In the first six months of 2017 lots of good things have taken place, not least the Welwyn Hatfield Civic Award presented to Sherrardspark Wood Wardens’ Society in recognition of 50 years of commitment to protect and promote the woodland environment and services to our local community. We were honoured to receive this award from Councillor Pat Mabbott, Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Borough, at the presentation ceremony which took place in May. These awards are sponsored by Serco (The Council’s Streetscene Provider) and the University of Hertfordshire, whose support is invaluable.
A new bench seat is now in place in Sherrardspark Wood at the Six-Ways Junction to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Society; this was displayed as part of the exhibition at the Maynard Gallery, Campus West last November. Those of you who visited the exhibition cannot have failed to see the magnificent, enlarged photograph of an oak tree, taken by wood warden Chris Cooke, which has now been given to the Council for permanent display.
Benches are always a welcome addition to the wood. The most recent one, installed in Templewood Vale in June, will no doubt be well used and appreciated for its view as well as a resting place. We currently have twenty six benches in the woods and as some of them show signs of wear and tear we periodically clean and refurbish them.
As part of our care for the future of our woodland, five hundred trees have been planted in various areas around the wood. Because of the dry spring, these new saplings have required extensive watering – quite a commitment for our volunteers, but the hard work has proved to be successful as nearly all of the newly planted saplings are flourishing. Our oak tree nursery has also been quite demanding with watering and weeding but a necessary asset to our re-planting programme.
On the subject of weeding, there is the constant battle with fast, ground spreading Variegated Yellow Archangel present on the edges of the wood where it escaped from the gardens of houses backing onto the wood. Pulling out this invader is one of our ongoing projects in the wood and we find that a systematic and repeated mechanical removal appears to reduce its spread.
Among other important tasks undertaken by the wood wardens recently were fencing repairs on the Ayot Green boundary of the wood. The six month coppicing project in the Brockswood area reached completion in March, opening up the canopy to the woodland floor and so enabling significant planting of oak, hazel and hornbeam to be carried out. Netting surrounding the temporary enclosures has also been a priority since it is important we keep a check on these protected areas, particularly the recording of damage caused by muntjac deer to new growth and monitoring the many species of wildlife sharing the wood. Signposting repairs and replacements are also in hand, as well as keeping the pathways and streams clear of debris, very much an ongoing, regular job.
Our programme of Guided Walks is now well underway, receiving good public support from adults as well as children who have particularly enjoyed the Cowslips and Bluebells and, of course, the Summer Bug Walk. In May - our fairly recent addition - Woodland Photography was very well received again this year and in June we had the ever successful annual exploration of Foraging in the Wood for Food and Medicine.
Many more interesting walks with very knowledgeable leaders are still to come before the end of the 2017 season, so do take a look at the programme and come along and join us. We are receiving quite a lot of interest in the Bat Walk, which is taking place in Sherrardspark Wood instead of Stanborough Lakes, where it has been in the past, so just a reminder that you do need to pre-book this one.
We are always very pleased to undertake guided walks for various groups of people. In July we took a group of thirty two students and their teachers on a discovery walk in the woods. The students, aged between thirteen and sixteen, were from Canary Islands, mainly Tenerife, and they were staying in England with the Herts and Essex English School. The visitors enjoyed the experience of native woodland as well as an opportunity to practice their English.
All the information you need to find out more about our work in Sherrardspark Wood, or to join our Society, and much more, is here on our website. What better way to spend any free time you may have than helping to protect not only our beautiful, but very special and important woodland.
Wood Warden and President of Sherrardspark Wood Wardens Society