Timber Girls

  During the First and Second World Wars many women were recruited into helping the war effort on the Home Front as the men were enlisted into the fighting. The Women's Land Army or The Land Girls are well known, but did you know about The Timber Girls?  Women from all backgrounds and social classes, some as young as fourteen, were soon taking part in tasks such as felling trees, sawmilling, and transporting timber for the war effort, some right here in Devon and Cornwall. They were affectionately know as 'Lumberjills'.

Our very own Lumberjills have been taking a hands on approach to learning about the role these women played in serving our country, some of whom would have been their age.

The second of 6 unique workshops ‘The Timber Girls’ took place in a small woodland, Courage Copse. Year 8, 9 and 10 pupils learnt how to fell a tree using an axe and then extract the timber using horses! To mark the Centenary of the First World War, The Timber Girls project will enable 60 female students, from 5 local schools and colleges, to experience a ‘day in the life of’ the Womens Forestry Service.

The North Devon Biosphere Foundation and Courage Copse Creatives have received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for this exciting project. Awarded through HLF’s First World War ‘Then and Now programme’, the project will take students out into local woods to learn about and commemorate the work of The Womens’ Forestry Service (WFS) during the First World War. The pupils as well as gaining insights into new forestry skills, also learnt how the war altered other aspects of life on the home front, with freelance heritage consultant Julian Vayne, who  shared stories and artefacts from his private collection. With the help of Film maker Jess Pearson, the workshop was digitally recorded and a film  will be produced. The Film will be included in Barnstaple Museum’s WWI gallery’s interactive display, allowing the public to share the project’s learning about womens’ wartime experiences and their relevance to girls’ lives today.


The organisers commented; "Route 39 Academy should be proud of the 11 girls that came out to Courage Copse. At first they were a little tentative about using the axes but they soon got stuck in and felled two 20 metre trees accurately and safely. They showed great collaboration working as a team, being mindful of each other and showed a willingness to share. All of them showed respect for the woodland site, stayed focused and engaged and were a delight to work with. The two horses, Kipp and Sol, were a huge hit and received much attention!! Would happily have them back again.
The girls, as ambassadors for Route 39, have given us at Courage Copse the confidence to develop a working relationship with the school and are keen to explore further ideas with Alex Boardman."

Tabatha reflected after a session that; "Timber girls was a great experience for girls in our school.  We got to fell a tree and steer horses while they pulled logs.  It was good because the girls never thought they would ever fell a tree or do what they did at Timber Girls.  All the girls enjoyed it and hope to go again as they loved the experience that they had and would love to do more."

We think they did the real Lumberjills proud with the effort they put in and their 'have a go' attitude!