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Friends of Oakfrith Wood

 
         

 

Keen on the countryside, conservation, woodland?

If so, you would enjoy walking through Oakfrith Wood with its idyllic woodland atmosphere.  Be able to enjoy the trees, bluebells, orchids, deer, butterflies, fungi, birds, plus much more flora and fauna.  Enjoy the peace and tranquillity this delightful wood offers.

You may also like to get actively involved in undertaking practical conservation tasks and woodland management  at one of our regular working parties either on the first Saturday of the month for conservation tasks or during the week with the woodland management  cooperative (but numbers for the latter are limited).  New volunteers are warmly welcome to join us whatever your interests or experience.  We are a very mixed group of people sharing one thing in common - a deep love of the Wood.  Our work programme is set to minimise disturbance during the nesting season, so we do not meet every month.  There is no need to worry about being able to handle the tools as training is provided.

Whatever your interests, the Friends of Oakfrith Wood hope that you will join them in sharing the vision and sentiments of Hamilton and Eveline Rivers Pollock, the one time owners of the Urchfont Manor Estate, which are perfectly expressed on the plaque in the centre of the Wood:

   'The greater part of this Wood was cleared, re-planted and maintained by Rivers and    Eveline Pollock of Erchfont Manor between the years 1928 -1938 without profit from the previous felling in 1917 nor expectation of profit from the next felling.  It is their hope that those who come after them will maintain this ancient Wood in accordance with the rules of good forestry so that the oak trees will reach maturity in due course'.

All work is undertaken to an approved Management Plan which has been agreed with the Forestry Commission and is regularly updated.

If you would like to join us or have further information, please contact Ian Maidment, Chair (tel: 01380 840691).

Oakfrith Wood History

Oakfrith Wood is semi natural ancient woodland and is almost certainly a remnant of  a much larger Pewsey Vale forest.  The earliest reference to the Wood is in the 1784 Duke of Queensbury map of Urchfont where it is referred to as 'Oakfrith Coppice' (oak-frith meaning oak wood).  It has been part of the Urchfont Manor Estate for many years with the most recent private owners being Hamilton and Eveline Rivers Pollock.  The Estate was sold to the then Wiltshire County Council in 1946 for use as a residential adult education college. Very recently Wiltshire Council has closed the College and  sold the Manor house to private owners but the freehold of the Wood is being separately transferred to the Friends of Oakfrith Wood.

Oakfrith Wood extends to some 14.1 hectares (34 acres) including 0.8 hectares acquired in 2000 as the County Millennium Project.  Much of the Wood was clear felled for the War effort in 1917, leaving little of the original ancient woodland.  The Wood appears to have been neglected until 1928 when the Pollock family undertook a major re-planting programme with a mixture of broadleaf and conifer and one area of pure conifer (known as 'Witches Wood'). Local woodsmen, Jesse Fidler and William Hale, undertook most of this work.  The area of conifer was clear felled in 1996-97 and re-planted with broadleaf trees.

The Friends of Oakfrith Wood

The Friends of Oakfrith Wood were formed in 1994 as the result of concerns that the Wood had been neglected for many years, with only intermittent interventions. The then County Forestry Officer and the Director of Urchfont Manor College took the initiative to work with local residents and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to develop a coordinated approach to the future management of the Wood.  The Friends of Oakfrith Wood were born!

The objectives of the Friends are to manage Oakfrith Wood in line with its designation as a Local Nature Reserve with a view to conserving, protecting and improving the physical and natural environment of the Wood and conserving and enhancing its biodiversity value as an educational resource and to encourage an appreciation of the natural world and local environment by local people and visitors alike.

The Friends were re-constituted as a charitable trust in 2006.

Click here to see their latest Newsletter

Key Developments

Management of Oakfrith Wood has improved immeasurably as a result of the close working partnership with Wiltshire Council (formerly Wiltshire County Council), the Forestry Commission and the local community through the Friends.  Major achievements since 1994 include -

* 1994 First Forestry Management Plan

* 1995 First Forestry Commission Woodland Grant Scheme approved and subsequently renewed

* 1995 First voluntary working parties organised

* 1995 Conservation Management Plan produced by Chalkhill Consultants (under aegis of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust) and subsequently revised in 2001

* 1996 First leaflet on the Wood published and subsequently updated

* 1996-97 Area of Douglas Fir ('Witches Wood') clear felled and re-planted with native broadleaves

* 1998 Access to the Wood was improved by the re-surfacing of the adjacent byway and construction of a hard surface track into Wood

* 1999 Comprehensive baseline botanical survey undertaken with subsequent regular monitoring of birds and occasional recording of other species

* 2000 Release of land by tenant farmer for extension of Wood by 0.8 hectares to form the Millennium Copse; archaeological survey undertaken and some 900 broadleaf trees planted by 55 volunteers to coincide with Esso National Tree Week and to link with the Guinness World Record mass tree planting attempt

* 2002 Friends receive the People in Wiltshire Environment Award

* 2004 Wood formally designated by English Nature (now Natural England) as the 1001st Local Nature Reserve in England and the first on County Council land in Wiltshire

* 2005/08 Wetland area and later pond constructed to diversify the habitat

* 2005 Information boards installed

* 2006 Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the County Council, Urchfont Manor College and the Friends as to their respective responsibilities

* 2006 Friends re-constituted as a charitable trust

* 2006 Woodland Cooperative established to enable trained volunteers to undertake thinning of the Wood rather than using commercial forestry contractors which ensured a gentler management approach and provided a resource of firewood for local residents

* 2009 Wiltshire Well Being Project established in the Wood by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust undertaking woodland craft activities

* 2010 Friends receive Planting Places Award from Sustainability South West

* 2011 Richmond Fellowship took over responsibility for woodland craft activities in Wood

* 2012 Urchfont School and Pre School started Forest Schools in Wood

* 2012 Friends receive Royal Forestry Society Excellence in Forestry (Community Woodlands category) Award

* 2013 Negotiations undertaken with Wiltshire Council regarding transfer of Wood to Friends

Conclusion

As a result of the commitment and hard work of local residents and the support of staff of Wiltshire Council and the Forestry Commission, Oakfrith Wood is now an exemplar of a  well managed Local Nature Reserve. The transfer of the Wood to the Friends will ensure that it continues to flourish as a haven for wildlife and local people for generations to come; a real asset for the local community and the county as envisaged by Hamilton and Eveline Rivers Pollock.

30.10.13

 

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