May 21 2019

Northern Region Volunteer Day

Recently Ripley Castle, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire hosted a motley crew of Woodland Trust volunteers in their lovely tower conference room. Ripley Castle is a Grade I listed 14th-century country house in Ripley, North Yorkshire, England, 3 miles north of Harrogate set among extensive gardens and grounds. The grounds have a traditional mixture of formal gardens, walled gardens, lakeside grounds and a deer park all of which are stuffed full of notable and veteran trees with a few ancient trees thrown in for good measure – the importance of which will become clear later.

 As with every volunteer day for those of us in the north the day was rainy; ok it was a torrential downpour but since the day started inside no one was too perturbed. In fact, I would go as far to say once we all got our hot drinks and got settled in to our seats we were fairly chirpy. The first part of the morning was spent getting updates on various volunteer and Woodland Trust activities that have been occurring over the last few months. We were lucky to get Hazel, the Visitor Experience Manager at Skipton Woods, to brief us on how Skipton was forging a bright new future as one of the Trust’s Destination Woods. If you haven’t already been, go now, they are doing some great stuff there, the walks are great and there are several fantastic activities going on throughout the year.

 The last part of the morning was given over to a tutorial on how the Ancient Tree Inventory worked, why it was so important and how we could all become Ancient Tree Recorders. Sadly, for the Ancient Tree Verifiers this got many of us very excited and keyed up; but not as excited as the afternoon got us. After a mighty fine and filling lunch with lots of chatting we descended upon the Ancient Tree Recorder boxes with a vengeance.

 The afternoon started well as the rain had finally stopped, but being the good solid Yorkshire residents that we are we all put on full waterproofs, boots or wellies and hats, grabbed our tape measures and got ready to measure trees. Splitting into 2 groups of volunteers, each with a verifier, we walked the grounds and eyed up the various trees in the grounds and practiced identifying which would be likely candidates for the inventory.  Once we had a tree that could be a candidate, we were let loose to identify the request identifiers and make the decision on if the tree was notable, veteran or ancient.   The highly trained and very helpful verifiers then pointed out what we had missed, what we had got right and why the tree had actually been given the designation it had.

 By the end of the day the volunteers had made new friends, learnt lots about what the other volunteers did in each of their roles, and practically all of us were desperate to get home and log on to the Ancient Tree Inventory so we could start recording trees; adding another volunteer role to our lives. If you haven’t been to been to a volunteer day in your area, I would recommend you attend one it is surprising what you will learn and who you might meet.

Samantha Roberts – Volunteer

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