Charity of the month: Birchanger Wood Trust, Bishop’s Stortford
PUBLISHED: 10:12 07 January 2016
Our new regular feature highlighting smaller Hertfordshire charities and not-for-profit organisations. This month we’ve focussed on a charity caring for an oasis of wildlife on the outskirts of Bishop’s Stortford
Birchanger Wood was formerly part of the manor of St Valery at the time of William the Conqueror. Over the centuries the wood was divided up and became the property of several private landowners. During the 1970s, each remaining section of wood was purchased by a group of local councils who then passed ownership of the wood to Birchanger Wood Trust. This charity now exclusively holds the wood for the public good and the welfare of the animal and plant life that make the wood their home.
The wood stretches over 69 acres and consists of ancient coppiced woodland that contains 126 species of trees, flowers and grasses. The woods are open to the public every day of the year and visitors can enjoy seeing a wide range of trees including hornbeam, hazel, ash, birch, oak and sweet chestnut. At the right time of year, you can also enjoy English bluebells, wood anemones, golden saxifrages and many fungi species. Because of the way it is carefully managed, visitors may also be lucky enough to see some of the variety of birds that depend on the woodland, including three species of woodpecker.
In 2014, the trust teamed up with a local not-for-profit organisation, Herts Hogline, which rescues sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs. The two are working together to reintroduce a sustainable population of this endangered much-loved creature to the wood.
The trust, along with professional ecologists and the Forestry Commission, has drawn up an ongoing plan of conservation and maintenance to ensure the wood’s wellbeing. Volunteers carry out essential weekly maintenance and any large projects undertaken are supported by donations.
As part of its aim to make the woods accessible to everyone, volunteers have created more than five kilometres of all-weather, wheelchair-friendly paths. These paths not only mean easy access for visitors but also help to maintain the woods’ delicate eco-system.