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Tarvin Woodland's wilding experiment.

23rd April 2020 @ 6:06am – by Charles Bradley
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Part 1 – Why go wild?

Jim Grogan's vision for Tarvin's woodland was to have a wooded space within the village that could be developed by the village community itself for community members to use and enjoy. His starting point was a set of orphaned fields that had been part-landscaped and partially planted with small trees by the Highways Agency when the A51 Tarvin bypass was constructed in the 1980s.
In the early days a great deal of work was done by Jim and his team and a great many tiny trees were planted, both to commemorate events and to fill the huge empty spaces. Over the years, pathways have been organised and improved, stinging nettles and brambles have been tamed and the whole area has been turned into exactly what Jim hoped for – a woodland that is a wonderful amenity for all the village.
And it has become more and more popular with folk wanting a peaceful and enjoyable walk – folk from Tarvin, folk from the surrounding area (we now feature in a number of lists of "Best Walks in Cheshire") and, perhaps, most of all, folk who want to walk their dogs.

However, the trees that, truthfully, had been planted too closely together, have kept growing taller and taller as they have tried to out-compete their neighbours. Lack of light has caused their lower branches to lose leaves and die, leaving whole areas with only the slender tree trunks standing like a parade of soldiers, an arm's length apart. The bushes and brambles have largely gone; the impenetrable areas are no longer there. And everywhere children (and especially, dogs) run around, having great fun. It is truly a wonderful amenity woodland!

The problem with an amenity woodland, of course, is that nature can come off second-best. We are home to some creatures – we have squirrels, moles, mice, many insects, a variety of birds, both nesting (many in our nest boxes) and passing through – and, of course, we have an array of plants and flowers of which any woodland could be proud. But what of the shy creatures: what of the hedgehogs that in our woodland would be plagued by curious dogs, what of the birds that might wish to nest quietly in thickets of brambles? We don't have them – because they aren't suited to an amenity woodland.

wilding 1

Thus it was that Trustees made the decision to set aside, in a reasonably quiet spot up near Townfield Lane, approximately 2,500m2 of the woodland as an area that could be allowed to go "wild". Fortunately, it is bounded on the two sides adjacent to the horse walk by the Trust's own post and rail fence and the addition of sheep netting to this fencing ensured that it would exclude unwanted creatures (including enthusiastic dogs). The northerly and eastern sides of the area were bounded with chestnut paling fence, with an access gate on the corner of the enclosed area. Access is being denied – but the ones we have been keenest to exclude are the dogs which explore everywhere and chase everything. You can't blame the dogs – it is what dogs do – but, just in this small area, we wanted to create a place that would be free of dogs and where our shyer creatures could thrive. Our idea was to have a "managed wilding", rather than just allowing the area to develop by benevolent neglect. How we have gone about that is the subject of the next article.

wilding 3

The woodland is particularly beautiful at present and hopefully very many people are enjoying it while getting their daily exercise. However, not everyone is a dog-lover and, when coupled with worries about Covid-19 generally, this could deter some people from making use of our woodland as usual. When walking your dog in the woodland, please be sensitive to other people and, when others are walking near to you, consider keeping your pet on a lead, for reasons including their peace of mind. Also, and in any event, please remember to adhere to social distancing guidance while enjoying our lovely woodland.

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