Busy, Busy, Busy! Is probably the best way to describe activities both in the woodland and behind the scenes as we prepare for the end of lockdown conditions and work towards welcoming many more visitors to Holly Hayes.

Since we took on the woodland in August 2019, we have surveyed the tree stand and the current habitat conditions, resulting in an updated management plan and a new felling license which we have received early January 2021. We received funding from Bright Ideas to help form and consolidate a project that will support the restoration of the woodland through a sustainable extension of our education and community services into the wood.

We were also awarded some money from Leicester Diocese to help restore the compound, build a new toilet block and buy covers for our woodland classrooms. Sadly, just as the work was finished, it was burnt down in an arson attack. The incident has not stopped progress however and the staff, students and volunteers have continued to work on the management schedule and installation of infrastructure such as benches that have been made by our teaching workshop.

Felling began immediately after we received the felling license from the Forestry Commission. Mostly diseased and dangerous trees with some thinning to get light into the dormant field layer. With nesting beginning early this year, we stopped felling at the end of March. Some timber is stacked trackside ready to be picked up by a timber merchant, some is waiting to be brought in for craft and maintenance work within the woodland and the rest will be left to degrade and rot as vital habitat for fungi and invertebrates. We will be replanting some areas with hazel as part of the plan for sustainable management for future generations of woodland workers.

Pathways are becoming very muddy over the winter months and they seem to get worse each year. The constant changes in weather conditions and a welcomed increase in visitor numbers contribute to the depth of the mud but silted up drains and a gap in maintenance are also to blame. We have already started re-stoning some routed but desire lines and un-mapped routes will be encouraged to grow over to aid the transit of wildlife into managed areas.

I am pleased to say that we have been joined by a new member of staff who is dedicated to all things woodland and horticultural. Scott has been dropped right in at the deep end during the coldest weather and whilst we were doing the heaviest and dirtiest work.

A special mention goes to Ant Ensor who has helped with some of the more technical tree work, Rupert Locke for his help with the felling safety discussions and patience as we continue to work on new opportunities for local schools. We will read more of Rupert’s area of expertise in future updates. And a special welcome to our two volunteers, who I will call the “Richards” (because that is their name) and who have already made a massive difference to reducing the work load, bringing new perspectives, skills and solutions.

Look out for an increase in summer activities on offer. For youngsters at first but when we are all allowed to gather more freely, we will be putting on carving and crafting courses to help get adults socializing and supporting each other again.

There are many more people working away in the background, supporting the cause and so many kind words of support from the local residents and visitors to the woodland. All this positivity adds to the momentum of the project and the secure future of Holly Hayes Woodland

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