This week’s Project Spotlight focuses on an environmental project called Tocil Wood. As one of the largest campuses in the West Midlands Region, Warwick University offers not just a light touch of nature, but it is enriched with an ancient oak woodland of 400 years old! Tocil Wood is the bluebell wood on campus and enjoys protected status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Bluebells grow en masse in the woodland in May, creating a dazzling display of brilliant blue. In addition, the woodland is blessed with a biodiversity of plants such as guelder rose, dogwood, field maple, wood anemone and wood sorrel. One of the overarching aims of Tocil Wood volunteering project is to conserve the ancient oak woodland and to enhance its biodiversity of wildlife.
I volunteered with a group of 12 Tocil Wood volunteers last Saturday. In our trainers and wellie boots, we made our way to a wet meadow in the Woodland. We were greeted by the Warwick Volunteers Project Leader for Tocil Wood, Clement – and Matt who is from the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. Initially confused as to what we should do, we were then provided with training and our tools for the day – boots, rakes, strong gloves and huge sacks.
The grass on the meadow was cut one month ago and the dead leaves (potential nutrients) are covering the top of the meadow. However, isn’t a surplus of soil good for plants and enrich growth?
The answer is simple really; by removing the cuttings, we get to reduce the nutrient input into the soil and maintain the nutrient poor soil loved by our wildflowers. This also discourages the nutrient loving coarse grass which can outcompete the more delicate plants. We would then transfer the raked cuttings (nutrients) to a new area in order to enhance diversity of plants and eventually attract more wildlife into the woodlands.
Why are there no raking machines?
The meadow grounds are pretty uneven, with a lot of humps and bumps. It would be more efficient to use manpower rather than a power rake on the bumpy ground.
Perks of Volunteering
Having said that, raking by human force can definitely match one’s gym training sessions. We divided ourselves into two teams, one team would rake the cuttings while the other would collect the raked cuttings and transfer them to new areas. During the volunteering session, we started to get along with one another, joked and chatted about the difficulties of the raking, and eventually fostered a great partnership!
We tried to put ourselves in each other’s shoes by asking the rakers if they wanted to swap roles to handle the collection and transfer. We got to know everyone better by participating in activities together.
It’s still hard work, but we managed to find joy in the midst of volunteering! We were immensely glad when the tea break arrived. I cherished every sip of my hot coffee and savoured some biscuits which were provided by Matt. It was a moment of relaxation and brought a sense of satisfaction upon finishing half of our work that day.
Our volunteering work and chats resumed after the much appreciated tea break. We also managed to catch the sight of a beautiful sunset together before we called it a day! Considering the determination required to rake a large piece of meadow, we are so proud that we managed to exceed our target set in the first place thanks to the fun and teamwork that we have enjoyed so much!
See you at our next session where we will be coppicing. This is a traditional method of woodland management which involves clearing sections of the woodland of young trees. Light can then get down to the forest floor which increases biodiversity in the habitat.
You can sign up to Tocil Wood by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like our Warwick Volunteers FB page: https://www.facebook.com/WarwickVolunteers/
What are the requirements?
There is no minimum commitment required, just come along, enjoy yourself and come back if you would like to do more. No experience is needed and all the tools and training will be provided. Just bring along waterproofs, boots and a packed lunch (optional) – we will provide hot drinks and biscuits.