Dane Valley Woods is a community woodland in the heart of Margate. It is a greenspace that is run by volunteers for the benefit of both people and wildlife, and is being established on a former landfill.
Few parts of Kent have as little trees as Thanet, making a new woodland particularly good news for the area. The 13 acre site lies next to the Dane Valley Allotments, and the aim is to involve as many people as possible through practical task days, wildlife talks and walks; as well as other events all taking place at the woodland. For more information visit our events page.
We have developed a Misson Statement to sum up in one paragraph what Dane Valley Woods is aiming to achieve:
“To engage local people and raise funds, with the aim of developing a sustainable community owned wildspace at Dane Valley Road, Margate; through developing a framework that allows everyone to participate in creating and managing their own working woodlands for enjoyment, learning, health and wildlife.”
In the spring of 2002, local tree warden Ashly Palmer and teacher Justine Hopkins were on holiday in East Anglia, and dropped in to an interesting new project they had heard of called the Green Light Trust, based in Lawshall, Suffolk. They were so inspired by this visit that soon after, they spoke about it at a Thanet Green Umbrella Network meeting, and others shared their vision and enthusiasm.
A gathering of these like minded people took place on 29 April 2002 to explore this vision further. A number of potential sites for a community woodland were identified by Paul Verrall, Parks Officer at Thanet District Council; after a day of visits, the obvious stand out choice was Dane Valley, Margate.
Further planning took place in the lead up to a visit from Green Light Trust (GLT) on 15 January 2003, when Ric Edelmann presented to the community GLT’s “People Planting” scheme, as a model for our woods. 22 local people were there to hear the presentation. GLT returned on 5 February 2003 where their Code of Practice was formally adopted; the group was constituted as a branch of the Northdown Community Association (NCA), and Sarah Dennison elected as the its first Chair, with Steve Edney and Diane Evans as Vice-Chair and Secretary respectively.
Now fully formed, the first taste of real action was to re-establish a section of hedgerow alongside the railway line, just to the south-east of the current wood boundary. This momentous event took place on Sunday 2 March 2003. Two months later on 7 May 2003, “Dane Valley Woods” was agreed as the name for our project. Following the planting season, the “Summer Safari” took place in August of that year to raise awareness – with bug hunts, storytelling and other woodland related fun; from the very beginning, Dane Valley Woods was to be more than just planting trees.
Involving schools is an important part of the “People Planting” scheme. We already had a connection with Northdown Primary School through Justine Hopkins; our first contact with Drapers Mills Primary School was made in October 2003, and there have been many subsequent events with the school, right up to the present day.
In preparation for the next winter planting season of 2003/04, plans were made for a very important event – the “Design Day”. On 8 November 2003, forty local people came along for a guided walk around the land, and then back to the newly completed SureStart building for an ideas session. Everyone involved got to draw their ideas on large plans, which the Steering Group later used to create a blueprint for the woods’ development. Work on the design continued for the next couple of months and the first trees were planted within the actual woodland by Northdown Primary school children on 12 February 2004 – the grey willow and hazel coppice, alongside the railway.
This was followed by the “BIG Community Planting Day” on 28 February 2004, when forty people planted over 100 trees; more willows, holly and oaks; including 8 ‘Millenium Oaks’, donated by a local resident from acorns planted on New Years’ Day, 2000. This cold day in February was when a hard lesson was learnt – the land had been totally cleared and every tree beautifully planted and mulched. Within hours, many of the trees had been pulled out of the ground; and from this point forward, a new policy of ‘planting by stealth’ was adopted.
The very first AGM took place on 29 June 2004, with a report on the substantial progress made in the group’s first year, and the election of a Steering Group of seven people to guide the project forwards. The group set about the increasingly important task of fundraising, and came up with the idea of a triathlon with a woody twist – and became the very successful “Treeathlon” event of 31 October 2004, which generated a lot of fun and eventually raised a grand total of £600!
It was during the winter planting season of 2004/5 that two important events occurred; firstly, the group were offered allotment plots by Thanet District Council, which is now the home of our headquarters and storage container; and secondly, that the cycle path was constructed through the woods, with funding provided by the county council and Sustrans. Unfortunately there was a miscommunication with the contractor carrying out the cycle path work, resulting in the loss of some of the Millenium Oaks; financial compensation was quickly paid but of course the trees were irreplaceable. This sequence of events lead to the involvement of Steve Darling; upon hearing of the loss he came to the Spring 2005 tree planting event to help redress the situation, and was persuaded to join the Steering Group.
