Carrick ‘friends’ put invasive species to the spade at Oakfield

The 'Friends of' of group clearing cherry laurel from the site earlier this month. The next task day is Saturday, January 9, meeting at Oakfield Community Centre at 10.00am. INCT 52-759-CON
The 'Friends of' of group clearing cherry laurel from the site earlier this month. The next task day is Saturday, January 9, meeting at Oakfield Community Centre at 10.00am. INCT 52-759-CON

Come rain, hail or shine Carrick participants on the ‘Friends of’ initiative have been digging deep for the environment in 2015.

And they are determined to continue their enhancement of Oakfield Glen and Bashfordsland Wood in the new year.

Since embarking on their first task in September, the group has undertaken litter picking, pond clearance, tree maintenance (thinning to create a clearing) and invasive species removal (laurel).

Around six or seven members don their boots and outdoor wear each month - some are there on every occasion, while others come along whenever they can.

Alison Diver, Growing Communities officer with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, is impressed by the dedication shown to local government-led programme.

She said: “Yes, the group is extremely enthusiastic and always ready to get stuck in. December was particularly bad weather - heavy rain – so I was unsure if anyone would even show up that morning. But they were keen as ever to get outside and get on with the task. I couldn’t ask for a better group of volunteers.

“In November the group worked at thinning and felling trees to make a clearing which we will continue working on next year to create a wildflower meadow.

“The felled wood was used to create habitat piles. Dead and decaying wood is often an overlooked element of wildlife gardening, but is very important. Woodpiles are a valuable habitat for mosses, lichens, fungi, and many insects, which in turn feed birds, bats, frogs and small mammals such as hedgehogs. The natural cycle of dead wood breaking down also fertilises the soil which improves the growth of new trees and plants.”

The work programme has been developed up to June. Tasks will include bird box building, moth trapping, sites surveys, river cleaning and path maintenance.

Among those relishing the challenge is ‘friend’ Philip Allen, who explained: “I joined because I live fairly close and have had a long term interest in nature conservation. The tasks are all enjoyable – fresh air, a bit of exercise, good company and the chance to make a contribution to wildlife - what is not to like? The group members are friendly and a great mix of old (like me) and young and from a variety of backgrounds.”

His views are echoed by Irene Black: “When I joined the group I had very little knowledge of the glen and wood but thought outdoor voluntary work would be interesting. It has been a great opportunity to learn more about trees, plants, wildlife and insects while helping to conserve and protect these beautiful green spaces. I would encourage anyone to join the group.”