Our project Wheels in the Woods aims to improve access into Tunnel End Woodland, Marsden, for people with disabilities. We have a licence to manage this woodland from Kirklees Council and we wanted to make slight improvements in the wood by upgrading the main pathway and carrying out small scale conservation work with disabled people.
We also wanted to raise awareness of our work in the local area and with local schoolchildren – so a series of Forest School session was planned with children in Year 4 at the Junior school. We ran six sessions, three sessions with one half of the class and three sessions with the other half. The midges were out in force for the first half and we all got completely bitten! Luckily the weather was drier for the second half of the class and the midges had disappeared.
The woodland is deciduous with a mixture of oak, ash, birch, sycamore, holly. There is a lot of dead wood on site, some across pathways. It is a linear woodland with train line on one side and a river on the other, and there is a ‘garden’ area with an overgrown pond – there are a lot of wetland wildflowers growing in summer but there is no standing water due to vegetation growth. Throughout the woodland there are several paths and there is one main path through the centre of the site, none of the paths are public footpaths.
We ran several conservation days, where participants helped to cut back the overgrown hedge in the ‘garden’ area, they cut back the overhanging vegetation along the minor paths, litterpicked the area and removed Himalayan Balsam.
There were great health benefits for both disabled participants and the school children taking part in the project, they all took part in physical activity outdoors whilst learning about conserving their local habitat and also finding out about some of the wildlife that lives in the woodland.
In addition to the work with the school we wanted to raise awareness in the local area, so we held two events – October 2016 ‘Music in the Woods’ and April 2017 ‘Easter Eggs and Nests’. We had quite a few people along to the October event, the band ‘The Outsiders’ played their instruments in the woods attracting passers-by and we got a fire going and had hot drinks and marshmallows. The Easter event was very well attended with over 40 children hunting for eggs in the woods, following a scavenger hunt and making their own nest out of natural materials to take home.
We also worked closely with staff and volunteers from the nearby National Trust – they installed the new bird and bat boxes towards the garden end of the woods, which look great and are a fantastic addition to the old and battered existing boxes at the other end of the woodland.
The upgrade of the main pathway is the last thing that remains to be done as part of this project – we are working with Kirklees Council who are going to carry out the work and hopefully this will be done by the end of September.