Woodlands for All

Students visit Raynford’s sawmill to find out more about how trees are turned into timber, and about the many different career paths available in forestry and sawmilling.

Lightfoot has worked with Bishop’s Castle Community College during the summer and autumn in their Enrichment programme on experience of Woodlands over the past 3 years. This involves taking groups of students into forest settings and teaching them about its diversity and about sustainable  woodland management, using a number of different methods. There are small group projects, drama workshops, a visit to a local sawmill, the building of dens, learning how to fell and log small trees, walks and talks from the National Trust,  the Forestry Commission, and Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
The work, organised by Lightfoot volunteers, has been funded largely by the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Shropshire Hills (AONB) over the past 3 years and is currently funded for 2020 to 2021.  This year the Covid 19 crisis has resulted in basing all events in Bishop’s Castle, within walking distance of the College.  We will start at the beginning of September and will include activities in the Wintles and Little Woodbatch Market garden as well as the school grounds.

Our previous work has shown how much young people like doing practical tasks and exploring activities that enable them to find out what is growing in woodlands. This year we are introducing role playing activities which will be used to help the young people to imagine what it is like to be animals and insects whose homes are in woodlands. We will also have den building, and a fungi foray.

We have found that people are not always aware that renewable and sustainable heat energy can be obtained from wood fuel at the same time as benefitting the landscape. There are many small woodlands that people in the area may experience in their lives and may be able to work on (family owned, belonging to friends or employers or publicly owned). Our aim is to help them to understand how important woodlands are for wellbeing, enjoyment and for providing sustainable sources of fuel for heat.

All of Year 7s (and some year 8s) were busy doing woodland activities on a sunny day in June on the school field at Bishops Castle Community College (about 80 young people). One of the activities was to learn how to safely fell and tidy up a tree, producing logs, using only bow saws and loppers. They worked in small teams and were instructed by Gary Cowell of Knighton Tree Allotments Trust, and wearing stout gloves they got to work.

Another activity was ‘Wildlife Roleplay’ day with Jenny Ogden where young people enacted interviews taking the identity of pollinating insects with large and very beautiful models.

The third activity was ‘An Eye for Detail’ with Toni Pettit who sent the young people hither and thither searching for specific trees and plants she had given clues for in mysterious little paper bags.

In the autumn term the young people who have chosen this topic for their Enrichment Sessions on Friday afternoons will have a variety of subjects each fortnight, including elements of thiose have ‘tasted’ in June. The woodland management (cutting up trees) will be done at a local woodland near Clun, and all other activities will be in the local area. As it was a ‘taster’ session for the autumn term Enrichment Activities, we are hoping to get lots of takers as we have quite a few more additional and exciting topics lined up such as Alan Reid from The Forestry Commission will show them their work at Bury Ditches, and there will be a Fungi Foray led by John Hughes from Shropshire Wildlife Trust at Colstey Wood.

See the planned schedule of activities All About woods – programme schedule v1.0