It was back to nature for the Planning & Design team on Friday 18 October, when we spent a rewarding and enjoyable day volunteering with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
We spent the day at the Trust’s Woodside Farm Nature Reserve – the largest protected area in Derbyshire outside of the Peak District. A huge 74 hectares, the nature reserve is on the site of the former Woodside Colliery, one of four that operated in this area until the 1960s. Part of the reserve once also formed car parks and fields owned by the American Adventure theme park, bringing back happy memories for many members of the team.
Woodside Farm contains a variety of habitats including woodland, hay meadows and grasslands, and a network of small woodlands. It is perfect for wild flowers, notably bee orchids and attracts numerous pollinators, especially butterflies. It is also well known locally for its bird life, with nuthatches, woodpeckers, and tree creepers all calling it home. Water voles and brown hare are also known residents.
The Trust currently manage nearly 50 reserves across the county, which represent every habitat type we have in Derbyshire, from flower rich limestone grasslands to ancient oak woodlands to diverse water meadows and fens to redundant gravel pits full of wetland birds and dragonflies and more.
Practical work is carried out on their reserves all year round, 51 weeks of the year and this includes looking after their own livestock. The work is seasonal, and ranges from drystone walling, fencing, building boardwalks and resurfacing paths, clearing non-native pest species such as rhododendron from ancient woodland, pulling balsam from wetlands and clearing invasive hawthorn from flower rich grasslands to name but a few.
We spent a productive morning helping to spread some green hay made from a wildflower meadow on to some poor quality grassland. The aim is this will then compost down to improve the thick clay soil structure in that field, and in turn create a new wildflower meadow, attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The seeds from the flowers will then go on to create a giant bird table, helping to feed our fine feathered friends through the autumn and winter months.
Following a well-earned break for lunch, we helped cut back and manage the hedgerows bordering the site, before taking a walk to visit the Highland cattle and Belted Galloways, the “living lawnmowers” that help manage the extensive grassland areas at Woodside Farm.
“It was great to spend a day with Paul and Kate at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Who’d have thought a day spreading hay around a field could be so much fun! I think we all learnt something about land management and nature conservation and now better understand the broad set of responsibilities that DWT has. We definitely plan to do it again in the future ” said Richard Pigott, Director at Planning & Design.
The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust carry out many volunteering work days every year with businesses of all sizes, helping to raise environmental awareness, give back to the community and do something good for wildlife.
“We value all our volunteers hugely, we simply couldn’t achieve all that we do for wildlife without the constant support and hard work of all our volunteers. Woodside Farm Nature Reserve is a great example where we have been able to make it such a special place for wildlife but also for people to enjoy through the regular efforts of our volunteers and supporters all year round.“ said Kate Lemon, Regional Manager (Erewash Valley), Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
We can certainly attest that it is a very rewarding and informative experience. We learnt a great deal about the work of the Trust, and the ecology of the local area. We look forward to returning to the site next summer to see the results of our hard work in full bloom.