Today, despite the forecast threatening heavy rain, we headed to Hem Heath to continue some coppicing that had been started last week. Despite the name the reserve is not an area of heath land; it’s a network of four woods. The various woods have been managed differently over their history which is evident as you walk around the reserve.
Coppicing is a traditional way of managing woodland that relies on the fact that many trees will make new growth from the stumps left behind, which can in later years be cut down itself. Coppicing normally occurs in different segments of the woodland each year on a continuous cycle. This means that throughout the woodlands there will a full age range of coppiced trees which is useful for biodiversity. Cutting down trees also allows light to reach the forest floor and creates open spaces encouraging the growth of plant species that favour this habitat and the wildlife that relies on them.
The midweek volunteers had made a start on the work last week, and some others had done some more felling yesterday so our main job for the day was to chop up all the fallen wood that was lying around so that it could be burnt. It was relatively easy work and the weather decided to be kind to us and did no more then drizzle very lightly for a short amount of time.
We had rather a high turn out for the day and were even joined by some of the volunteers that normally only come out on a Thursday. The reason? It was the Christmas party 🙂
At lunch time we packed our tools away and tucked in to jacket potatoes and soup cooked on the bonfire. Mulled wine was passed around adding to the festivities and once the mains were gobbled up a vast array of cakey goodness was on offer. I’d gotten festive in the kitchen and made some gingerbread reindeer and chocolate brownies for everyone to tuck into. Also on offer were mince pies, chocolate cake and lemon drizzle cake.
Getting nice and toasty around the bonfire and full of good full, it did feel rather christmassy. Add in the enjoyable company and it really was a perfect lunchtime.
Festivities didn’t end there. Once the fire had died down it was of to a nearby pub for a drink and to let our food settle. We were all also given a little present: the SWT Midweek Volunteers 2014 calender! The calender is put together by Alan using the photos he and Lucy have taken over the year at different reserves. There were some brilliant pictures in there though unfortunately yours truley didn’t appear in any of them. My aim for next year is to get into a least one photo used in the 2015 calender.
So volunteering has finished for 2013. I’ve had a brilliant time, met some amazing people and learnt lots. Here’s hoping for more of the same in the new year!