Ashing Lane Nature Reserve, situated near Dunholme, is made up of areas of woodland and meadows of different ages, created by volunteers on what was once agricultural land. Beautiful all year around, it is undeniable that spring is the time our green spaces truly come to life and showcase all they have to offer.
The Nature Reserve has two different landowners, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust (LWT) and Lincolnshire Cooperative Ltd, whilst Nettleham Woodland Trust (NWT) helps LWT to manage and look after the reserve.
NWT was formed in 2006 after a group of local people thought there weren’t enough trees in the area. In 2008, Lincolnshire Police agreed to the planting of 450 trees on the east and south edge of the police headquarters field Nettleham. “It was quite amazing” says Chris Williams, NWT Chairman, “we had a couple of hundred local people attend and it was all done within a couple of hours.” 700 more trees were planted this January.
At the same time NWT were looking for land to purchase with no avail. However, when the Wykes brothers decided they wanted to let go of a piece of land, it was sold to the WREN and gifted to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust in 2008. NWT then pledged to plant and maintain the area. One third of the land extended Pickering’s Meadow, leaving the 35 acres free to plant the trees which created Monks Wood. This was split into three – North, Middle and South Wood. In 2009 North Wood had an astonishing 2566 trees planted in one hour through a BBC scheme called Tree O’Clock.
In 2011 it was Lincolnshire Cooperative’s 150th anniversary, and they decided they wanted a big project to mark the occasion that would be there forever. This resulted in the purchase of 10 acres planted by Coop members and managed by NWT, and aptly named Coop Wood.
The Reserve has continued to evolve over the years, and Chris describes a way of visualizing how much it has changed, “If you have a child of 10 years old, you can take the child to the nature reserve and stand them next to a birch tree and say ‘how old are you?’ and ‘how old is that tree?’ They look up 20 feet and that tree is also 10 years old. I think that is quite lovely.”
The ultimate plan is for this is to be an oak woodland. Paired with this aim is the pledge NWT has made to Lincoln Cathedral. The Cathedral has the ‘Book of Oaks’ recording how various land owners have offered trees. Over the next few hundred years Cathedral carpenters will visit the woodland and select 100 oaks. They will be felled and stored in the roof for 20-30years to dry out. Then, when ready, they will help maintain the Cathedral by replacing old beams and rafters. This means that an oak planted in our communities could eventually help sustain the cathedral for years to come. Cathedral Copse with another 120 oaks was planted in 2017.
As well as encouraging visitors to enjoy the Reserve for identifying wildlife and for wellbeing and exercise purposes, NWT are also always looking for volunteers to offer their help. Once a month on a Saturday or Sunday morning, for no longer than 4 hours, there is a work session where you can help with ongoing projects and maintenance. It is volunteers and their communities who enable places like this to thrive. Various schools, colleges and groups have helped throughout the years to install seats, picnic benches, and other features which ensure the space can be enjoyed by all. An example one grant allowed a limestone path to be installed to create the AAA (all abilities area) meaning those with chairs, buggies or pushchairs can enjoy a gentle walk.
“One of my fondest memories was one evening when I was walking down there and I came across a couple sitting on a picnic bench by the lake on a Friday evening” Chris recalls, “they had a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses and a picnic blanket and it just struck me as idyllic.” The last few years has opened our eyes to the importance of creating and using green spaces in our communities and the important of using them. Simply getting out of the house and enjoying an evening surrounded by open spaces and fresh air rather than sitting indoors can improve your mood and mental wellbeing drastically.
The nature reserve boasts an abundance of wildlife – from owls and woodpeckers, butterflies and moths, rabbits and foxes, to sightings of deer, badgers and even grass snakes. Whilst it is great to catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures, and spring is a time when lots is happening in the wildlife world, it is important to remember you can appreciate a place whilst respecting the wildlife that lives there – for example keeping dogs on leads during nesting season.
This open space is constantly evolving, and volunteers are always thinking of new ways to utilise the space for humans and nature alike. One area of Coop Wood has been devoted to growing some willows for basket making – the plan is to run basket making workshops in the near future.
“You have to have passion for it because we are all volunteers” Chris explains, “we don’t have large amounts of money but at the right moment people have stepped up and that makes a big difference.” By supporting places such as these, we are creating pockets of tranquility that can be enjoyed by all generations for many decades to come. With the last few years taking their toll, having a moment to step away from it all, breathe in fresh air and welcome the return of spring in settings such as Ashing Lane Nature Reserve is something we can all benefit from.
If you would like to get involved, visit www.nettlehamwoodlandtrust.co.uk/ashing-lane-nature-reserve and fill in the form on the Contact Us tab.