Out in the woods: February 2016

As we enter the year 2016 it’s time for an update of what to expect over the coming months. Before I talk about the current year I must report that in September 2015 we had a most successful walk with the local 9th Welwyn Garden City Brownies. Twenty one children joined us for this event, led by Gary Dobrin, who was supported by four additional wood wardens.  

The children were all very enthusiastic, entering into the spirit of the walk and enjoying the tree quiz set for them by Gary. A very nice, complimentary letter was received from their Leader and I can’t resist a small quote, “....We all learnt lots of new things and, hopefully, [the walk] made us all appreciate a bit more how wonderful the woods on our doorstep are. We will definitely recommend a guided tour by the wardens to the other Brownie packs in our district.”  I know I speak for all the wood wardens involved when I say that it will be a delight to welcome them to Sherrardspark Wood.
 
In November we were joined by a group of U3A members from St. Albans. Those of us who joined this tour led by Peter Cade were very encouraged by their enthusiasm and interest in the wood and hope that some of them may be joining us on one or two of this year’s guided walks.
 
Many people are interested in the history of the wood, which was reflected by the number attending last October’s guided walk. Led by Historian Thomas Curtis, who has researched this subject in great depth, we experienced a most informative and interesting journey through time; even those of us who already have some knowledge of the past history of this ancient wood found it most enlightening. I would strongly recommend that you do not miss Thomas’s “A Short Walk Through the Long History of the Woods”, which will be coming up on 23rd October 2016.
 
Another walk which took place in November was the annual “Fungal Foray”. Chris James, Landscape and Ecology Officer at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, has such a wealth of knowledge on this subject and this, combined with her enthusiasm, always makes for a very popular and informative walk. Unfortunately I was unable to join in the last walk last but, although it seems a long way off, we can look forward to her next date on 17th September 2016. 
 
Full details of our “Guided Walks 2016” programme are available on our web site, and I am sure you will agree that wood warden Dee Jackson has done a splendid job in putting together such a wide variety of walks. We hope to meet many old friends and some new ones over the course of the year, so do come along and support us and maybe learn something new about our most precious woodland.   You can also find the full programme in the Welwyn Hatfield Times Magazine which is distributed with the local paper at the end of each month. All walks start from the Pentley Park entrance to the wood, near Templewood School, unless otherwise advised and we ask for a donation of £3 per adult (under 15s free).
 
Another event that took place in November was the Annual Volunteers ‘Thank You’ get together organised by Welwyn Hatfield Council in acknowledgement of all the valuable work undertaken by so many volunteers at the local sites. Sherrardspark wood warden, Chris Cooke, a keen photographer, was one of several who gave a presentation during the evening.  Cllr. Pat Mabbott attended and gave a Vote of Thanks to all the groups involved in the conservation work.
 
I mentioned previously that we had to part with our trusty, but ageing, yellow jeep. We now have a very smart silver vehicle which has already served us very well, since we no longer need a trailer for transporting timber, tools, wood wardens and all manner of things around the wood. A great success so far – pity it is not yellow!!
 
Needless to say our trusty wood wardens have been working hard throughout the winter, regardless of the rain and subsequent wall to wall mud. Path and bridleways have been kept safe and clear of falling debris, drainage ditches have been maintained and coppicing has continued in a designated section of about half a hectare of the Brocks Wood area.  This particular project is nearing its end now with the planting of 374 new trees (43 oaks, 153 hornbeams, 134 hazel, 27 hawthorn and  27 cherry)  as well as 36 honeysuckle saplings. It will be interesting to see how the area develops in the future; it won’t of course happen quickly, we have to be patient when it comes to allowing nature to take its course.   We operate two working parties each week, on a Thursday and Sunday morning. You can find out more about joining the wood wardens and their work schedules on a specific section of our web site.   If you have not already done so, please do have a look and consider giving a little time to help with the conservation of our very special Sherrardspark Wood.
 
It is not only the working parties that have been battling the winter weather, but our specialist monitoring teams have also been wading through the mud to keep a check on  small mammals, dormice and bird populations, as well as tree condition and butterflies (when appropriate). Their findings are all properly recorded for reference purposes. Quite a demanding task all round.
 
Well, we have quite an exciting year to look forward to but most of all we have the joy of spending time in our magnificent woodland and the pleasure of witnessing our ever changing seasons.  Spring will soon be with us and hopefully the mud will dry out a bit so that we can all the more enjoy the beautiful colours and scents of the bluebells and cowslips when they bloom. Joining with Neale Holmes-Smith, Environmentalist and Wood Warden, on his “Cowslip and Bluebells” walk on the 23rd April will make it an even more memorable experience. We all take our surroundings for granted, but with a little guidance we have so much more pleasure to gain from finding out about the wildlife around us, so I hope you will take the opportunity to join us and benefit from the knowledge of the people leading our walks.
 
Have a great year.

Marian Dawson
Wood Warden


February 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9th WGC Brownies. Photo Gill Kingesley-Johnson

U3A St Albans with Peter Cade. Photo Marian Dawson

Fungal Foray with Chris James in 2004. Photo Marian Dawson

Cllr Pat Mabbott with wood wardens John Benson and Mary Bridges. Photo Malgosia Arch

Planting new trees in a coppiced section of the wood. Photo Chris Cooke

Ivy on sticks for deer browsing survey. Photo Bryn Jones