Since the Fingle Woods restoration project took root in 2014, a budding group of volunteers has emerged and flourished in the wooded Teign Valley. Over the years, their contribution of skill and endeavour has changed the face of Fingle through brash piles burned, trees and hedges planted, bridges spanning streams, bird boxes built and invasive plants plucked from the ground. The effects of the widely varied tasks they have completed can be seen all around the woods with thriving habitats for birds and beasts, flowers and trees. Though the personnel may occasionally change, the regular volunteers, or Friends of Fingle Woods, have stuck together in all sorts of weather from Dartmoor downpours to frosty Fingle mornings.
In recognition of all their hard work, the Fingle volunteers have been nominated for a special award at the National Volunteering Awards. The Woodland Trust’s Volunteering Journey Officer, Sarah Shaw explained, “It’s an annual ceremony, this year at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire. Volunteers from as far afield as Skye, Northern Ireland and Cornwall will attend, and there are many different categories, but the Fingle Woods volunteers have been recognised for their group commitment and skills. We’ve been here to make a short film to show at the awards night. It will focus on the whole group and some of the activities like the recording of the ancient woodland boundaries.”
There is also a feature on Martin who has spent 1 ½ years working on the water quality monitoring project. His electronics and computing knowledge have been put to good use and a crucial input to the smooth operation of some high-tech equipment. After the film was ‘in the can’ the volunteers gathered for an evening task and, as usual, they all got stuck in with plucky enthusiasm; pulling and piling up conifer saplings.
Jim White, the volunteer leader said, “They have a list of interesting jobs throughout the year … it’s not just conifer pulling. But, in this area the large conifers have been cleared as a way-leave for the overhead cables. The additional sunlight has allowed the seedlings to thrive, so they are pulled up to let the broadleaves recover.” Signs of woodland wildflowers are already showing their colours. A scattering of small ferns, wood sage, bilberry and heathers are now waiting for their time in the sun.
Commenting on the work of the Friends of Fingle Woods, Site Manager Dave Rickwood said proudly, “Without their commitment and dedication we wouldn’t have been able to achieve all we have done. Their knowledge, expertise and effort helps to shape the whole restoration project.”
The volunteers continued to chat while the conifer sapling piles grew, then everyone stopped for tea. A mug of woodland tea is always welcome during a break, but this time an additional slice of birthday cake added to the celebratory atmosphere. “Happy birthday” to Robin and “Cheers!” to the volunteers.
by Matt Parkins