Vol­un­teer: Work­ing for Na­ture

Wood­land man­age­ment, Bre­con Bea­cons

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Jackie Charl­ton runs a com­mu­nity wood­land project in the Bre­con Bea­cons

All over the world de­voted in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing their bit by vol­un­teer­ing to be in­volved with wildlife. Sue Wingrove meets the founder of a com­mu­nity wood­land project in South Wales.

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ol­un­teers at Llan­gat­tock Com­mu­nity Wood­lands watched in amaze­ment as a grass snake shot out from among their legs and swam across the canal. It was a proud mo­ment, ex­plains Jackie Charl­ton: “We felt we had con­trib­uted to the right habi­tat for this won­der­ful sight.”

The vol­un­teers work on en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion within two wood­lands that bor­der the Mon­mouthshire and Bre­con Canal. “We meet ev­ery Tues­day come rain, shine, snow – or heat­wave,” says Jackie, who set the group up in 2009 and is now the chair­per­son. “We reg­u­larly have 10 to 15 vol­un­teers.” These in­clude re­tirees, part-time work­ers, the self­em­ployed or peo­ple be­tween jobs.

The group is com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing sus­tain­able, small-scale wood­land man­age­ment that sup­ports bio­di­ver­sity. “This is a wet wood­land; a com­bi­na­tion of wood­land and bog,” she ex­plains. “We work to pre­serve its spe­cial na­ture by clear­ing non-na­tive lau­rel, bram­bles and bracken.” A huge va­ri­ety of species have ben­e­fited, in­clud­ing rowan, com­mon blue­bell, Euro­pean ot­ter and slow-worm.

Jackie has also joined forces with the Canal and River Trust as part of their ‘canal adop­tion scheme’. This has in­volved cop­pic­ing hazel along a 24km stretch of tow­path to open up views and im­prove the habi­tat for dormice and other species. “We have put up more than 100 bird boxes over the years as well as around 50 bat boxes,” she says.

Rais­ing aware­ness of small wood­land man­age­ment, in an area with a lot of large conifer plan­ta­tions, is im­por­tant, as is the fact that the project is a ‘com­mu­nity’ wood­land. “We have set up part­ner­ships with other char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions and met some amaz­ing peo­ple,” she says. “We work reg­u­larly with the lo­cal pri­mary school’s ‘eco club’, a lo­cal de­men­tia project, and an arts or­gan­i­sa­tion based in the Black Moun­tains called Peak.”

And Jackie has fur­ther plans: “I would like to ex­pand on the work we do with de­men­tia groups,” she ex­plains. “Spend­ing time in our wood­lands has a spir­i­tual per­spec­tive that would be of value, and I’m work­ing to find a way of achiev­ing this.”

When asked why she de­votes her spare time and en­ergy to the wood­lands, Jackie sim­ply says it feels right. “What I do is not ex­tra­or­di­nary but what we do as a group is,” she in­sists. “Work­ing to­gether shows what can be done with a col­lec­tive ob­jec­tive.” FIND OUT MORE For more in­for­ma­tion or to get in­volved, visit llan­gat­tock­woods.org.uk

S Spend­ing time in our wood­lands has a spir­i­tual per­spec­tive. T

Jackie’s group is in­volved in tree felling, tree plant­ing, cop­pic­ing and even bee­keep­ing.

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