Thursday, 21 February 2013

Student Conservation Day at White Fen

Lois, Janet and I joined 9 student members of Cambridge Universities National Trust Society (plus one from Oxford!) planting over 200 trees last Saturday in the new community woodland area at White Fen. Fortified by hot drinks and biscuits in the Anglesey Abbey restaurant, we arrived at the planting site after about 40 minutes' walk. The route to White Fen is part of the Lodes Way, the 9 mile cycle route from Bottisham to Wicken Fen, so the road was very quiet and nearly all the traffic was of the two wheeled variety.


Everything we needed had been delivered to White Fen in the Wicken Land Rover, ready for everyone to get stuck in. Lois gave us a brief overview of the plans for the community woodland, followed by expert demonstrations of how to plant the 'whips' (small saplings) of goat willow, quick thorn and dogwood. She made it look very easy (but then she had done it just a few times before).

Next, on with the gloves and to work. The sun came out, the skylarks were singing and it began to feel as if winter had loosened its grip at last.

It wasn't quite as easy as Lois had made it look, especially when digging in the edges of the mulch mats (used to suppress competing plants and give the trees the best chance of success) and our straight lines weren't exactly straight...but we left room for Lois to mow between them later in the year.

The return of a biting February wind made the potatoes baked in the camp fire at the nearby Oily Hall wild campsite a very welcome hot lunch. Alex, President of the National Trust Society for Cambridge students, gave a quick overview of the Society. She was Anglesey's first student ambassador, and has used her two summer placements to develop links between the National Trust and the student community. The Society's going very well, with over 400 students on the mailing list, with meetings, talks and events publicised via the usual social media channels. To find out more about the Oily Hall wild camping email:

Light relief was provided during the lunch break (depending on your point of view) by watching the Land Rover being extricated from the mud. Yes, the winching technique really does work. And if it hadn't, the local longhorn cattle looked as though they might be persuaded to help.

We finished our day by planting trees in the rougher ground round the edges of the woodland, before returning to Anglesey Abbey. There, we met some of the thousands of visitors who'd come to see the snowdrops that day. It's been the best weekend for snowdrops at Anglesey this year, with about 90% of them at their peak. I noticed that the local hedgerows were full of snowdrops too, maybe self seeded from the Abbey gardens.

The next student activity is Sat 9th March at Anglesey – working with local school children on new community land art for the restaurant area.

Community Reporter

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