Celebrating Shaftesbury’s Trees – A Day Of Fun At Duncliffe Wood

Shaftesbury’s residents are being invited to Duncliffe Wood for a special event later this month.

Conservation charity The Woodland Trust took ownership of the land, two miles west of our town, in 1984 and they are keen to bring first-time visitors to this beautiful part of the Blackmore Vale. “We would like to attract people to the wood who maybe not have been before. We’d like them to feel that they can come back at other times, when there aren’t activities going on, and explore and engage with it on the deeper level,” said Rachel Harries, the Trust’s Engagement Officer.

Duncliffe is well established. It’s listed in the Domesday Book, where it was valued at £9. “It does count as an ancient woodland. There have been records of trees growing there dating back to mediaeval times. It has a really long history of being wooded,” said Rachel.

Duncliffe is prominent, rising over 600 feet above the Blackmore Vale. The woodland covers 227 acres. “It’s a good sized wood, and it really stands out as a landscape feature. You can see it for miles around. It’s one of the biggest woods in the area. The native trees were felled over the last 100 years and they were planted with non-natives. We’ve been encouraging the regeneration of the wood.”

Conifers have been replaced by native broadleaf trees, such as hazel, ash and oak. “I think that much of what you see in Duncliffe now is closer to how it would have been a couple of hundred of years ago. We’re seeing re-growth of many of those native species, rather than the conifers that would have dominated over the past 30 to 40 years,” said Rachel.

Many people walk through Duncliffe to view its wildflowers. Rachel says return visitors may notice improved access. “It has fantastic bluebells in the spring. I know that’s a really big draw for a lot of people. Over the past couple of years we’ve been trying to improve the paths. Many of them have been quite muddy in the autumn and the winter, so it has been difficult for people to appreciate the woods. We’ve hopefully made the wood accessible for a lot more people who might not otherwise be out there in the winter months.”

On Saturday 24th November The Woodland Trust’s event will celebrate the first anniversary of ‘The Tree Charter’, a national environmental engagement exercise. “Hundreds of people, community groups and organisations all put their name to the charter, which aims to celebrate trees and woods and to place them back at the heart of our lives in our communities,” said Rachel.

The date has been designated as a National Tree Charter Day and Duncliffe will be the location for Shaftesbury-area events. “What we wanted to do is put together a day that would attract people of all ages. We have family activities, a couple of guided walks, there will be a campfire and we will have scavenger hunts. We will give people tools so they can go out and identify winter twigs that don’t have leaves on them. We want people to engage with trees and celebrate the trees all around us,” said Rachel.

The guided walks will be more suited to older children and adults. “They will learn about the work that we are doing to restore the ancient woodland. They will hear about the harvesting that we have done, how it is helping to restore the wildlife, animals and flowers,” said Rachel. “We have quite a few different groups that undertake wildlife monitoring in the woods. Sarah, our site manager, will be talking about the things that they are doing”

Younger children will enjoy the scavenger hunts. “We have little cards, with ideas for things that the children can go and look at. They will put their hands into a little bag and pull out six cards. They have to go off into the woods and find something that relates to the card,” explained Rachel. “It could be twigs, leaves or rocks. We will invite them to come back and show what they have found. They can also use their finds to create ‘tree spirits’. That’s a face or image that they think captures the spirit of the woods. They could be mystical or magical characters that could live in the woods.”

The free Tree Charter Day sessions run between 10.30am and 2.30pm on Saturday 24th November. “It’s a drop-in event. People can come at any time. We will have the guided walks at 11am and 1pm. We do ask people to book, if they can, just so we have an idea of numbers. We will be making bread on sticks, over the fire. We’ll have coffee, too. If people can book online it will give us an idea of how many to expect,” said Rachel.

You can book at the Woodland Trust website.

Shaftesbury residents who are passionate about trees may also like to attend the free Shaftesbury Tree Group walk on Tuesday 27th November. Bernard Ede will lead the hour-long guided tour, leaving from the Town Hall at 10.30am.