WILD LIFE – NATURES WAY OF SAYING THANKS
Spring is coming in Finemere Wood, near Quainton. When the birds start to nest we must put away our loppers and saws, and allow nature to take its course.
There has been plentiful, glorious sunshine over the recent weeks, coaxing tender shoots from the ground. So too has it energised the volunteers who have been clearing scrub and felling trees at an astonishingly fast rate.
Our last gathering in February saw us creating another scallop, clearing a lay-by shaped area of scrub from alongside the track.
The woodland edge is an extremely important habitat for so many invertebrates, plants and birds. By cutting scallops in rotation along the rides, we can ensure there is a rich mix of vegetation at many stages of growth and thus biodiversity can be maximised.
The power of the conservation volunteer never ceases to amaze me. It took just seven men and women to clear a 30m x 10m area of scrub in a day. Yet hard physical labour in this magnificent wood is so nourishing to the soul: it stills the mind; it works the body and allows the beauty of the wilderness to cast its magical spell.
IT’S March and we’ve completed the work planned for the winter in record time, which means we start labouring on the medieval drovers track.
This is an ongoing project which gets attention only if time allows, and it is a favourite of mine.
Finemere Wood was once part of the Royal Bernwood Forest, where kings would hunt and drovers would graze their animals, way back in the 10th century. As we hack our way through the dense vegetation into this hidden part of the wood, we imagine unearthing secrets from those times gone by.
Another large section of the track has been cleared; our stopping point this year a natural clearing amidst a blackthorn thicket. Sunlight will flood this area allowing seeds which have been lying dormant in the ground for many years to burst into life. Primroses and violets are already taking hold at the top of the track.
ALTHOUGH spring has arrived there are still outlets for the volunteers’ immeasurable energy.
Many fences must be raised to protect new growth from the resident deer; culverts must be built to manage excessive rain water; there will be raking duties once the grassy rides have had their annual cut; and there will be time to reflect upon our achievements and revel in the resulting bounty of wildlife.
Muntjac deer inhabit Finemere Wood. You might catch a glimpse of one in the distance leaping gracefully and nimbly through the undergrowth. But we don’t have to see them to know they are there as they leave many signs: dung, deer paths, footprints and couches where they have laid down.
The areas cleared of scrub are irresistible to them; the succulent new growth of ground flora is such a delicacy. To allow plants and flowers a chance to bloom fences are raised around these areas, and they have to be tall as deer can jump high!
In April the volunteers began constructing a fence at this year’s coppice coupe.
Their eyes shining with glee as fencing tools were brought out: heavy drivers for banging in posts; weighty digging implements; and to make the task even more exciting, a work platform on which to balance, enabling the worker to reach the top of the fence post.
And so it seems that the presence of deer has its benefits, creating enjoyable and stimulating challenges for Finemere’s workforce!
The backdrop to the day was a carpet of bluebells so astonishingly beautiful it took your breath away.
I am left wondering how this spectacle of nature could ever be greater, and yet I know that with each passing year this sight just becomes even more magnificent.
To celebrate National Volunteering Week, we're publishing extracts from recent blogs by Charlotte Karmali, a volunteer with the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust
A sight to behold: Bluebells and stitchwort in Finemere Wood.
Burning bright: Volunteers see off winter with a ritual burning of the spoils; a bonfire built with such care and attention it seems a shame to set light to it.
Cutting back: Charlotte gets to grips with some blackthorn thicket.