Following the trail of timber from the Bovey Valley Woods sawmilling event at half term, the next chapter of the story continued at Kenton Primary School near Exeter. During recent science lessons, the children of years 5 and 6 that make up Chestnut class have been learning about living things in their habitats. Their teacher, Mr. Kay, had visited the sawmilling event during the school holidays and saw how planks of wood were cut from large timber trunks. He watched timber being milled into a range of different sizes and being stacked ready for transport to various destinations. Though some of it was in large sections for raised beds and building structures, some was being cut for bird boxes. Mr. Kay got chatting with the Woodland Trust people on site and a connection was made. A week later the Woodland Trust visited the school with a set of tools, a work bench and 20 planks of freshly cut larch from the Bovey Valley Woods.
The day started with a chat about the reasons for felling certain trees and the children showed they already had a good understanding of woodland conservation. They were keen to explain how “the Woodland Trust looks after wildlife and the environment” and how they “let people walk in the woods”. They looked at some photos from the Bovey Valley and saw how removing some conifers helped to conserve the big oaks and ash trees. They also learned about how pied flycatchers migrated from Africa each year to spend the summer in Devon’s oak woods, making an appropriate link between the sawmilling and the upcoming activity for the day.
There were enough planks of larch wood for each child and they started off by watching a demonstration of marking out the pieces of a bird box and the safe use of saws. Measuring and cutting wood not only proved to be fun but fitted in with the science and maths they have learned in the classroom. Concentrating hard on accurately following the pencil lines they had all sawn two side panels before morning break.
Back at work they carried on marking and cutting while many asked questions about what sized hole was needed for birds to get in the box or why there needed to be a sloping roof. They soon worked out that, just like their school building, the rain had to run off somehow. Once all the saw cuts had been made, it was time for putting the pieces together. Each child got to use a battery drill to screw the sections of their nest box together and smiled with pride as they admired their completed work.
The red sandstone tower of All Saints overlooks the playground at Kenton and, as time was running out towards the end of the day, all eyes were focussed on the church clock. After tidying away the tools and sweeping up the piles of saw dust, everybody was ready for home time when the parents arrived to collect the children. One of the mums looked at the results of both of her children’s work and asked “Is our garden big enough for two?” to which the solution was instantly found when they decided that “we’ll give one to Nanny and Grandad”.
Enthusiastic voices left the playground and peace descended around the school. It looks like the timber trail will continue as the bird nest boxes find new homes in the gardens around the village and wait for new feathered residents to move in.
by Matt Parkins