….to be continued……
Dane Valley Woods is an important site in Thanet, as the district has one of the lowest tree canopy coverage in the entire United Kingdom with around 80% less coverage than the UK average. However, we are working to fix that and since its establishment in 2003, Dane Valley Woods has had a great list of successes in the development of the woods, including:
- – A grand total of 5,770 trees planted
- – A variety of habitats created including a pond, 2 bug hotels, a lizard basking area and a flower meadow
- – An ash coppice established in 2006 and first coppiced in 2015
- – A range of events hosted and organised ranging from astronomy, archaeology, bat and moth surveys, Easter egg hunts and three treeathlons
- – Over 70 species recorded so far, including 9 mammals, 22 moths and butterflies and a large population of common lizards and frogs.
- – 560 metres of paths created and maintained
- – 700 followers on Twitter and 475 members and likes on Facebook
Our treeathlon events got great publicity
Some of our trees planted up in Winter 2013
Our Ash coppice being planted in 2006
We even got the Mayor involved in tree planting
There have been some people involved with Dane Valley Woods over the years who are so important that we couldn’t let them leave without honouring their contribution in some way. Thanks to their contributions and continued assistance, Dane Valley Woods is a thriving community group.
Ric Edelmann – Ric gave the the group massive amounts of support through the Green Light Trust for 10 years. You can read more about Green Light Trust here
Shala Dennison – she has now moved away from Thanet, but from its earliest beginnings in 2003, Shala was a leading light in the group for many years. She was involved in the creation of the ‘blueprint’ for what goes where in the woods, the first tree planting sessions, and the establishment of the storage container & the allotment HQ.
Mark Hopkinson & Elaine Dunne – now focusing on bringing up their daughter but Mark and Elaine kept the group going through some tough times and are responsible for the rejuvenation of the group.
Kim Conway – massive enthusiasm and chair of the group in 2010/2011, Kim worked tirelessly to promote the group and its work.
Mike Phillips – having initially become involved through his work with BTCV, Mike liked what he saw and became a fully fledged volunteer. He was instrumental in leading on the bid for securing funds through the Big Lottery Fund, and his advice and hard work have been invaluable in taking Dane Valley Woods to the next level of its development.
Sefton Paine & Liz Parker – Sefton’s practical skills and guidance in his time as Chair, and Liz’s sterling work with Drapers Mills Primary School, have both ensured that they will be sorely missed – now that they have left to focus on their next challenge of becoming parents for the first time.
Carole Davenport & Paul Harrison – Carole and Paul joined the steering group in June 2012 and quickly became well known as hard working members. They established two large bug hotel structures and the hedge boundary to our allotment HQ on their own initiative, and helped to establish our productive relationship with 2015/16 sponsors Looking Ahead. They were also enthusiastic fund raisers, being ever present at the group’s boot fairs and other awareness raising events. They stood down at the 2016 AGM, and their productivity and enthusiasm has been much appreciated and will be sorely missed.
Arthur Bray – Arthur joined the Steering Group in July 2014 and established himself as a hard working and practical member of the team, as well as having extensive experience of constituational matters through previous involvements in committee structures. His cheerful disposition made him a popular member of the team and it was a big loss when Arthur announced that due to ill health he was compelled to step down from duties during the 2016/17 year. His popularity in part was due to his delicious homemade muffin cakes, quickly devoured by all volunteers at the end of many a Sunday morning after working hard in the woods!
Dane Valley Woods is the first affiliation group to join Thanet Countryside Trust, the registered charity that runs Monkton Nature Reserve.
The Committee at Dane Valley Woods have long believed in the strengths of like-minded environmental groups working together in Thanet, and we believe that the Trust can facilitate this connection in order to better protect the ecology of Thanet.
Monkton Nature Reserve is a 16 acre site situated in an abandoned chalk quarry, giving it unique ecology and geology. The Reserve hosts a series of children’s trails as well as ample opportunities for discovering nature, and the centre holds two small museums as well as a popular second-hand bookshop. The
Thanet Observatories are situated in the centre of the Reserve and hold regular events run by the Monkton Stargazers. Membership is just £18 a year for a family, and £12 for a single membership.