Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Red admiral on blackthorn blossom. Photo by Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Who are the volunteers who keep Finemere Wood as a haven for wildlife, and why do they volunteer for BBOWT? Charlotte introduces you to another of her trusty team.

March, a month of hope and promise. The days are drawing out, the birds are singing, green shoots are emerging. My local pigeon is, once again, nesting in a tree outside my bedroom window, allowing me a bird’s eye view into her nest.

The cycle of nature continues despite the turmoil of our world, and I find that immensely reassuring. I hope it won’t be too long before my army of woodland workers can return to reap the benefits of friendship, fun and wilderness. 


Phil, one of the volunteers at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali

Phil, a Finemere Wood volunteer, joined the volunteer work party when it was established in the autumn of 2012. At the time, we were fellow volunteers on the Bucks “roving team”,  and he stepped up to support me in my endeavour.

Phil never intended to stay once the group was up and running, but somehow, he has been unable to tear himself away. He has been a constant throughout my involvement with BBOWT.

Destined to work in the Health Service, Phil began his career, post-graduation, as washer-upper at Kentish Town Health Centre. After a few years in the civil service (DHSS), he moved to the NHS as an administrator at Poole Hospital. Later he transferred into primary care, ending up in Hillingdon where the main focus of his job was dealing with GPs, contracts, premises, staff and, most importantly, delivery of services to patients.

Now free from the heavy responsibilities of an NHS worker, Phil can pursue his favourite pastimes: birdwatching, “the rollercoaster of joy and despair” as a supporter of Watford Football Club, and extraordinarily long cycle rides, the most recent from Budapest, through Slovenia to Pula in Croatia.

A regular volunteer, not only at Finemere Wood, but also with BBOWT’s South Bucks mid-week team, Phil enjoys working outdoors and in all weathers. Like many of us in the world of conservation, he knows it is beneficial for wellbeing, as well as an excellent and enjoyable way to keep fit. On top of this, working as a team to get the job done provides great satisfaction.


Creating 'scallops' at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali

And his favourite Finemere activities? Creating 'scallops' along the woodland edge. Clearing these lay-by shaped areas of vegetation in rotation, allows light to hit the ground and new growth to occur, producing a rich, varied structure that results in an increase in biodiversity. It is a job that is very physical and gives a great sense of purpose. Hedge-laying, perhaps a more creative and skilful task, is another highlight for Phil.

Early purple orchids with bluebells

Early purple orchids with bluebells by Jim Higham

Favourite Finemere species? The early purple orchid. It is a beautiful plant, flowering early in the Spring. This treasure reappeared along the ancient drovers track following much clearing of scrub and trees by the volunteers.

It brings joy and pride to the team, as we have enabled it to flourish here once more.

Phil exudes gentleness, and underneath this, you will discover a quick-witted chap. 

“Tell me something not many people know about you?” I ask. 

“Whilst on holiday in Australia, I saved a small tour bus from running away when the handbrake failed and the driver was not at the wheel. When the driver returned, he asked me what the hell was I doing in the driving seat!” Fortunately, he soon realised that Phil had saved the day. 

Runaway buses we don’t have at Finemere, but quick thinking and problem-solving skills are a great asset in the tangled undergrowth of this special wood.

There are many volunteering opportunities with BBOWT. If you'd like to get involved with us once restrictions allow, please contact us to find out more about the different opportunities we have.

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