Highways volunteers spruce up woodland to improve access for community


22 Aug 2022

Woodland at a Coventry nature reserve has been opened up to the community thanks to volunteers from the highways community who dug deep to improve access for all.

Workers from National Highways and its supply chain, that form the Midlands Collaborative Community, gave up their time to carry out improvements at Grays Wood Nature Reserve which will ‘bring the joy of nature to many people who simply couldn’t have it before’.

Pathways through the woodland, part of the Lake View Park which spans the River Sherbourne, were overgrown and often boggy preventing people accessing the site. The paths have now been cleared and gravel laid to tackle the mud.

There is also a clearing now, a firepit and a log circle, which has been surfaced and can be used for education activities, small community events and a base for running training courses by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

Delivery partner Carnell led the team of volunteers and supplied 32 tonnes of stone which was laid along 200m of pathway and the new firepit area.

Before and after photos of Grays Wood Nature Reserve

The improvements carried out in Grays Wood will support the Sherbourne Valley Project, led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, which aims to reconnect the people of Coventry with the River Sherbourne and the green spaces beside it.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Cultural Heritage and Community Engagement Officer, Charlotte Ridpath, said:

“This new path has improved the access into a local woodland, that was previously unwelcoming and difficult to explore due to the uneven, very muddy paths. Places like Grays Wood can became off limits in the wet weather and yet connection with nature is vital for good health and quality of life.

“The new smoother, wider paths also now open up the woods for people who are unsteady on their feet and are better for wheeled access.

“The clearing is a space that can be used by community groups and provide a wider range of people with the chance to experience the woods close up. The impact the donation of this path will make cannot be underestimated. It will bring freedom and the joy of nature to many people who simply couldn’t have had it before.”

New firepit at Grays Wood Nature Reserve

Three days were spent carrying out the work by around 30 volunteers from National Highways and its partners in the Midlands Collaborative Community.

This is the group of suppliers in the Midlands signed up to National Highways’ Scheme Delivery Framework (SDF). The framework is a six-year programme which has seen National Highways sign deals with a list of supply chain partners to carry out up to £3.6bn worth of renewals keeping England’s motorways and major A roads running smoothly and safely.

National Highways Route Manager, Fiona McKenzie, said:

“The wildlife trust have fantastic plans for this site which will have huge benefits for the health and wellbeing of the local community and we were only too happy to help in any way we could.

“Many thanks to the volunteers from National Highways and our partners in the Midlands Collaborative Community who gave up their time and invested their labour in making this beautiful woodland accessible for all.

“This is a great start for our recently formed collaborative community in supporting community projects and we are looking to identify more worthy causes in the region which we can help.”

Some of the workers who volunteered their time to create new pathways and improve access to Grays Wood

Carnell’s Business Director, Adrian Oulds, commented:

“We are pleased to have supported Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in this wonderful initiative which will have a meaningful impact on the local community. The collaborative approach between delivery partners has delivered an outcome that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible and has provided a great opportunity to deliver on our social value commitments to National Highways.”