Cambridge Conservation Volunteers at 60

Cambridge Conservation Volunteers (CCV) marked 60 years of practical nature conservation work in 2022 with celebratory work parties in Hayley and Hardwick Woods. The group was founded in 1962 by University students attending tasks with the predecessor of our Wildlife Trust, CAMBIENT (Cambridge and Isle of Ely Naturalists Trust).

Hayley Wood was an early key worksite soon after its purchase by the Trust and the volunteers re-established coppicing with a hands-on Oliver Rackham guiding the group. The first cycle of 14 one-acre neglected annual coppice compartments was completed by the group in the 1970s. CCV adopted the Oxlip as its logo after its efforts to open up the canopy greatly benefited the native ground flora.

Coppicing 1
Coppicing 2
Coppicing 3

In the early days volunteers also removed scrub from sections of the Devil’s Dyke. This clearance helped the successful re-establishment of the species-rich chalk grassland in conjunction with research by Professor Peter Grubb into the reduction of soil fertility by Upright Brome (Bromus erectus).

CCV has worked on a diverse range of sites in recent years ranging from National Nature reserves to small reserves managed by Friends’ groups and Parish councils. The latter often have limited resources to fully undertake conservation work; although small reserves they are important staging posts for wildlife corridors. Sunday work parties typically comprise 6-12 individuals who use traditional hand tools and can work on sites not suitable for or accessible by machinery. The group has a large collection of hand tools such as billhooks and wooden grass rakes, with storm kettles used for essential tea breaks. Volunteers come from all walks of life from young students to an active 80 year-old.

Hedgelaying 1
Hedgelaying 2
Hedgelaying 3
Hedgelaying tools

More recent work sites include the following –

Chippenham Fen NNR
Fulbourn Fen SSSI
Hardwick Wood
Hayley Wood
Foxton Woods
Ickleton chalk pit
RSPB Hope Farm Knapwell
RSPB Ouse Washes
Gamlingay meadow

Isleham LNR
Worts Meadow LNR, Landbeach
Kingston Old Railway meadow
Adams Road sanctuary
Doghouse Grove

Clients include Natural England, BCN Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Cambridge District Council, Ickleton Parish Council, and Friends groups such as Foxton Woods and Worts meadow. Tasks include hedge-laying, coppicing, scrub clearance, Himalayan Balsam removal, raking and removal of cuttings in chalk grassland, wood meadow and reed-beds.

Autumn and winter sees the majority of Sunday work days, with summer dominated by removal of invasive Himalayan Balsam along the Bourne Brook. The latter has hugely contributed to the improvement of the Brook’s native flora and consequent increase in water vole population, as demonstrated by Wildlife Trust monitoring.

Occasional residential tasks are organised further afield in Norfolk, Wales and Scotland, e.g. Swangey Fen, Swanton Novers NNR, Taynish NNR, RSPB Abernethy and Yns Hir. Working trips have also been arranged abroad, e.g. Romania.

New members are always welcome and practical countryside management skills can be learned from more experienced members of the group. Social gatherings include countryside walks and pub meals.

Further details can be found on our web site at