Volunteers scoop civic awards for work with two local woodlands

Two local woodlands are celebrating their volunteers winning prestigious civic awards for their environmental volunteering.

Splatts Abbey Wood’s committee member Jenny James, who lives in Bradley Stoke, and the UWE student volunteer Greenspace group won South Gloucestershire Council Chair’s awards 2024 for their volunteering at Splatts Abbey Wood and Sims Hill Community Woodland. The awards ceremony was held at the end of January.

Splatts Abbey Wood group chair David Bell said: “It is wonderful news that our volunteers have won these awards recognising their contributions to the two woodlands and the local community. Jenny has served on the committee for five years and the students have been volunteering with the woodlands for 10 years.”

Jenny said: “The award came as a complete surprise. I would like to thank all those people who took the time to nominate me. It is a great honour to accept it and I am grateful and deeply touched.”

Senior student project leader Stefan Bigsby said on behalf of the student project leaders and volunteers: “The students embarked on the workday [on January 27] where we planned to carry the coppicing management plan as well as path laying to make Splatts Abbey Woods more accessible to the public.

“Coppicing is a sustainable practice which involves cutting down segments of a tree to allow sunlight to reach the woodland floor, it is primarily conducted on hazel in Splatts as it is fast growing and by following the management plan it ensures that trees across the woodland can grow sustainably. The coppiced wood then was used to create dead hedges which provides invertebrates and small mammal’s shelter.

“Additionally, path laying is important to ensure that muddy sections of the path are easy to walk on and provide access to a range of people. The students worked hard in carrying out these activities and enjoyed themselves doing them. One of the student project leaders thought the workday went particularly well despite being a cold day and the turnout was impressive seeing as term time had not started for many students.”

And that’s not the end of the awards!

The Greenspace student volunteer group is happy to announce that they are now also an award-winning group. 

“On 31 January, they were invited to the SGS Wise campus to receive a community hero community award. As a group, they were delighted to be nominated for the civic award that recognises the group’s dedication to volunteering in South Gloucestershire.

Laura Thomas from the student union at UWE said: “We are delighted that our students have won the Chair’s Community Awards. For 10 years, the Greenspace Conservation Volunteering Group have worked hard to improve Splatts Abbey Wood and Sims Hill Community Woodland for both wildlife and the community and they have had a transformative impact. They have improved paths, removed invasive species, which allows native species to thrive, and much more. It is wonderful to have their hard work recognised.”

The student volunteers continue with their work at both woodlands, making a transformative difference. They recently did a workday at Splatts and have more planned at Sims Hill.

Nicola from the Sims Hill community woodland said: “Congratulations to the student Greenspace group and Jenny James for their awards. Jenny volunteers with the Sims Hill Community Woodland Group, taking photos for social media and helping supervise tasks at our workdays carried out with the Greenspace group. 

“The Greenspace group carry out much volunteer work at Sims Hill Wood and are very hard working and enthusiastic. 

“Tasks they carry out include cutting back overgrown vegetation; litter picking; site inspections; tree planting; wildflower seed sowing; and helping our licenced ornithologist with bird box installation and monitoring. The student project leaders help to organise the workdays, carry out risk assessments and supervise the student volunteers which is very useful.”