Sustainable Wantage have leased a 1 hectare piece of woodland just off the Ridgeway, owned by the Woodland Trust. It was originally a beech wooodland planted in the mid 1800s and still has some lovely mature trees from that time.
At around the turn of the millennium, it was replanted with a mixture of native hardwoods. The Woodland Trust had been seeking for some time to place this small wood under the management of a group prepared to manage it according to their the Trust’s principles – only use native species, retain public access, manage without artificial herbicides & pesticides and keep the name Pewit (a once-common farmland bird).
In 2016, we were very pleased to take on the lease and management of Pewit Wood.
Our first job was to deal with the dark and overcrowded stand of trees that were planted twenty years ago.
Having been thinned, the resulting ‘small roundwood’ logs are mostly used as sustainable fuel, with the twigs and branches left in piles as a habitat for insects and small rodents. The thinning operations still continue but at a slower rate now that the worst of the overcrowding has been dealt with.
Healthy, open woodland
In the early spring we put up some nesting boxes that were mostly made during a session in The Mix. There are now 10 tit boxes (can you find them all?), two Barn Owl boxes, a Tawny Owl box and some bat shelter boxes. Fallow deer and occasionally Muntjac use the woodland for shelter – they too enjoy a good open view.
The result of this management is a more open woodland and the remaining trees are now growing healthy and strong. The species mix is Ash, Sycamore, Cherry and Beech. There has to be concern about the longevity of the Ash trees in the woodland, due to Ash Dieback, and we take this into consideration when carrying out any new thinning.
For now, fortunately, there is little sign of ash dieback disease, but it is evident in the Wantage area in general. Opening the canopy has resulted in more light reaching the woodland floor and ground flora is becoming established. We try to enhance this biodiversity and keep the woodland in a state that it can be used for by the public, by controlling the encroachment of nettles in the more well used parts of the woodland.
Access for all
One of the remits of the Woodland Trust is to maintain its woodlands for public access and Sustainable Wantage honour and encourage this.
The more formal uses are by Charlton Primary School as part of their outdoor education programme (Forest Schools) and by local scout groups. Less formal use is by local people who enjoy the fire pit area, and the amazing views; a composting toilet has been installed to help facilitate these activities.
If you are interested in being involved with Pewit Wood projects or would like more information about access, please email us.