Deneholme Wood Volunteers

The bonfire is often the centre of social activity for the volunteers

Melanie Pepper writes through a migraine to get these notes to me for publishing during my hospital hiatus — thanks Mel!

“The North Pennines AONB Partnership opened up permissive access to the woods, and installed a new bridge and new paths [in the course of the Heritage Lottery-funded project from 2013-2018]. As with the majority of their projects, the idea was to pass over the running to local groups, and therefore Deneholme Wood Volunteers have taken on responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the wood. We still have support from the AONB Partnership [through the Resilient Allen Valleys scheme which has its office in Allendale Village Hall], but all of us are volunteers and any monetary needs have to be met by fundraising in one form or another.

So, what do we actually do? We meet once or twice a month, with the aim of undertaking a specific task. We try to vary between weekdays and weekends, and usually start at 10am, carrying on as long as necessary. We generally have a picnic lunch somewhere in the wood. The tasks are many and varied: controlling invasive species; coppicing and pollarding; path maintenance (ie digging out steps from mud, removing leaves); stream clearance; general maintenance (ie fixing wobbly signposts, checking the bridge struts, maintaining the revetments at the beech circle); and litter picking to name a few. Sometimes these events can be physically hard work – the ground in Deneholme is very uneven, and particularly precipitous in places! Each volunteer works to their own capabilities. The days are always very sociable with plenty of chat to keep us going.

As well as the work days, we also like to celebrate. We love a good fire, so we fit in very well in Allendale. Winter and Summer Solstice you will find us at the fire circle, sharing a drink and maybe some stories or poems, making bread and enjoying the beautiful woodland. Whether it’s a woodpecker drilling or an owl calling, it’s a wonderful place to sit and let your worries drift away. We also regularly see deer, and occasionally a red squirrel has been sighted.

We love inviting other people to enjoy the space as much as we do. Each year we run a Woodland Maintenance workshop as part of the Allen Valleys Folk Festival. Last year we pruned a lot of overhanging branches from the top footpath, then had a fire and enjoyed a brew around it – showing how important the social aspect of the management is. Allen Valleys Scout Group also make use of our space – the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts have all helped with various maintenance tasks, including keeping our bug hotel in 5* condition. The Group also hold their AGM at our fire circle, the perfect venue if we do say so ourselves.

None of this could happen without our volunteers. We have a regular and loyal cohort, but would love to welcome more volunteers to our ranks. The best way to reach us is by email mellyjp25@gmail.com and now’s the perfect time to join us, in time for the Summer Solstice celebration!

We hope that locals and visitors alike carry on visiting the wood – school runs, dog walks, foragers, nature lovers: however you come to Deneholme, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.” 

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