A group of volunteers standing next to piles of wood they have prepared.
  • Geopark News

Beacon Hill Woodfuel Group Goes From Strength To Strength

Back in 2006, with the support of the National Forest, a dense woodland of native species was planted at Beacon Hill Country Park’s West Beacon Fields. The trees planted include oak, cherry, and sweet chestnut, and as they have been growing for nearly 20 years, it is now time for the trees to be thinned out. The rangers at Beacon Hill were keen to use this opportunity to engage a new group of people with woodland management, with the benefit to those volunteering that they could take as much woodfuel home as they could fit in their car!

Working closely with Heartwood CIC, a well-established community woodfuel group based just outside the Geopark in Louth, Leicestershire County Council have trained 40 people in how to safely fell trees using hand tools. Charnwood Forest Geopark helped organise taster sessions, funded tools and safety gear, and are helping to recruit new members to the group. During the warmer months, out of tree-felling season, we ran a variety of training days, including First Aid, green woodworking, and tree identification, and we’re looking forward to doing similarly in the summer of 2024.

Members of the group come for a huge variety of different reasons. Being able to take home a car boot full of sustainably sourced woodfuel is a big draw for those with woodburners at home. Some are learning new skills to further their careers, others are keen to get active in nature, and many are enjoying the social aspect of meeting new people. It gives the opportunity to try something new, using tools that you may not have at home in the beautiful setting of Beacon Hill, and with the friendly help and guidance of experienced people around you.

The site is benefitting from the removal of trees that are not thriving, due to being overshadowed by larger trees or because of diseases like ash dieback. The space created by the selected thinning lets in more light to encourage the growth of the remaining trees. Chris Conway, Senior Ranger, says “For me this is a lovely new amenity woodland that we want local people to enjoy as it develops. This also requires a lot of intervention to make the most of the woodland resource and maximise the biodiversity value of the area. By carrying out the work with local people means we have full control of the work undertaken. The work can be done in a way that teaches new skills, meets the site objectives, and is as sympathetic to the site as possible.”

Our final three sessions of the season in January, February and March are currently fully booked, but we are using a waiting list, and are keen to hear from anyone who may like to join, even just for one session. There’s never any pressure to return after your first session if you discover it’s not for you. We provide all safety gear and hand tools, so there is no need to buy any equipment before you come. Sessions are safe, friendly, and include time to chat. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ali Brand-Barker, Community Engagement Officer at abrand-barker@nationalforest.org

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