Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Volunteers opening up the medieval drovers' track at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali, volunteer warden at Finemere Wood

The volunteers at Finemere Wood have been uncovering the medieval drovers' track, as Charlotte Karmali explains.

No sooner had the second national lockdown ended than the Finemere Wood volunteers were back in the wood, pent up energy ready to be spent. What is more, with the go-ahead to work on the much-anticipated project of extending the drovers' track, the excitement was hard to contain.

This medieval track dates back to a time when Finemere was part of the Royal Bernwood Forest. Drovers brought their animals to graze in Long Close Meadow, in the heart of the wood. Having uncovered a section of this tantalising track a few years ago, the volunteers have been eager to complete the length of it.

Volunteers and bonfire

Keeping warm by the bonfire during one of the volunteer sessions at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali

Sue, a woodland worker, effervescent, with a joyful presence, is always fun to be around - a secondary school biology teacher in Durham, Felixstowe and latterly in Waddesdon, ecology and genetics being her particular interests. She greatly enjoyed taking students on field courses and helping on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. A sailor, a walker, a skier, and a gardener. Clearly a lover of the outdoors, with an interest in travel and photography as well.

In her Suffolk days, Sue took a year-long countryside conservation course. Wanting to put those skills to good use once retired from teaching, she signed up to many a BBOWT work party and can be found in the undergrowth, not only in Finemere, but also on the Upper Ray, Calvert Jubilee and College Lake reserves.


It's a messy business volunteering at Finemere Wood, but plenty of fun! Photo by Charlotte Karmali

Hedge-laying, scything and coppicing are some of her favourite woodland activities, “each has a level of technical skill which requires thought, improves with practice and is satisfying to look back on, as well as increasing the potential diversity within the wood.”

The bluebells that carpet the wood in May, with their glorious gentle fragrance, are a highlight for Sue, but she loves the wood year-round, finds it a peaceful place to be, and feels privileged to be involved in its management. As well as this, she enjoys the “craic” amongst the volunteers and my “fabulous” cakes! Thank you, Sue.

The drovers' track is a favourite of this bubbly volunteer, and alongside equally enthusiastic teammates, she knocks down tree after tree as the clearing of this ancient walkway continues. Undaunted by the task ahead, I hear her chatting and laughing as she works. I chuckle to myself as I recall a story she shared with me, of how she once went to a fancy dress party as a tube of toothpaste, with “squeeze from the bottom up” written on her back! Why doesn’t that surprise me?!

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