Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Hawthorn berries by Philip Precey

What's the appeal of volunteering here? “Exercise, companionship, contributing to the sustainability of nature and wildlife and most of all, meeting other like-minded people."

October brings a new energy to the Finemere Wood volunteers. It's the same every year. Away go the rakes and out come the saws. The cutting and clearing of scrub begins in earnest.

The team hurls themselves into the jungle of bramble, blackthorn, and hawthorn as they begin the prickly project of clearing a scallop along the woodland edge. 

In our midst is Clive, always calm, always gentle, always supportive, always good company, and this year a winner of a BBOWT Volunteer Award. A well-deserved accolade for a volunteer who has given much of his time and expertise to BBOWT ventures.

Clive and Charlotte

Clive and Charlotte at Finemere Wood

Clive’s last 'official' job was as an IT Manager at the University of Oxford, but he continues to write screenplays and make his own documentaries. For 16 years he worked in the film and TV industry and describes this as his first love. Prior to that, he spent 10 years with the Merchant Navy, having left school at the age of 16.

It was his visits to Calvert Jubilee nature reserve that drew Clive into the embrace of conservation volunteering. He noticed that BBOWT managed this site and decided he wanted to be involved.

First stop was a Finemere Wood gathering, and I knew he would be a stayer from the start. It was a day of pulling ragwort, a never-ending and seemingly thankless task at the best of times, but there was rain too, and eventually, we were driven home by thunderstorms. Clive took this all in his stride and was back the following month to take whatever was thrown at him.

From here, to leader of the Calvert Jubilee work parties. Having filmed frequently on the reserve, Clive had grown to love the site and its wildlife and wanted to give something back to this place that nourished him so.

Still, this was not enough, and he was drawn into the field team, a small posse of volunteers keen to expand their role. Chainsaw training was mentioned and Clive was hooked!

This role is for the intrepid volunteer, the one who likes machines and can understand how they work, felling trees with chainsaws and cutting woodland rides with tractors. It is a role for those who can engineer and construct, installing footbridges, and erecting fences. “I think we're Jack of all trades but master of none!” says Clive. From an objective viewpoint, I would correct this to “Jack of all trades and master of all.”

Drovers track

Drovers track at Finemere Wood by Charlotte Karmali

“What is your favourite Finemere activity?” I ask. “This is difficult”, Clive replies, “There are so many fantastic things that have been done. Clearing the Drovers’ track has to be high on the list, replacing the stock fencing, scything the meadows and rides but, I'm going to be a bit controversial now, felling the pine trees is just about at the top.”

So why all this volunteering? What is the appeal? aside from the chainsaw and huge conifers, of course. “Exercise, companionship, contributing to the sustainability of nature and wildlife and most of all, meeting other like-minded people."

Favourite wildlife species and why? “Foxgloves, they remind me of my childhood and bring back many happy memories”.

And the question I love to ask, “Tell me something that not many people know about you.” The answer comes “Mmmm”. That’s all I get, but I imagine there many, many untold stories here.

When Clive is not volunteering, he spends his time film making, writing, walking his dog Jess and flying. He apologises for being ”one of those annoying local aircraft that constantly fly overhead!” Often small planes fly over Finemere as we work, “there goes Clive” we say, whether he is with us or not. Soon, he hopes to take up sailing again.

But Clive is on the move, to Norfolk. He will leave a gaping hole in the heart of the BBOWT community. He has given so much to the nature reserves of North Bucks, and to all the individuals he has worked with. To me, he has been a friend, whose companionship in the wilderness I have, and always will, cherish. So long Clive, the woodland workers of Finemere Wood wish you and your wife Janet all the very best.

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

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