Dec 14 2020

North England Seasonal Message from Alistair Crosby

As we head towards the end of a year like no other, it’s important to reflect on all the positive things we’ve achieved and the impact we’ve had. The climate and nature crises don’t stop because of a global pandemic, so neither can we afford to stop the great work we are all doing. Wood and trees are more important than ever, and the contributions you make as volunteers for our cause are a huge part of this work. Thank you.

Despite the challenges this year, we’ve all pulled together and made great strides across our broad spectrum of work.

The Northern Forest has gone from strength to strength. We’ve continued to deliver schemes from 1 to 100ha, and build on our wide partnerships with organisations like Yorkshire Water, the National Trust, Yorkshire Dales NP and Nidderdale AONB. In partnership with the 4 other community forests, together we’ve passed the 2 million mark for trees in the ground, including over 100,000 around the banks of Gorpley reservoir. A terrific achievement, but we’re only just starting – our ambitions are far greater.

Our Estate has been more popular than ever – a wondrous resource for many, and thanks to our skilled staff and relief wardens we’ve kept it looking tidy and welcoming, despite unprecedented pressure and frequent anti-social activity during lockdown.

Some of our top sites like Hackfall and Nidd Gorge are currently seeing huge investment in access and infrastructure courtesy of Veolia Environment Trust. Our engagement and events programme took a knock, but we’ve been innovative, like at Smithills where a series of online interactive events for a range of audiences have proved hugely successful and insightful.

We’ve acquired a handful of new sites: Shaw Gyll near Hawes – a small but perfectly formed red squirrel haven, and small new woodland creation sites of West Cornforth and Franklands in Co Durham. In the pipeline is an Ancient Woodland and parkland site near Prudhoe, and Swindells’ Wood – a terrific site for new trees near Wigan being gifted to us by the Peelbank Trust. And there are more irons in the fire for next year…

At our Young People’s Forest at Mead in Derbyshire, a ‘Youth Forum’ has established. This is small group of bright, passionate young people giving their time and ideas towards making a difference at this site and beyond. And in terms of planting, we’ve put nearly 90,000 trees in the ground this year – 38,000 trees with 740 young people engaged (when we were able to outside of lockdown!).

For volunteering in general, there have been challenges and opportunities. If you were able to continue your role on your own – thank you very much. For group working we know this has been frustrating, but the way forward is becoming clearer and we thank you for your help in the return of safe practical group activity.

We have also seen our successful transition to a virtual world of volunteer communication. We’ve strived to keep in touch and keep you up to speed on vital matters, albeit in a much more virtual manner. I hope this has worked for you and I know there’s learnings all round.  There are undoubtedly some huge benefits here to bring volunteers together on a screen, but personally I’m Zoomed out – there’s simply no substitute for a socially distanced walk and talk in a wood – that’ll certainly be my approach next year.

From all of us in our North of England team we would like to offer our thanks and appreciation for the amazing patience and support you have continued to show us over this year. We would like to offer our sincere best wishes to you all and wish you a peaceful and happy festive season.  Let’s hope 2021 will be a bit of an easier ride. I’m sure it will be another incredible year for the Trust, for our cause, and for you – our superb volunteers.

Stay safe and well.

Alistair Crosby- North England Regional Director

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