[l-r] James Chubb – EDDC Countryside Site’s Team leader; Cllr Paul Arnott – EDDC Coly Valley ward councillor; Fran Sinclair – Chair of AVDCS; Cllr Geoff Jung – EDDC Environment portfolio holder; Cllr Helen Parr – EDDC Coly Valley ward councillor.

Holyford Woods Local Nature Reserve is now being managed by East Devon District Council’s Countryside Team in partnership with Axe Vale & District Conservation Society (AVDCS), following the dissolution of the long-standing Holyford Woodland Trust.

Holyford Woodland Trust (HWT) was formed in 2001 when South West Water put the wooded valley up for sale and the cost of purchase to secure this important wild space for nature was met by East Devon District Council and community fundraising, led by HWT. Since then, much good work has taken place within the woodland, to maintain and enhance it for nature and people’s enjoyment including a popular annual Bluebell Day, as well as achieving the 1000th Local Nature Reserve designation upon its adoption.

While the biodiversity of the woodland went from strength to strength with a record number of rare dormice being recorded in the woods in 2018, the Trust struggled to attract and retain active membership and so the decision to pursue other management options was made in November 2018.

Residual funds raised by the trust were transferred to the AVDCS at the end of 2019 and future management, maintenance and enhancement of the woodland Local Nature Reserve will now be carried out in partnership with this active local conservation group.

Fran Sinclair, AVDCS Chair explained:

The Society has organised and carried out many practical days working within the woodlands over the years.

It was a natural move to step in and work in partnership with the Council’s Countryside Team, Wild East Devon, to ensure this special place keeps improving for people and nature over the years to come.

Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said:

Thanks to everyone involved in Holyford Woodland Trust, which achieved a huge amount: clear felling a large area of conifer to allow for natural regeneration of the broadleaf woodland, fencing the woods from neighbouring livestock and hosting and promoting the annual Bluebell Day for people to visit and enjoy one of the best bluebell displays in Devon while enjoying a cream tea, are all highlights.

Looking ahead we hope to work closely with the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society to encourage more practical volunteering within the woods, as there is plenty to do each winter to keep the nature reserve at its best. Woodland work is some of the best and most enjoyable exercise you can imagine. We hope to explore ways to get more young people and school groups engaged with this fantastic local woodland, to instil its importance with the younger local community.

Practical winter work parties will take place throughout the next few months, with more information available online at wildeastdevon.co.uk. Next spring, Bluebell Day will be re-imagined to help people enjoy the annual display of stunning bluebells at their prime.