Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Drovers track at Finemere Wood by Charlotte Karmali

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.

June is a time for repairs around Finemere Wood. As nature unfurls in all its summer glory, the volunteers turn their attention to a fencing project out in the meadows.

A local farmer grazes sheep on these meadows, a mutually beneficial arrangement. Sheep help to control scrub and dominant plants, and thus the more delicate meadow flowers are given space to bloom.

Each year these meadows are more diverse as a result. But good fencing is needed to keep the sheep in the areas where grazing is required.

Fortunately, I have some expert fencers in my team, and Judith is one of them. She knows her dragon bars from her monkey strainers and her flamingo bar from her spinning jenny.

Volunteer

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

Petite, but mightily strong, she can be seen tackling trees or rolls of fencing wire many times her size. Judith has the biggest and most beautiful of smiles, there is much laughter when she is around and many an animated debate or discussion.

Judith spent her working life as a Civil Servant, enjoying a varied portfolio career. From a VAT inspector and a training officer to a policy advisor to ministers and everything in between. She spent time working in the Treasury, which she greatly enjoyed.

Now, much of her time is given over to volunteering for BBOWT. In recent weeks she has taken on the position of Bucks Reserves representative on the Volunteer Voice Forum, a perfect candidate for this role. Alongside this, Judith leads work parties at College Lake, as well as volunteering at the Upper Ray Meadows nature reserve.

A key player in the Finemere team, Judith has been there since its inception eight years ago. So why has she kept coming back throughout this time?

“The peace and beauty of this wonderful place, and the feeling you get that it is timeless. It was here long before any of us, and (hopefully) will be here long after we have gone. Somehow that makes me feel more optimistic for the future. And the lovely people, naturally!”

Installing fencing

Judith and fellow volunteers tackle the new fencing at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali

Favourite Finemere activity? “Everything” is her response, even pulling ragwort, “but if I had to choose one thing it would probably be the work we did to uncover the old drovers track and watching as that area has come back to life. And the work we now do every year to keep it that way.

"But I love fencing, of course!!” Judith captures the magic of working in this bewitching place in her answer “The thing I love the most is the rhythm of the tasks in line with the seasons,  it makes you feel even more in touch with the natural world.” 

Her favourite wildlife species is the swift, the harbinger of summer, “it’s amazing that they spend nearly their whole lives on the wing and fly so far to get here to breed. I was lucky enough to watch them up close when we lived in a house where they nested in the eaves.”

So what does Judith get up to when not out in the depths of a BBOWT reserve? She plays the flute, having taken up the challenge to learn an instrument at the age of 50. Very recently she could be heard playing in an outdoor concert where there was heavy rain and flyaway sheet music to contend with. She cooks, she reads, and, in pre-Covid days, enjoyed summer holidays abroad.

A remarkable woman in so many ways. “Tell me something about yourself that not many people know,” I ask. “When I was about 10 years old, I was featured in the ITV children's TV programme "Seeing Sport" having my ice skating lesson!!” A film star as well, what can I say?

For further information about volunteering opportunities at Finemere Wood and other reserves, at our visitor centres and more, please email volunteering@bbowt.org.uk.