A successful one-day practical conservation project at Great Ridings Wood was held on Sunday 17 November. The aim was to cut back the large, invasive laurels between the woodland and the bridleway on the south edge of the site. This will allow native trees and plants that have been shaded out to recover and will also help to restore the nearby path in the wood to its proper alignment.
The work was organised and led by Kate Harvey, the Woodland Trust's Site Manager, with some assistance by Nigel and Martina Watson (volunteer wardens for this wood). Ten other volunteers attended. These included three people recruited from Horsley and Effingham, in response to a flyer distributed before the event by the Parish Council.
The day’s work was good fun - especially as it benefited from dry and bright weather, making a welcome change from much of this autumn! The laurels, though tall and tangled, proved reasonably easy to cut so excellent progress was made. Using bow saws and loppers, the team felled the main stems and cut up the branches, which were stacked nearby. (These piles will soon rot down and meanwhile will provide habitat for wildlife).
At the end of the afternoon, the edge of the laurels had been pushed back by around 5 metres along most of the affected strip of woodland. A very worthwhile result!
The Woodland Trust is arranging for a contractor to fell some of the remaining larger laurels and to treat all the cut stems against re-growth. This is planned to take place very soon.
Beyond that, the Trust will consider what further action is necessary. Ideally from a conservation perspective all the laurel would be removed, to prevent any re-invasion by seedlings or suckers. However, some of the remaining laurel is growing just outside the Trust's boundary, on the verge of the Horsley to Effingham bridleway. Further thought will be given to this.
The Trust will also consider whether there might be scope for another volunteer day in 2020, either for further work on the laurels or for anything else that needs maintenance. If these plans come about it will be advertised in the usual Horsley social media channels as it would be nice to get more volunteers from our own village.
Practical conservation work in the woods is often a fun day out, achieving a useful and satisfying result and is also healthy exercise. It beats going to the gym!