South West Update
Dear South West volunteers
We hope this newsletter finds you well and you have managed to stay safe and healthy. 2020 has obviously proved to be a challenge owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, with much of our outdoors and face to face volunteering suspended and many staff in the region placed on furlough. However things are now seeming to be more positive and this newsletter will update you on what lies ahead.
One of the roles which we have been able to resume is Wildlife Recorders. Our recorders at Fingle have recorded some positive sightings. The pied-flycatcher surveyors have recorded their best year yet. One nest box had 6 pairs use it over the year (the previous record was for 4 separate pairs) and one nest had 11 eggs (though the consensus is that two females laid clutches in there at the same time). There has been success in the Wye Valley too.
Our Advisory Work
Our outreach team help support woodland creation off our estate and give advice on ancient woodland restoration. They too are returning to work and though the number of enquiries reduced during lockdown they are now getting back up to speed. One of the projects they are working on is a trial using biodegradable tree tubes with a private landowner in Dorset. We hope to replicate this in Wiltshire too as part of another partnership project. We have been trialling different tree guards at Avoncliff Wood (near Bath) as well; this will help us understand what the best alternatives to plastic tree guards are.
Our external affairs officer, Heather, spends a lot of her time talking to councils, local nature partnerships and other partners from wildlife charities ensuring that woods and trees remain a focus. She promotes and supports the creation of woodland strategies across the South West and is currently working with Avon and Gloucestershire, and on the Bristol Ecological Emergency Action Plan and Cotswold Ecological Emergency motion. Heather also promotes the need for Nature Recovery Networks – ensuring the right tree in the right place. In February she ran a joint workshop in partnership with the Forestry Commission for local authority officers in Devon and Somerset. This joint approach allows people to understand how we and the Forestry Commission can support woodland creation. Heather, and other members of the regional team, are also delivering a trio of tree talks with the Devon Local Nature Partnership about Woodland Creation, Ash dieback and Ancient Woodland Restoration.
We aimed to keep our woods open for people to enjoy during and after lock down. and overall people were able to connect with nature and many woods were busier than normal. We hope that people feel more connected with nature and value our precious woodland more. There have been reports of some antisocial behaviour and some of our south west woods have been affected by fly tipping but overall we have not been badly affected in comparison to other areas. Our estate team is now preparing for the autumn restoration programme. The timber income generated by our restoration work helps with Woodland Trust funds and supporting our ongoing work.
Overnight our face to face events programme disappeared but we have embraced technology and trailed running a few fundraising events via zoom. These have proved successful and more activity will be delivered this way. Hopefully we will be able to connect with you via zoom too. We are now planning some virtual events for you, our volunteers, so please keep an eye out on Whittle and get yourself booked on. We look forward to seeing you some of you virtually at these events.
A Pine Marten re-introduction programme run by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission (which the Woodland Trust is supporting along with others) saw kits being born this year and it is possible that they have been passing through some of our woods in the area. We have put den boxes in to help support this project and we hope for further success next year.
We would like to thank you all, whether you have been able to return to your role or whether you are waiting patiently for your role to return. Our National Volunteer team are working with estate and health and safety teams to review this fortnightly and keep up to date with government advice in each of the four nations, as well as talking to many partner organisations, such as the National Trust and RSPB, to share best practice. We will keep you updated as to when more volunteer roles will be able to go back out and carry out the vital and valuable tasks.
Amanda Bealing, Volunteer Development Officer / Ross Kennerley, Regional Director South West