James Chubb goes ‘into the winter woods’

Events and activities manager at Sidmouth’s The Donkey Sanctuary writes a regular Herald column

THERE are two ways that I enjoy spending time in woodlands in the winter.

Firstly the weather has to be perfect, a cold sapphire sky and bright sun providing rejuvenating patches of bone-warming bliss. With conditions like this, I will venture off alone and walk at the proverbial snail’s pace beneath the trees; eyes half shut I tend to listen more than look.

In sheltered wooded valleys, such as we have around the Sid Valley, winter woodland bird numbers peak as they flock together to benefit from a slightly more hospitable micro-climate and wealth of foraging opportunities. The second way in which I will enjoy my time in winter woods is less dependent on fine conditions, in fact a leaden sky or drizzle adds to the pleasure.

Carrying out practical work in winter woodland means rosy cheeks from lots of effort; jacket spuds on brash fires; robins picking thorough disturbed ground a few metres from you; being able to come back in the warm summer months and say “I helped do that.”

It also goes well with my other winter indulgence, overeating! The extra dollop of mash or perhaps one more sausage than you strictly need all seems perfectly acceptable after a day’s efforts in the cold and wet!

So it comes as no surprise that the first conservation activity I planned in my new role at The Donkey Sanctuary was to organise a woodland work party for volunteers to help with a little maintenance in the Nature Centre woods here at Slade Farm. If you would like to join me, we will be meeting in the main car park at the Sanctuary at 10am on, Sunday January 22, for further details call the events team on 01395 573156.