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From wilderness to a wildlife haven: Group marks 50,000 hours of voluntary work to transform woodland

PUBLISHED: 12:30 04 April 2019

More than 50,000 hours of work by the Gunton Woodland Community Project is marked in style with a special celebration.
Picture: Mick Howes

More than 50,000 hours of work by the Gunton Woodland Community Project is marked in style with a special celebration. Picture: Mick Howes

Archant

They have worked tirelessly within the community to transform a derelict and overgrown piece of woodland.

Marking the 21st anniversary of the Gunton Woodland Community Project with a ceremonial cutting of the cake.
Picture: Mick HowesMarking the 21st anniversary of the Gunton Woodland Community Project with a ceremonial cutting of the cake. Picture: Mick Howes

When a group of residents vowed in 1997 to work to restore the 6.1 acres (two-and-a-half hectares) of land that had “degenerated into a wilderness” at Gunton Wood in Lowestoft, little did they imagine that more than 20 years later it would have become the safe and enjoyable local nature reserve it is today.

With the Gunton Woodland Community Project (GWCP) formally constituted in March 1998, regular weekly work parties have been held ever since – with between 20 and 30 residents gathering to maintain the site as the ever-strong organisation continues its amazing voluntary efforts.

Celebrations as Woody Bear presents a �1,000 cheque to the Gunton Woodland Community Project.
Picture: Mick HowesCelebrations as Woody Bear presents a �1,000 cheque to the Gunton Woodland Community Project. Picture: Mick Howes

After being awarded Nature Reserve Status in 2002, the wood now contains well over 4,000 new trees, paths, seats and a pond to provide a haven for wildlife and nature lovers.

In 2003 the group was one of the first in the country to win the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service.

Photos from yester-year showcasing some of the work done by the Gunton Woodland Community Project.
Picture: Gunton Woodland Community ProjectPhotos from yester-year showcasing some of the work done by the Gunton Woodland Community Project. Picture: Gunton Woodland Community Project

And last week they were celebrating once more – as the group marked its 21st anniversary with a party to honour a remarkable 50,000 hours of voluntary service to transform the site.

Chairman David Briggs, who has been involved with the project since it was set up 21 years ago, said: “All went well as it was 21 years to the exact date that we had our first work party, which was on March, 28 1998.

Photos from yester-year showcasing some of the work done by the Gunton Woodland Community Project.
Picture: Gunton Woodland Community ProjectPhotos from yester-year showcasing some of the work done by the Gunton Woodland Community Project. Picture: Gunton Woodland Community Project

“Back then there were just seven members who turned out to tidy up an area that was used as a dumping ground.”

Fast forward to the present day, and after 30 members carried out a range of early morning tasks during the weekly work party, 45 members and friends later enjoyed the celebration event.

Cheers - Gunton Woodland Community Project celebrates more than 50,000 hours of work with a special celebration.
Picture: Gunton Woodland Community ProjectCheers - Gunton Woodland Community Project celebrates more than 50,000 hours of work with a special celebration. Picture: Gunton Woodland Community Project

Mr Briggs said: “To date we have worked 50,000 work party hours so this was quite a celebration.

“We had a cake with a picture on it and thee words – Gunton Woodland Community Project celebrates 21 years with over 50,000 working hours.

“We also had Champagne together with teas and coffee.”

With Mr Briggs keeping a weekly log, since the very first work party, it has shown many hours have been worked by each work party and what work was done.

Mr Briggs added: “Woody Bear turned up from Pleasurewood Hills and presented us with an amazing donation - a sponsorship cheque for £1,000 to the group... roll on the next 21 years or 50,000 hours.”

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