removal of trees are also important for insects such as ‘Speckled Wood butterflies. Without doubt spring is the best season to visit these woods, although autumn comes a close second.
Speckled Wood butterflies
There are numerous footpaths throughout the woodland for visitors on foot. Some of these paths are permissive bridleways, which provide routes for horse riders and cyclists.
Recently funding from Three Rivers District Council, who own the woodland, has enabled improvements to be made to the entrances into the woods, and new welcome signs and waymarker posts have been installed. Some particularly muddy sections of path have also been resurfaced to make them more useable during the wettest months.
HOW THE FRIENDS OF CARPENTERS WOOD CARE FOR YOUR LOCAL WOODLAND
Friends of Carpenters Wood (FOCW) are a group of local volunteers, who have for many years dedicated themselves to caring for the woods with the support of Three Rivers District Council and the Countryside Management Service (CMS). The Friends meet twice a month and are involved in path clearance, holly removal along the boundary of the woodland, general maintenance work, and specific project work to enhance the woodland for users.
The Friends Group, which was started in 2008 by a group of local volunteers, is still thriving but they are always looking for new members to join them. Barbara Green, the present Chairman says,
“FOCW have made a big difference to the woodland since their inception. About twelve of us are involved in the physical work but many more take a regular interest in the maintenance of the woodland. We take our role very seriously. CMS provide regular support and training in first aid and woodland management, and some have even attended a hedge-laying course. The group are actively involved in long term planning as well as short term maintenance to preserve the woodland for posterity”.
“The main purpose is to make the woodland more people-friendly and an easier place to walk. Paths are now more open with views across the fields and, as a result, stay drier and more accessible. We have created special glades for sitting and recently installed three oak benches to encourage people to visit the woodland and enjoy its tranquillity. We are delivering a management plan for the woods that combines the needs of people with the need to protect and enhance the wildlife”.
“During the last 5 years we have seen many improvements to the entrances, paths and signage. The Friends have also installed 12 bird and bat boxes, all sponsored by local people, and have helped to plant a new hedge along the farm track into the wood at Farm Gate.
“Although horses use the woodland on a regular basis they are restricted to the bridleways as they can make the footpaths impassable. So new horse barriers have also been installed in the woodland. Carpenters Wood is for everybody to enjoy and whilst it is hard work to keep it maintained our volunteers love being out in the fresh air, getting exercise, and doing something really useful for the local community. ”
“Between May and December 2016, CMS, on behalf of Three Rivers, will be developing a new 5 Year Plan for Carpenters Wood which will determine how the woodland will be protected and enhanced over the coming years. This will be done in collaboration with the Friends Group who have an important role to play in the implementation of the 5 Year Plan. If you have any suggestions, please let us know. We will be posting updates on our progress with this new plan for you to view and comment upon.
We are always keen to welcome new volunteers. The work we undertake provides healthy exercise as well as allowing us to understand how, through proper management, the woodland can be preserved for future generations. The jobs we undertake in the woodland cater for most levels of fitness and If you feel you would like to join us once or twice a month on our preplanned dates then please contact Barbara Green on firstname.lastname@example.org . The diary of volunteer sessions is available on this website.
To download a Carpenters Wood leaflet visit the Countryside Management Service (CMS) web site. :- http://www.hertslink.org/cms/getactive/placestovisit/
THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRYSIDE MANAGEMENT SERVICE (CMS)
Back in the early 1970s our countryside was being lost to development. Whilst the Green Belt had been largely successful in controlling development, issues such as recreation and landscape conservation were falling by the wayside. For this reason CMS, supported by two local authorities including Hertfordshire, sponsored a project called the ‘Greenbelt Management Experiment’. The budget was small but soon volunteers were recruited to support the work.
THE AIMS OF THE CMS CAN BE SUMMARISED AS:-
Encouraging people to get involved in looking after their local countryside or parks by offering a range of ways that the public can provide voluntary help from practical conservation to leading Health Walks.• Providing advice to landowners or managers to help them look after their land with wildlife in mind. Helping a range of people from individual land owners. to community groups to source and secure funding for landscape improvement and conservation work and to bring about improvements to the landscape, wildlife habitats and public access.
• Promoting outdoor recreation through organising events such as guided walks, and working with groups to develop walk and cycle routes linking towns and villages to their surrounding countryside.
Matt Watts has been recently appointed as our ‘CMS’ Projects Officer. Prior to his appointment Matt has been living in Scotland for the last eight years working as the Ranger for the North Harris Trust, on the Isle of Harris. His work involved leading programs of guided walks, working with volunteers carrying out various conservation activities, working with school groups, and delivering the annual Isle of Harris Mountain Festival.
Councillor Barbara Green
Chairman, Friends of Carpenters Wood