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25 years of Friends of Thetford Forest (FoTF)

Friends of Thetfotrd Forest (FoTF) 10th Anniversay Cake

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of Friends of Thetford Forest (FoTF) which formed in 1995 (then as the Friends of Thetford Forest Park (FoTFP)). While COVID-19 has, for now, disrupted plans to mark this milestone, FoTF hope to be able to mark this occasion later in the the year with members.

Over 25 years the membership of FoTF has grown to ~1,000 members, with 14 corporate members demonstrating their support for FoTF with an annual subscription and receiving benefits in return. During this time FoTF has brought nearly £300,000 in external grants to Thetford Forest and since 2007 (when detailed records of effort began) has donated 3,500-4,000 hours of volunteering effort per year, an in-kind contribution of £280,000

FoTF has its own distinctive branding which together with the website and social media presence, on Facebook and Twitter, help publicise and communicate the work of FoTF. FoTF volunteers can also chose to wear branded FoTF clothing to help raise awareness of FoTF while volunteering, and the FoTF Conservation Group erects promotional material when working at sites where members of the public might be in the vicinity of the working party.

In addition, FoTF:

  • Helps shape the District's strategies and plans through informed challenge and debate and as a 'critical friend'
  • Acts as an ambassador for Thetford Forest and the Public Forest Estate (PFE)
  • Suggests and initiates projects
  • Independently recruits new volunteers as well as administering all its volunteering groups
  • Deals with queries and concerns from the public and acts as a 'go-between'
  • Advising Forestry England of the views of forest users
  • Invites MPs, Ministers, the press and media to generate greater understanding of the PFE multi-purpose management
  • Uses the diverse range of skills of individual committee members and benefits from their network of contacts

Over the years FoTF has been nominated for, and won, various awards for it's efforts including the 2017 Royal Forestry Service Silver Medal and the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2017, as well recognition for the management of Lynford Arboretum.

The work of FoTF over the last 25 years includes:

Conservation

  • Repair, construction and replacement of over 400 Bird & Bat Boxes
  • Clearance work at many sites to improve habitats for flora and fauna, particularly rare Breckland species
  • Maintenance of Rex Graham Reserve for Military Orchid and other rare orchids and plants
  • Establishment of a new site form Breckland Mugwort
  • Re-opening and carer of the Goshwak Trail
  • Installation of bird-viewing screens on the Goshawk Trail
  • On-going clearance at Croxton newt ponds
  • Refurbishment of High Lodge Bird Hide
  • Construction of tern rafts for Lynford Water
  • Maintenance of Pool Frog re-introduction site habitat
  • Construction of a toad pond and catch-fence at a road crossing point

Lynford Arboretum

In 2007 FoTF took over the practical day-to-day management of Lynford Arboretum under the guidance of the Forestry Commission (now Forestry England). Volunteers at the Arboretum meet on Wednesday and Sunday mornings to carry out tasks detailed in the [largely] FoTF drafted management plan. Such tasks include:

  • Improvement of the shrubs' layer
  • Addition of understory trees
  • Maintenance of the 'Parkland feel' of the site
  • Provision of seating along the pathways

Archaeology

Archaeology investigations have included:

  • Carrying out a surface investigation of the site of Brandon Warren Lodge
  • Carrying out a surface investigation of the site of Ickburgh Warren Lodge
  • Consolidating the standing remains of Ickburgh Warren Lodge
  • Taking part in test pit surveys to determine the wider extend of Neolithic flint workings
  • Investigating the site of the 19th century farmhouse at High Lodge
  • Consolidating the standing remains of Mildenhall Warren Lodge (2000-2002) and the construction of a timber roof (2013)

Events

Over the years FoTF have arranged, or participated in, a number of events in and around the forest. Some of these events dedicated special events for FoTF members, and some open to the wider public. Examples include:

  • Guided walks in the forest
  • Unveiling of FoTF funded sculptures
  • FoTF member visits to STANTA training ground
  • Unveiling of FoTF funded all-ability cycles
  • Unveiling of FoTF part funded restoration of Mildenhall Warren Lodge and annual open day
  • Participation in the 'Discovery Day' at High Lodge
  • Hosting various visitors to the forest such as local and national MPs