FEATURE: If you go down to the woods today...
Last Friday I chopped down trees. Yep, you read right, while the rest of the world is planting trees in a desperate bid to offset our extravagant lifestyles (a practice currently being debated in a carbon themed issue of the New Internationalist and by Leo Hickman in The Guardian) I was chopping them down.
But isn't that a little irresponsible? I hear you ask. Not at all, because this was responsibletravel.com's (geddit?) volunteering day. We unglued our eyes from our computer screens, unchained ourselves from our desks, and skipped merrily out into the sunshine and down to the woods.
The woods in question are Wolstonbury Woods in Pyecombe, East Sussex - about a 20 minute drive from Brighton. The property of The National Trust (NT), we had been drafted in to deal with a little Sycamore problem they were having. Sycamore is an invasive non-native tree that holds little attraction for our wildlife but is becoming dominant in the woods and crowding out the native Ash. Our job was to cut small to medium sized trees with hand held bow saws (a fetching shade of pink!) and make wildlife habitat piles with the debris.
After a health & safety briefing and a quick lesson in distinguishing the leaves of the Sycamore from those of the Ash, it was gloves on and saws out. A lovely sunny day, we could hear the birds singing and the bees buzzing. It was not long, however, before the peace was broken by cries of "Timbbbeerrrr!"
Relaxing in a meadow over lunch (was this really work?!), we had chance to ask the NT warden whether it was actually worth their while taking a group of inexperienced volunteers into the woods for a day's work. His response was to the point: if it wasn't, they wouldn't do it! As the day wore on, we could see for ourselves how much a group of people working together could achieve as the Ash, previously hidden by all the Sycamore, became more visible and began to reach towards the sun.
Heading home for a well-earned drink, (arms aching with an ache that would be so much more painful the next day!) we badgered the boss to know when we would be out volunteering again - much more fun than sitting in a stuffy office!
If you want to take your office down to the woods today, check out National Trust Volunteering. Or if you want to check out our handiwork, why not take a stroll around Wolstonbury Woods?
Until next time...