Conservation volunteering at Gamlingay Wood
by Francis Mitchell
Every fortnight from mid-September to early April, a group of volunteers meet on a Sunday morning around 9.30 am for a three hour stint of brush clearing, bird box hanging, coppicing, path clearing and other energetic tasks that promote a diversity of flora and fauna.
The wood is owned and managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire ans Northamptonshire (it maintains other local woods including Waresley and Hayley). There is a volunteer work party at this reserve – use this link for more information on how to become involved.
The work is strenuous but far from being beyond the capabilities of a healthy adult – the age range of volunteers runs the full gamut of young to old.
Getting to the area in which the conservation work takes place can often involve a mile or more of walking, usually carrying equipment. A sturdy pair of walking boots is essential and old clothes preferable as you may find conditions a little muddy.
Training is provided in the use of brush cutters and chain saws for those who can spare a day or a week respectively. Instruction in the safe use of other tools is given on site. The work is called off in bad weather, so there is no commitment to getting drenched, and volunteers usually find themselves spending a sunny morning in pleasant surroundings doing worthwhile work for the local environment.
The wood is looking better each year as the effects of commercial forestry recede and the work done by Trust employees and volunteers keeps path edges clear (this lets more light into the wood and a different habitat than in the depths of the wood) and encourages deciduous trees to gain ground from conifers (until 1950 the wood had been planted with conifers).
The wood has a number of paths and can be reached from a track that leaves the B1040 half a mile north of Gamlingay on the road to Waresley (past the road on the left to Tetworth and opposite the lodge style house also on the left) at Ordnance Survey map reference TL 242 535.
The Trust has recently purchased the meadow between Gamlingay Wood and Waresley Wood which it intends to allow to self-seed. In time this will become Sugley Wood and give us locally a rather better woodland access than the rest of our county, the least wooded in England apparently.
As well as an increasing diversity of trees, including ash, elder, hawthorn, oak and service, the wood in spring has common spotted and early purple orchids. Birdwatchers can try and spot nuthatch and fungi enthusiasts may come across spectacular Dryad's saddle bracket fungus, amongst other flora and fauna.
The Wildlife Trust's offices are in Cambourne. They can be contacted on 01954 713 500 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Its website is www.wildlifebcn.org/nature-reserves/gamlingay-wood.