Monday morning in Savernake Forest and the hooks are swinging and the saws are sawing: a small group of volunteers are helping clear away the undergrowth around some of the forest’s amazing number of veteran trees.
As someone said as the heat of day built and the undergrowth got a bit thicker, ‘It’s better than the gym’ – and there’s fresh air as well.
The Forestry Commission have leased the forest from the Savernake Estate since 1939 and manage and maintain it. But when government cutbacks bring staff reductions, the veteran trees are put at risk.
They need the undergrowth cut away from around them – undergrowth that absorbs the nutrients and water the old trees need.
Beat Forester Tom Blythe and the area’s new Recreation Ranger, Dan Charlesworth, are battling to get a group of regular volunteers together to do some of the less expert forestry work around the veterans.
This Monday (July 21) Tom and Dan had three volunteers starting the session clearing away under one of the named veterans – ‘Old Paunchy’ on Church Walk.
These volunteers all had a previous interest in the forest and re-visited it frequently. Tom Buchanan was the forester from 1981 to 1997 and since then he has been working for the Forestry Commission as a contractor measuring timber.
His daughter Katy was almost brought up in the forest. Now a mother of two, she has gone back to college, completed her teacher training and in September starts work as a teacher in Swindon. Her two children we not very happy they could not come and help…next time?
Barry Morris has known Tom and Lucy and the forest since his wife worked in the Commission’s Postern offices. Now retired he made short shrift of the thicker undergrowth.
Joining the group was a reporter from BBC Wiltshire Radio who was gathering material for a programme about volunteering.
There will be two sessions next month – Mondays August 4 and August 18. With appropriate clothes and shoes, volunteers meet in the Postern car park at 09.00am. Gloves and various cutting and sawing tools are provided. Let Dan Charlesworth know if you can join in: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07831 888272.