A bluebell woodland on a sunny day with dappled light and a rock face
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New volunteer group at Mount St Bernard Abbey

The estate management team at Mount St Bernard Abbey have been working with us at the Geopark to set up a new volunteer group this spring. The Abbey’s estate covers roughly 500 acres of land east of Whitwick, and includes woodland, tree plantations, open farmed fields and garden areas, as well as the Abbey itself, guesthouse and a number of let cottages.

With support of the monk community at the Abbey, we have worked together to bring volunteers onto the estate and begin some of the tasks that the estate team have prioritised for the early summer, including making the paddock next to St Mary’s Cottage a usable, more ecologically rich place. We cleared away old, derelict structures and removed some vegetation to allow hazel coppice, blackthorn hedging and fruit trees more space. The group will return in the autumn and winter to coppice some of the hazel and prune the fruit trees. In the new spaces created over the last few weeks, we will plant more hazel, expanding the coppice area across the paddock, which will provide more habitat for small mammals, as well as woodland products for the estate team, including bean poles, stakes and charcoal.

Over the next few sessions, we plan to begin horticultural activities and improving the condition of some of the streams and watercourses on the estate. During the autumn and winter, the group will start woodland management activities, looking at some wooded areas of the estate which are due for thinning, and learn how to use green wood and traditional tools to make spoons, bowls and small items of furniture.

On every session we run, we make time to get to know each other, have a drink and a biscuit and learn about the site and the reasons for doing the activities. We are a friendly bunch and are keen to invite new people along, no matter your previous experience or the number of sessions you can commit to. Some people are able to come to every session and others just to one session every few months. All help is appreciated.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Geopark is investing in the volunteer group, providing equipment, support and and training to ensure its longevity.

If you would like to get involved with this group, please use the contact form or email Ali at abrand-barker@nationalforest.org.

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