Ancient Sheffield woodland preserved thanks to dedicated volunteers

An ancient woodland in Sheffield is being protected and preserved thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers.

Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 10:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 10:20 am
Mick Warwick and Chris Measures pictured at Gillfield Wood in Totley.

Gillfield Wood in Totley is thought to date back to the Domesday Book in 1086 and was documented in 1561 as 'a springe wood called Jyll felde'.

The stretch of woods leads from the old Dyson factory to Shepley Spitfire pub. Totley Brook runs through and it's the county boundary between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

The land is mostly owned by the council but, as with many of the city's parks and woodlands, budget cuts mean Friends Groups are taking over the maintenance.

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The Friends of Gillfield Wood was formed in 2011 and up to 100 people now volunteer their time to conserve it for future generations.

Mick Warwick and Chris Measures are two of the leading volunteers. Chris said: 'The council had to cut back on a lot of woodland rangers so when they set up Friends groups across the city, we said we were interested.

'The group was formed to protect the wood and record the number of species and wildlife. So far we have 4,000 records covering 1,600 species including flora, fauna, birds and insects.

'In 2013 we got a Heritage Lottery Fund to look at the history of the wood and do an architectural survey in a lot more detail with the focus on hedgerows and fungi. That was to understand the extent that the wood may have been in the 1600s.

'The wood was felled in the 1940s during World War Two to provide timber then the council took it over in 1946 and it was re-planted in the 60s but the base of the wood is still ancient woodland.'

Everything found '“ whether moth or mushroom '“ is recorded and forwarded to Sheffield Biological Record Centre.

'We have done an aquatic survey of the brook and the species found and it's extremely pure water,' said Chris. 'There are 40 species of bird and brown trout in the brook and 24 species of butterfly.'

The Friends group hosts a conservation morning once a month, usually on a Sunday, when council rangers provide tools for the volunteers.

Mick Warwick explained: 'We coppice the trees and cut back to make paths more open and this year we re-laid most of the path. One of the volunteers is proficient in dry stone walling and quite a few of us are learning on the job.

'We created a pond, a wildflower meadow and opened up a glade to let sunlight in for butterflies and insects and there are 60 nesting boxes

'There are severals walks about a mile long and we run events for the community and for families during the year including bird walks, a history walk, one about flowers and fungi in the autumn and a mammal trap.

'We set traps up late one evening and the following morning go and have a look. We find woodland mice and bank voles and the children absolutely love seeing them being released.

'We also have four indoor talks in Totley library each year with Sheffield Wildlife Trust or Sorby Natural History Society on insects, bats, water voles and we hope to get one on otters as they have been seen in the area.'

If you would like to join the group, email [email protected] or visit