Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Sherrardspark Wood Wardens' Society, of which more later, but first let us review some of our regular activities.
Our working party volunteers carried out work in the wood on 108 days, clocking up an amazing 4000 hours. Twenty or more volunteers turned up for work on eighteen occasions – either a Thursday or Sunday morning.
We also helped volunteers in neighbouring nature reserves at Danesbury, Mardley Heath, Northaw Great Wood, Lemsford Spring and Ayot – a great boost for the smaller friends’ groups operating locally.
In March of 2016 over 800 trees were planted and it is pleasing to report that they have prospered very well following a wet spring. We can also report that four of our regular wood wardens have received qualifications in chainsaw operating and brush cutting - important skills to contribute to the safety and efficiency of our working parties. Furthermore first aid kits have been renewed for use by our qualified first-aiders. We have previously reported that our rather elderly vehicle reached retirement age, after many years of service, and the newly acquired pick-up truck has been in regular use, proving to be more efficient for our needs and cheaper to run! Regular users of Sherrardspark Wood will not have failed to notice it sporting new, distinctive signing.
Our monitoring groups have been carrying on with their sterling work recording butterflies, birds, small mammals, bats, and dead wood, and although our dormouse boxes have become home to tits and the odd mouse and bat, no dormice have yet taken up residence – we keep on monitoring.
Many diverse tasks have been undertaken by our regular working parties in different areas of the wood, including a large amount of holly thinning, weeding the tree nursery, strimming overgrown brambles on pathways, removing bramble and birch saplings from the heather regeneration area, as well as clearing ditches and blocked gulleys.
The dedication and hard work of all our volunteers has not gone unnoticed, as we have been receiving many compliments from the public on the improving state of our woodland. Of course, Sherrardspark Wood is owned by Welwyn Hatfield Council who have been instrumental in our success, in particular the Landscape and Ecology Officer, who works closely with the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens’ Society.
A major undertaking in 2016 was the 50th anniversary exhibition which took place in November at the New Maynard Gallery at Welwyn Garden City’s Campus West. The exhibition was assembled by a team of 21 wood wardens who spent over 18 months researching and putting together information. Many aspects of the woodland were covered, including history with a ‘time line’ going back to the Doomsday Book; archaeology; geology; tree identification; photographs of trees, plants and animals; and artefacts such as toys, walking sticks and bowls made of local wood. A bench seat with an inscription: "Caring for the Woods for 50 Years", newly made from timber sourced in the wood was also on display. It will be placed in Sherrardspark Wood to commemorate the occasion.
In the run up to the 50th anniversary exhibition we received a lot of support from Welwyn Hatfield Times, who published in the newspaper a series of special articles written by wood wardens with specific expertise on a variety of subjects relating to Sherrardspark Wood.
You will be pleased to know being a wood warden is not all about work – we also have quite an active social programme and last year we enjoyed a garden picnic on a lovely summer day, a special 50th Anniversary celebration lunch as well as a jolly good Christmas party in December. This is, of course, in addition to our regular general meetings with excellent speakers, which take place throughout the year.
Our involvement in, and support from, the local community is very important to us and our annual series of guided walks helps us to cultivate this relationship. Twelve public guided walks were well attended in 2016 and we now have a new programme for 2017. As always a wide variety of subjects are included, some old favourites and some new ones, so you are sure to find one of them of particular interest – if not all of them!
We get off to a splendid start on Sunday, 19th March, when Nikki Edwards takes us underground to explore “Before Sherrardspark Wood – The Rocks beneath the Trees”. If you have not been on Nikki’s walk before you can be assured of an absolutely fascinating introduction to geology.
On Saturday, 22nd April, we have an early 7 am start - in order not to miss the joy of dawn, well nearly, birdsong during our “Spring Bird Walk”. So it is worth making an early start.
“Cowslips and Bluebells” on Saturday, 29th April, with Neale Holmes-Smith has been a compulsory inclusion in our programme since we first started; always popular and a delight for the senses to see and smell these wild flowers showing off to welcome early spring.
Keen photographer? “Woodland Photography for Beginners & Improvers” with Dave Foster was very welcomed and instructive, now run for two consecutive years by popular demand. Be sure to book a place early as numbers are restricted for this one. The date for your diary is Sunday, 14th May.
Many will be welcoming back Mary Barton on Sunday, 4th June, to go “Foraging in the Wood for Food and Medicine”. If you have never joined us in previous years, you will be truly amazed by Mary’s knowledge and expertise on this subject and the benefits of all the natural medicines that are available to us.
The full, detailed, programme is available on our website, displayed at various locations around the wood and in the Welwyn Hatfield Times monthly Magazine, as well as being distributed to many local organizations and schools.
Over the fifty years of our Society’s history we have developed from a very small number of wardens of the wood to an amazing seventy volunteers involved with conservation, education and monitoring of the wildlife that shares the wood with us. Much more information is available on this website if you wish to find out more about us and our work, or how to join our Society.