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Community-led conservation in action

Formed in 2011 by local residents from the village of Bilbrook, South Staffordshire, the aim of the Friends of Bilbrook is to improve the open spaces within and around the village. Rather than putting in the usual benches and plaques, we wanted to do something which left a lasting legacy not only for the residents of the village but also for the wildlife.

One of the first projects we undertook was to commemorate the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. An open space on the edge of the village which was owned by the District Council was made available and so we decided to plant up a small wood. The open space is bordered by a brook and fields on one side and a housing development on the other. As one of our group was already a member of the Woodland Trust, we applied to the Trust for a tree pack which we were successful in securing.

Some members of the Friends of Bilbrook and our loyal volunteers (credit: Keri Lloyd)
Some members of the Friends of Bilbrook and our loyal volunteers (credit: Keri Lloyd)

Community tree planting

So, on the Friday and Saturday morning of 24/25 February 2012 along with children from the local schools, playgroups, village residents and local cadets, we planted just over 400 trees. We wanted to make the planting of the wood a community event and so we also arranged activities to teach the children what was happening and hopefully give them a sense of ownership of the wood. The trees all went in successfully and we finished the event by all helping to plant the ‘Royal Oak’ in a little ceremony at the end. The Royal Oak is quite appropriate for us as Bilbrook is only a few miles away from Boscobel House, where King Charles II hid in an oak tree to evade capture from the Roundheads during the English Civil War.

Since the first planting, we have added to the wood twice and there are now over 1000 trees. It’s not just trees in the Jubilee Wood however; we have created a wildflower meadow, hay meadow, two hibernacula and numerous log piles. We have also dug in logs for the lesser stag beetle, put down sheets of corrugated metal and created grass piles for amphibians. We have an annual project with the local scout group where we make homes for wildlife. So far, we have made four bat roosting boxes, 20 bird nesting boxes, four bug hotels and just recently four bat nesting boxes. 

Volunteers from Tarmac Construction Products help mulch the trees (credit: Keri Lloyd)
Volunteers from Tarmac Construction Products help mulch the trees (credit: Keri Lloyd)

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A common shrew caught during the small mammal survey (credit: Keri Lloyd)
A common shrew caught during the small mammal survey (credit: Keri Lloyd)

If you build it they will come

The wood is full of life and we host the local college every year for a small mammal survey. We also have an evening bat walk and dawn chorus walk. Young adults who are participating in the National Citizen Scheme regularly help us with tasks such as tree mulching, creating log piles and the eradication of the invasive Himalayan Balsam. We were also very lucky to host a large Corporate Social Responsibility project with Jaguar Landrover and Vinci Construction who installed a wildflower meadow, a disabled RADAR gate, benches, information boards and 20 large saplings which now line some of the roads in the village.

The nearby Moat Brook isn’t ignored though; regular water quality sampling of the brook takes place and the results sent to the Environment Agency and Waterside Care, which we are a member of. We host the local school children three times a year for pond dipping and bug hunting sessions. Just recently we undertook a joint project with Groundwork West Midlands, The Wild Trout Trust and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to carry out improvements to the banks of the brook. The brook was straightened out a number of decades ago and heavily planted with alder trees. This has had a detrimental effect on the aquatic wildlife so we undertook to remove some of the dense tree canopy to allow more light to filter in.

Undertaking river restoration work (credit: Keri Lloyd)
Undertaking river restoration work (credit: Keri Lloyd)

The trees were used to create differing habitats in the water and hopefully put meanders back into the straightened sections of the watercourse.

But that’s not all. We have been successful in securing funds from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme and will be installing a picnic and outdoor classroom area early next year.

Jubilee Wood is accessible to the public so if you’re in the area please come and visit.

We want to make sure that everybody in the UK has the chance to plant a tree.

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