In 2015 Sally Mitchell and Matilda Simon started work on a new 7 acre community woodland in Marple Bridge. In January of that year over 80 volunteers came to help plant 1,200 trees. Now, the land belongs to a co-op and is well used by locals and its 100 members, yielding honey, fruit, vegetables, cider, firewood, willow for baskets and a beautiful and diverse experience for visitors.
The wood is named after Rollins Lane that runs from the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park towards Compstall Rd, along the western edge of the wood. Originally the land comprised two neglected fields with overgrown hedges but this description doesn't do justice to the variety of wildlife habitats and scenery.
"We thought this wild, interesting patch would be ideal for a community woodland – and as we looked, and discovered the wildlife, our ideas expanded," says Matilda. "We found orchids, ancient woodland flora, wet bog, bluebells; and we saw many butterflies, birds including owl, sparrowhawk, wren, buzzard, jay and blackcap; plus a local fox and badgers.”
Sally was a skilled ecologist who taught Biology at Cheadle & Marple Sixth Form College. She and Matilda devised the plan for the wood and spent many happy hours monitoring the plants and wildlife through the seasons. Sadly, Sally died in November 2015 and Matilda (who is a furniture designer/maker) made a memorial bench which sits in the meadow for visitors to use and view the sunset. “The woodland is a wonderful legacy for future generations and many children use it for exploring, play and Forest School sessions”, she says.
Rollins Wood is open to all, with signs from Compstall Rd and Rollins Lane pointing the way. The paths across the wood are used by Marple Bridge residents to reach the park and many have stopped to look, joined the co-op (shares are £1 each) and started to help out. Events such as bat walks, tree care, balsam bashing and cider pressing are promoted by email to members and on the Facebook page. Everyone of all ages can help - just get in touch! Membership is £10/year, free for children and in return for help, members share the produce.