Celebrating Peterborough’s ancient woodland 

For the last few years there’s been a hive of activity taking place in the city’s woodlands, with the revival of traditional craft and conservation skills by the independent charity Peterborough Environment City Trust, working alongside an enthusiastic team of volunteers 

The charity Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) believes that the heritage of woodland management, skills and crafts are important in any vision for a sustainable future. That’s why it launched the community-based project Woodland Heritage in Action (WHiA), which focuses on the historical significance of woodland for the cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing of Peterborough.

Bretton’s Ancient Woods, to the East of Peterborough and once part of William the Conqueror’s Royal Rockingham Forest, have been made more accessible to the public thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project, run in partnership with Peterborough City Council, has seen this ancient urban woodland restored and made fully accessible for the first time in over 75 years.

The project was founded to provide local residents with access to woodlands, to reintroduce woodland management, improve biodiversity and preserve the heritage of these ancient forests. Through on-going support and engagement with local groups, the project established a working plan for the woodlands, in order to leave a lasting legacy to hand over to the volunteers.

Through community participation and hands-on educational workshops, people of all ages and local schoolchildren have learned about heritage and developed skills associated with woodlands. ‘The idyllic woodland locations are a great way to escape the stresses of modern day life,’ explains Ben Allard, one of the volunteers. ‘You learn crafts and the skills of your ancestors and, through their therapeutic nature, find a great sense of calm and relaxation.’

The project has facilitated close bonds between people, creating a network of volunteers and organisations that now have strong connections to each other because of their mutual understanding of the importance of these woodlands and the benefits they provide to the community and the local environment.

‘WHiA’s biggest strength is its team of core volunteers who literally do anything, anytime to support the project and each other – which is amazing,’ explains Matthew Robinson, PECT’s Woodland Management&Volunteer Manager. ‘This even goes far beyond the project – the team has become like a family to each other.’

In addition to this, PECT has worked together with the volunteers to enable them to form a community interest company called Nene Coppicing and Crafts, which is now selling local, sustainable and ethicallysourced firewood to help raise funds for the volunteers’ project. Working with Amey’s Tree Services Team, PECT and volunteers have sourced air-dried, hardwood firewood sourced from trees felled as part of Peterborough City Council’s on-going conservation and tree maintenance program. Community Payback then split and bagged the timber into recycled coffee sacks produced by Peterborough Reuse.

‘Visitors will be able to buy firewood, produced sustainably from local woodlands,’ explains John Wilcockson, PECT’s Woodland Heritage Project Officer. ‘This activity contributes to a circular economy by converting woodland waste into craft products and firewood.’ All funds generated from the sale of the firewood will be used to support the Nene Coppicing and Crafts voluntary group, who will continue to deliver traditional craft and woodland conservation sessions in Peterborough’s woodlands.

For more information about the project, visit

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