The Fenn Volunteers

Volunteers at workWe are a group of people of all ages and both sexes who get together on the first Sunday in the month from September to April to carry out conservation work on Woodham Fenn a local nature reserve. All equipment is supplied but volunteers should come suitably dressed for the prevailing conditions and bring stout gardening gloves (blackthorn and dog rose have some pretty vicious thorns) and their own refreshment.

We are led by Bill Thomas who is the Honorary Warden for Essex Wild Life Trust.

The main activities we undertake are to progressively cut back the scrub on the Fenn particularly the blackthorn but also to manage the other species such as willow and dog rose.


 Blackthorn is particularly prolific and spreads by sending out suckers with the result that, if we did not cut much of it back, it would eventually cover large areas of the Fenn. This is detrimental to the wild plants and animals and even to itself as the centre dies back and becomes a fire hazard.

The Challenge overgrown blackthorn

 By cutting it back we not only give it a new lease of life but we open up the area to other plant and tree species allowing them to flourish and therefore improve the biodiversity of the area.






There is a quite a lot of willow growing on the Fenn mainly to the north of the railway line particularly alongside The Drive. This has the unfortunate habit, when it reaches a certain height, of falling over which is potentially dangerous for visitors to the Fenn. Fortunately we are able to coppice the willows which is the traditional method of management for these trees. Coppicing is periodically cutting the tree to ground or near ground levelfrom where it sends up healthy new shoots thus bringing about regeneration.




Coppicing willow

Coppiced willow regrowing











Also in amongst the blackthorn there is a significant amount of wild dog rose (rosa canina) which, just like your roses at home benefits from a severe pruning from time to time. Dog rose has a lot of rather vicious thorns to allow it to climb up through other shrubs to reach the light and can grow to a considerable height.

Dog Rose

Particularly on the northern side of the railway line there are a significant number of trees which benefit from this scrub clearing as the blackthorn particularly can engulf the trees depriving them of nutrients and water etc. Over the years the volunteers have created a number of clearings which have been sowed with native wild flower seeds to broaden the plant diversity.