Raising a Glass to Garys Wood
In glorious sunshine, members of the North regional team gathered at Low Burnhall, Durham, last week, to celebrate the re-naming of part of the site in honour of the man who has, quite literally, put woods and trees on the map in the North-East of England.
Gary Haley has worked for the Woodland Trust for nearly 21 years, overseeing the management and expansion of our considerable estate in the North-East, and creating nearly 350ha of woodland, during his time as site manager and, more recently, leading on development of the North-East Treescape.
Gary was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, an incurable and terminal condition, just over a year ago. He has continued to work as long as he has been able to, but is now signed off on long term sick leave, leaving a gaping hole in the North team.
Part of Low Burnhall has been re-named Gary’s Wood, and in true, practical, Northern style, the region wanted to do something hands-on to mark Gary’s massive achievements. Thanks to a team effort that begs the question “Just how many site managers does it take to fill in a hole?”, the site now has two new signs, and a lovely new bench, set in a quiet position with views across the river and the wooded landscape.
Job done, everyone gathered with Gary and his wife Lesley to share a picnic and raise a glass to Gary’s Wood, overlooked by the willow miner, a gentle giant of a sculpture that was initiated by Gary, and has become something of a local celebrity.
Low Burnhall, planted under Gary’s management between 2010 and 2012, is a 68 ha jewel among Woodland Trust sites, sitting at the edge of the historic cathedral city of Durham. A number of features included in the design typify Gary’s thoughtful approach to his work. An avenue of cherry trees, in recognition of links between the North-East and Japan (Durham University hosts a branch of the University of Teikyo) was added to help visitors feel at home. A bird hide overlooks the wetland area by the river, and along the boundary of the site, a colourful display of poppies and other wild flowers brightens up the day for commuters driving into and out of Durham.
Gary’s contribution to the wooded landscape in County Durham has been huge – creating a total of nearly 200ha woodland on Woodland Trust land, and more than 150ha on land owned by Durham County Council through a long-standing partnership, as well as managing a varied and at times challenging portfolio of urban and rural woods, and providing specialist input at a UK level on archaeology, among other things.
Gary was glad to have been able to attend the staff conference at the beginning of this month and to catch up with colleagues and friends from across the Woodland Trust there. So many of us have worked with him over the years and have appreciated his thorough and logical approach, his professionalism, conscientiousness and commitment, and his consideration for others. The event last week was a massive thanks to Gary for being our friend and colleague, and for those who could not be there, chief camera operative Heather Swift has captured the occasion on video – https://vimeo.com/336874205
Paul Bunton- Events & Communications Officer, North