VOLUNTEERS who care for a stretch of woodland on the outskirts of Bridport say they feel ‘undervalued’ after an announcement the search is on for community woods in West Dorset.

Communities Living Sustainably in Dorset announced last week that £25,000 of grant cash was available to go towards setting up the first community-managed woodland project in the area.

Dorset County Council renewable energy officer Pete West said that the idea of the scheme was that local people would lease woodland with the aim of supplying fuel in the form of logs.

But Cathy Harvey of the Allington Hill, Coopers Wood and Field Community Group – known as the Allington Hillbillies – said that such a project was already up and running.

“We do have a community wood in Dorset, in fact it is right on our doorstep, within walking distance of Bridport town centre,” she said.

“We have been invited by Allington Parish Council to look after the area as a community project.

“We have put a three-year plan in place to encourage community involvement, manage and improve the habitat for wildlife and educate people about the natural environment around them.

“This winter in exchange for people helping us with our working parties, they were welcome to take cut wood that was suitable firewood.

“One weekend recently, people from the local community clocked up 50 hours of work in one weekend, that is how much they care about the project. At our annual meeting recently we changed our constitution to reflect the change in landownership.”

Mrs Harvey said that they were grateful to the parish council, which leases the land from The Woodland Trust, for a small grant over the past few years and that all other funds had been raised by the community.

“The volunteers are feeling undervalued in that all their hard work has obviously been overlooked by Dorset County Council,” she added.

“It is very hard for a group as ourselves to raise money, as most grants need to be match funded. We will be writing to Pete West of CLS, to invite him to visit us and meet some of the local people involved.

“We meet all the criteria for their project, except we are already up and running. It will be interesting to see any funding is forth coming for our community-led project.”