What's going on?

Well this wasn't in the plan! The end of season arrived rather abruptly as you will all be aware, leaving us a little caught out with finishing off what we were doing. The grant work at Woodcote was completed, but we were working on how we could support the final few sessions there and at Donisthorpe. We had a plan, but sadly we had to close down very suddenly. We have left both sites in a safe and tidy state, but with a little timber remaining - we will try to extract that during the down-season if restrictions lift, taking any residual timber up to CEEP for group use, otherwise it will be a good start for next season.

Planning for next season continues on the assumption we will resume as usual, but some of the activities we were hoping to run during the next few months are on hold. I will continue to communicate the situation to you all through this newsletter and the Facebook Group. Do share what you are up to with us all, I'm sure there is lots of firewood to process!


End of season summary

After a rather sudden end to the season we can now take stock and look at what a productive enjoyable season we have had. Despite being one of the wettest we have experienced, we only had to cancel a single session, in that case due to storm Dennis. The battle with mud has been continuous, but the attendance and haul of logs we have all enjoyed has been the highest yet for us as a group.

We increased the number of sessions this season with 33 planned. In the end we managed 28 with the last 4 falling victim to Coronavirus.

Here are a few stats on what we achieved:-

  • 28 Sessions attracted 567 member attendances, giving us a huge 3798 hours of volunteer time
  • From those sessions we took home 430 boot loads of logs which is around 130 Cu metres of timber
  • We completed all of the grant work, including ride edge thinning, Oak/Ash interface thinning, nest and bat box installation, formative pruning, creation of scallops and hazel coppicing. A huge challenge and a fantastic result not only for us, but for the Woodland Trust and it's woodland estate.
  • We ran monthly sessions at Donisthorpe Woodland Park, again working with Chris Conway to help manage that woodland as part of our ongoing commitment to Chris and his woodlands.
  • We ran two sessions at Mimi's Wood, working with the owners to remove some of the invasive Willow. This is something we carried out to assist Dean and Sarah in their management of their wood and as a community activity on our part
  • We completed the tree work at Donisthorpe Community Orchard where we removed the final trees to allow more light into the orchard
  • We continued to invest in the group, both financially with tools/PPE and training for our members. We have more leaders in the team and an increasing number of First Aid trained people to ensure the sessions are resourced to allow as many of us to attend as possible.

All in all a fantastic season. There are a few special thank you messages that I would like to share on all of our behalf.

David Gravett works tirelessly to ensure we have clean and sharp tools, PPE and refreshments delivered to site for every session

Graham Bowers spends hours of his own time wandering the woods planning our sessions, keeping us on target for grant work and managing the interactions with the Woodand Trust and Chris Conway to ensure sessions are in line with the woodland managers.

The Committee in general - Nothing is too much trouble for our committee. Helen planning and delivering training, Mark Eydman working as Secretary, Steve Miller looking after the money and everyone else contributing in many ways that just makes it all happen.

I know there are many others who make this group work, far too many to mention in person, but you know who you are so thank you!

2020 - 2021 Season Planning

No sooner have we patted ourselves on the back for last season than we are looking to next season. It may seem a way off, but grant applications and agreement of woodland work has to be done now. Graham has been working on the site planning and Helen has ben looking at the training plan, both of which will need to be in place by early April.

Next season our plan is to complete the work at Woodcote, which we think will take us through to around Christmas time, continue working with Chris at Donisthorpe on a session/month basis and then in 2021 we will be starting work at Foxley Wood in Linton. This is a huge site compared to our previous woodlands, so will help meet our aspiration of having a rolling 5 year plan.

We are all uncertain about the Coronavirus situation and where we will be come the new season, but we have decided to plan as usual and adapt as we need to.

We are hoping to run a public relations exercise in Linton so the residents are aware of what we will be doing in their local woodland. We all know that careful communications is key to ensuring residents are not horrified that their wood is being chopped down. We expect to recruit new members from the local area as part of this and would encourage any of you who have contacts in Linton to explain what we do and what the benefits to the woodland are.

We will be keeping everyone updated on the plans, the dates and the sessions through this newsletter and the final plan presented at our AGM in September.

Business Plan & Strategy

I have already mentioned the desire to have a 5 year plan for the woodlands available to us, so I'm pleased to let you know that this is now underpinned with the scope of work at Foxley Wood in Linton. The site has potentially 6-8 seasons work for us and we have an outline agreement with the Woodland Trust to carry out that thinning work. There is work to be carried out at site, before we can start, to provide a stoned area for our bays and vehicle loading. This is being progressed by the Woodland Trust. Graham is leading for us so we can have every confidence it will happen.

We will continue to work with Chris Conway at Donisthorpe, plus we are on constant look out for other opportunities. We have a base plan and will incorporate any other opportunities as they arise, but overall we are in an enviable position as a voluntary group.

At last years AGM we agreed that a business plan should be created which would outline our income streams. We have a very clear picture of the funds we need to operate the group, but not a clear view of where our income will come from and who will deliver it. I'm happy to report we now have that plan. There will be some impact to it from Coronavirus, but that is manageable. Hopefully we will still be in a position to create income from sales of goods later in the year and around Christmas. A full run through of the plan will be carried out at the AGM in September, needless to say at this time we are in a good financial position.

Heartwood HQ & CEEP Working Party

Our base at CEEP is feeling increasingly homely. We ran a very successful nest box building session there earlier in the year with those boxes now in position in Woodcote wood. We had a full programme of working party days planned with activities taking us through the whole year, so once the virus pandemic is over we will revisit the plan and re-schedule them. Please feel free to come along, it's a lovely place to spend a few hours, chatting, doing a little work, sharing and demonstrating skills to each other. If we are successful with our latest grant application to East Midlands Airport we will be building a covered craft area for any of our members to use. This will include shave horses  pole lathes and all the tools associated. Look out for dates once we can meet up again.

Welcome to Heartwood HQ

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The Corona pandemic has prompted us to look at our PPE again. As part of our planning to do some final work in the woods we had created a plan to mitigate risk associated with the virus. One item on here was the sharing of PPE.

For some time we have been looking at asking everyone to provide their own PPE (Gloves and Helmet), so after working through the recent situation risk assessment we are of the opinion that having personal equipment is going to be better all round. The current helmets retain sweat on the headband and the gloves can be difficult to manage in bulk when they get wet - drying your own at home is far easier.

We haven't finalised a decision at committee yet, but we will be going through this in detail and making recommendations to everyone. This may include us buying in bulk to get better prices or simply recommending a source and quality standard.

In the meantime your view would be appreciated, especially anyone who has issues with potentially providing their own kit. Drop me a mail.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

National Forest Walking Festival - Woodcote

At the time of writing the National Forest Walking Festival is still planned to go ahead. It runs between 16th and 28th May. This year we will be leading a guided walk through Woodcote Wood to show everyone what we have been doing and how the woodland is benefitting from our intervention. Our walk is planned to take place on Tuesday 26th May at 7.00pm.

It would be great to see as many of you there as possible to share our story and walk through the woods in the spring. Details below:-

Start time 7pm Easy 2-3 miles, 2 hours, 0 stiles

STARTING POINT Woodcote Wood Smisby Car park on the lane from Smisby Rd 240m from the B5006 Smisby Rd Grid ref. SK 3547 1881

Explore the full extent of the young 23 Acre woodland planted to commemorate the millennium. Talking through the woodland management being carried out by the group. This will demonstrate the benefits to woodlands, wildlife and people of managing our woodlands and the positive use of a volunteer workforce. Voluntary donations to Heartwood, suggested £2 per person

I will keep you updated on whether this will go ahead as we find out more about the virus impact