Countryfile experience on offer in West Swindon

By Roger Ogle - 1 January 2019

Photo ArchiveEducationCommunity

Peatmoor Community Woodland Group looks after ancient copse and is keen to involve more people

BBC TV’s Sunday foray into the outdoors often covers woodland management and the ancient art of coppicing. If you’ve ever wondered ‘I could do that,’ the Peatmoor Community Woodland Group offers you the chance to have a go.

Since it started in September 1988 the group has looked after the six acre copse close to Peatmoor Lagoon. It’s a remnant of the ancient Bradon Forest that covered north Wiltshire. It was never cut down and turned into farm fields because of the boggy ground conditions due to the unusual geology of the area.

Up to World War I wood was used extensively for fuel, in construction and in agriculture. When Swindon Council purchased the land to expand westwards in the late 1960s, the copse was a dark and overgrown area of trees of uniform size, left largely untouched since World War II when wood is likely to have been used as a fuel source.

The copse is now an important ecological site, yet very much an unknown oasis in the town. Contrary to the idea that trees should be preserved at all costs, during winter months volunteers in the group, which was set up by Swindon Council, eagerly cut some of them down in order to preserve them.

Hazel in particular benefit from regular coppicing (cutting), regenerating over a seven year cycle. The copse is divided into seven compartments with a large area left untouched where nature takes its course. This ancient management technique encourages and sustains a wide variety of bird, mammal and insect life.

Doing practical things outdoors has been shown to improve mental and physical wellbeing; think of Peatmoor Copse as a green gym. Newcomers who want to do something for the environment, enjoy practical outdoor activitiies and learn about woodland management are always welcome. Children enjoy learning woodcraft skills but they must be accompanied by an adult. The site is not easy for people in wheelchairs and there are no toilets close-by.

The group gets together on the first Sunday of the month, from 10am to 1pm. To find out more, send a message via Facebook - Peatmoor Woodland.

Registered in England & Wales. No: 4513027, Positive Media Group, Old Bank House, 5 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon, SN1 4BJ