WREN funding will make visiting Owlet Wood a hoot

A Lincolnshire wood is to be made more accessible to wheelchair users and families with pushchairs thanks to a grant award.

The Woodland Trust has been awarded just over £32,000 from WREN, a not-for-profit business that awards grants for community, biodiversity and heritage projects from funds donated by waste and resource management company FCC Environment through the Landfill Communities Fund, to create an easy access trail through to 50-hectare Owlet Wood near Gainsborough.

Woodland Trust site manager Paul Jarczewski said:

“Owlet Wood is well used by walkers and people with dogs but it has the potential to offer so much more so we consulted with local people and organisations, who indicated a desire for it to be used by more diverse groups.

"Over 126,000 people live within four miles of the site and we know a lot of organisations such as the Local Access Forum, Lincolnshire Sport and Positive Futures are keen to use it for their members. However the poor quality pathway, lack of signage and access for users with buggies and wheelchairs is limiting its use.

“The funding from WREN is wonderful as it will enable us to make the site much more accessible, inspiring people of all ages and abilities to connect with nature in this healthy, outdoor space in the same way as everyone else. Owlet is teeming with wildlife and it’s great that more people will be able to experience it.”

Working closely with the Local Access Forum and its disability sub-committee, the Trust will create an easy access trail through the wood and heathland by resurfacing a 2m wide, 1.2 km circular, flat pathway incorporating five new passing places and four rest areas with new seats. These areas will be designed for ease of use by visitors in wheelchairs and families with buggies.

To encourage visitors to extend their walk and experience a pond that’s currently hidden from view, a fully surfaced, all ability path will be created. A seat will be installed for visitors to rest and enjoy the view and two bird viewing screens will be installed in locations rich with wildlife. One screen will be fully accessible to the less able.

Bird feeding stations will be put up in front of the screens, to provide an ideal spot for camera and wildlife enthusiasts to observe birds without disturbance and at close range.

Existing gates, fencing and signage will all be replaced. A new kissing gate will enable ease of access for all visitors, and interpretation boards will be provided to give visitors route options and details of attractions, wildlife and the site’s history. Designated disabled parking will be created in the car park.

Cheryl Raynor, WREN's grant manager for Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Cambridgeshire added:

"It’s always nice to see something we have funded start to take shape. We're delighted to be supporting such a worthwhile project and look forward to it benefiting the local community.”

The work will be carried out from Monday, 5 June and be largely complete by mid-July. The site will remain open for use throughout the work. There will be temporary path closures but plenty of alternative paths for people to use. The car park will be closed for very short periods while the surface is being re-stoned. For more information visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods

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Notes to Editors:

Media inquiries to Dee Smith on 01476 581121 or deesmith@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.