Mar 29 2019

Central region update and thank you from Toby Bancroft – Regional Manager, Central England

It’s with great enthusiasm that I write my first update following the success of our ‘Investors in Volunteers’ award, a huge thanks to all our volunteers, some of who were involved in the assessment process, it’s great to know volunteering is working well, both for us in the region, and also for those volunteering.


It may be worth starting with an explanation of where Central England is, I’m often asked this – we have defined the area as covering 14 counties. It encompasses East Anglia, the East Midlands, over to the West Midlands and the border between Shropshire and Wales, and stretches from North London to Leicestershire.


We are currently 3 years into a 10 year strategy, so what’s happening and where does volunteering fit in? One area of focus for us is around our destination site program; these are a small number of sites where we will invest time and resources to provide a great visitor experience and a platform for us to engage with our visitors, about the wood, the Woodland Trust and all things woods and trees. The sites we are focusing on over the next few years are Tring Park in Hertfordshire, and Hainault Forest in Essex. We are always looking for support at these sites, as well as at our Heartwood site. So if you are interested in supporting us further in a woodland engagement role please let us know! Keep an eye on the volunteer recruitment section of the Woodland Trust website for all of our latest volunteer opportunities.


Mobile visitor central at Tring Park


A significant issue for us is the prevalence of various tree pests and diseases, particularly in the East where the impact of ash dieback is really starting to be seen. The challenge we face is how to go about replacing the trees that will be lost, particularly those in the wider countryside where ash appears outside woods. These individual trees play a key role in providing valuable habitat and wildlife links. We will be focusing our effort on a landscape-scale in south Suffolk and Essex, an area we are calling the ‘Eastern Claylands’. Our project lead Edwin Van Ek will have more information in the summer on how volunteers can help us combat the impact of ash dieback.


Tree affected by ash dieback


As we continue to deliver in the regions, volunteering does and will hopefully increasingly, play a key role in our success.  Last year the final planting at Heartwood Forest demonstrated the huge value that volunteering can bring. Every tree – all 600,000 – were planted by volunteers over a 10 year period, which is an amazing achievement. Furthermore, thanks to the volunteers at Heartwood some great wildlife recording has been carried out, providing a valuable record, not just for interest, but to help us manage the site in the future.


It continues to amaze me how many different roles volunteering supports, thank you to everyone who plays a part in our achievements. If you are already thinking about tree planting for the next season, look out for planting at Tring Park, Hertfordshire later this year, and in 2020, there will be plenty of opportunity to help plant at our extension to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee site in the National Forest, Leicestershire. Keep an eye out for details later in the year.


Please do come along to one of our volunteer network events, they are 4 times a year and hopefully there will be one near to you. At these events you can meet Woodland Trust staff, find out about our latest projects and news and meet other Woodland Trust volunteers.


Thank you for your support!


Best Wishes

Toby Bancroft, Regional Manager, Central England



Image credits

Heartwood bluebell photo: Judith Parry
Mobile visitor centre: Hannah Burgess
Tree affected by ash dieback: IFFF-BOKUThomas Kirisits





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