Managing woodland for wildlife

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Briddlesford, an ancient woodland

Every January, we invite a loyal group of enthusiastic volunteers to join us in Briddlesford, our nature reserve on the Isle of Wight, to help us maintain and manage the woodland for wildlife. Briddlesford is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area for Conservation. The presence of rare animals and plants in our woods is a combination that’s unique within the UK, therefore it needs constant care.

It’s one the largest remaining ancient, semi-natural woodlands on the Isle of Wight and we’ve been working hard to make it a haven for wildlife for more than 20 years now. This takes a lot of hard, muddy practical work, as well as funds from our generous supporters.

Our extraordinary team of volunteers

Have you ever seen this many muddy people in one spot?

Ian White, PTES Dormouse Officer, explains how we got so lucky to have such a brilliant group of skilled volunteers. They returned last weekend to help PTES staff for yet another year of hard work and fun. Ian tells of the sheer amount of chopping, sawing, cutting, and pruning that goes into one conservation weekend!

In 2009, I was teaching environmental management part time at a further education college. Although the college had its own woodland, it was used as a teaching area for arboriculturalists and consequently the woodland was pruned, hacked and bashed about.

As I was also working for PTES at the time, I decided to take my students to Briddlesford, our nature reserve on the Isle of Wight, to give them hands on experience in woodland management and to undertake a bit of practical work on the reserve. Roll on 11 years and the event has grown from a few students doing a bit of work on the Reserve to about 50 conservation professionals and ecological consultants coming to the Island for a practical and fun work weekend.

This year the tasks were as varied as coppicing, hedge restoration, clearing dormouse boxes, building oak posts and rail fence, tending young saplings in a tree nursery, managing sycamore and widening woodland rides. Children have been coming for several years too and now a small crèche has developed which gets to spend the weekend playing in the woods, rolling in the mud and generally having a good time. We’re delighted to be instilling a love of wildlife and nature in the next generation.


The weekend’s woodland tasks

  • 46 volunteers worked for 456 hours
  • 4 chainsaw operators cut down trees
  • The hazel nursery was tended
  • Invasive sycamore were removed
  • Coppice coupes were cut
  • More dormouse nest boxes were put up
  • A timber bridge was replaced
  • Tree guards were removed from trees that had become established
  • A tree cage was built in the park land
  • Two hedges were restored
PTES Briddlesford Volunteer weekend 2020 conservation
It was a beautiful frosty start to a sunny weekend!
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
We cleared tree guards from a 100 metre stretch of an 8 year old hedge. Scratchy but satisfying!
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
Fiona (left), one of our champion volunteers who lives on the island and helps care for Briddlesford wood, tackles the hedge laying with gusto!
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
This hawthorn hedge has become tall and overgrown. If left un-managed, the hedge structure will deteriorate. It needed some urgent attention.
So, Nida (left) PTES Grants Manager, and Megan (right) PTES Habitats Officer, and the hedge team got to work coppicing and planting up gaps to revive and rejuvenate it.
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
Last year we let more light into this part of the wood by widening 130m of this ride (or woodland track) and installed 30 dormouse boxes. This year we continued the work further into the wood, adding another 20 boxes. The network of rides (essentially paths through the woodland) and glades allows plenty of sunlight to reach the woodland floor encouraging wild flowers, butterflies and other invertebrates.
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
The younger wildlife enthusiasts hitch a ride on the quad bike with Tony!
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
The kids (and Honey the Lab) take a well-earned break from tree planting – and playing.
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
Briddlesford’s famous dormouse bridge.
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
More branches were tied to the dormouse bridge which connects the woods either side of Briddlesford steam railway. The extra branches will help dormice get to the bridge. Chuck, Fiona’s husband, and Tony sunk stakes into the open areas. They attached more nest boxes onto the stakes which will hopefully encourage dormice back into the area.
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
Cass, PTES Fundraising Manager, and Steve, PTES Orchards Officer, are joined here by volunteers to cut back the rides by hand before the rides can be kept open with a tractor and flail.
PTES briddlesford volunteer weekend
We replaced a wobbly plank bridge over a stream with this more robust structure. This helps us keep the existing rides accessible so we can maintain a circular walk through the woods.

Photo credits: Laura Bower, Imogen Chase, Chuck Eccleston, Ian White

Interested in helping wildlife? Keep an eye out on our events pages for upcoming trips and training courses you can get involved with, or download our guidance leaflets for specialist conservation advice. Visit our My Garden to download lots of practical advice you can do at home right now to help wildlife in your local patch.

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We'd love to tell you about our conservation work through our regular newsletter Wildlife World, and also how you can save endangered species through volunteering, taking action or donating. You must be 18 or over. The information that you provide will be held by People’s Trust for Endangered Species. For information on how PTES processes personal data, please see our privacy policy.

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