Dec 14 2020

North England- Snippets of Success 2020

Amongst all of the challenges of this year, there have been many achievements and successes in our northern region. Our volunteer numbers have increased across the region, with 90 new volunteers joining us over the course of the year. Thanks to you all for joining us!

We have all been forced to embraced the digital world so much more as well, and whilst we all look forward to being able to meet face to face once again, we are now able to deliver all of our new volunteer inductions online and have a virtual training programme and talks programme ready to run next year. o many of you have embraced this way of working as was shown by for example of one hundred people attending our two ancient tree recording sessions in October and November.

It is so difficult to mention everyone, and our thanks as always goes out to all of you who have shown such adaptability & dedication during such difficult times and have supported us in so many ways over 2020. Below here are just a few snippets of what people have achieved…

Our huge thanks to all the Wardens throughout the region who have been incredible and have made site managers jobs so much easier, undertaking tasks including monitoring visitor numbers, litter picking and reporting vandalism and anti-social issues. They have also ensured the woodlands have offered a safe and friendly place to visit at a time when the woodlands have offered people a place of escape from lockdowns and restrictions and bad news. Thanks also to our 87 relief wardens across the region who stepped up and helped keep an eye on our sites during the year, providing invaluable support to our site managers.

Across the region we have welcomed nine new voluntary wardens have been recruited to look after some of our busier woodlands;  Ken Miller, Len Metcalfe, Jim Kelso, Stephen Child, Tammy Andrews, David Paley, Chris Bond, Jeff Would and Gael Kouam.  Their help and input and the fact that they are based locally and can respond to issues quickly will be of immeasurable help to our site managers

Site Manager Nick Swinburn would like to make a special mention for volunteer warden Ian Tutty at Clarence Wood, who has made a massive difference to the site. Firstly he has collected over a hundred bags of litter, much of which was there from before we took on the site and he has also begun removing tree guards. He has been instrumental in engaging the local community via his facebook page which has meant a reduction in anti social behavior on site. He has also attended meetings, providing support in convincing the county PRoW officer to improve the entrance infrastructure to the site.

Our volunteer guided walk leaders have still been able to organise and deliver some COVID safe walks in North Yorkshire this year, which has been brilliant given the circumstances. Also a thanks to our volunteer walk leaders in the North East who have remained positive. We were on the cusp of delivering the first walk at Low Burnhall when we had to pull the plug on this year’s programme due to COVID – we will get there eventually, thanks for remaining so enthusiastic!

We have also seen the production of our Cheshire walks leaflet, which has been put together by volunteer Rawden Jones and sense checked by local volunteers before going to publication. We are all really proud of it and it is now available at tourist outlets throughout the region. In addition thanks to Stuart Wakefield for researching the walks and writing up the notes for the North Yorkshire Moors walking leaflet, we are almost at the point of publication of this one too – watch this space.

Despite the challenges we have also many successes to celebrate with our practical groups across the region. Again huge thanks to all of our group leaders, who have put in a large amount of time and effort in helping to ensure our group activity can be COVID safe. Thanks too for all of our groups efforts over the last year on our sites. Just a few to mention….

The Lady Mabel’s volunteer workgroup near Wigan have completed some excellent habitat management work in the form of thinning the woodland, ensuring we make space for more natural regeneration to help diversify the age and species structure on site thus making the woodland more resilient for the future.

Thanks to Sam Winspear, group leader at Soapwell Wood who has been building up a working group and has many members already signed up, COVID has put a bit of a stop to this but when the restrictions are lifted the group will be back making a positive difference. Sam has also helped with the maintenance of the newly planted trees. She has some great ideas for future engagement works which we hope to start working on in 2021.

In the North East volunteering started off strong with a full year planned out with Mark Shipperlee from Living Woods North East, but Covid -19 had other ideas! At the start of the year volunteers still managed the fantastic job of tackling a jungle of laurel at Pontburn Woods and are now prepared and ready to resume in a COVID safe way once circumstances allow.

In Cheshire to we can celebrate the success of our new Snidley Moor/ Frodsham volunteer group in January with over 30 volunteers registered for the group. The first three practical sessions that ran before the Covid-19 lockdown were fully booked. A lot of thanks have to go to Tim Kirwin who has been organising and leading the task days for making it so successful and hopefully it will continue to be into next year. And a mention also needs to go to the Spud Wood woodland volunteer group, near Lymm who resumed their Wednesday task days as soon as circumstances have permitted and have been working at the wood every week since.

Nidd Gorge volunteer group has experienced change not only with the COVID disruptions to volunteer work but also due to the loss of our contracted Volunteer Leader who had been running the group for 2+ years since its conception. Since then we have been able to transition the group to being led by new volunteer group leaders, Mike and Charlotte Fox who quickly adapted to taking on a lead role, not only in a short space of time but with the added pressures of leading the group in a COVID secure manner.

Our Sibsey/Old wood group have been able to continue work when circumstances allow, re-establishing the old coppice stand at Old Wood and undertaking work to improve ride management. We have had excellent tuition from the Leeds Coppice Cooperative in a training weekend in the winter ensuring a high standard of work is now being achieved. The work and the flexibility the group has shown under the present Covid19 restrictions to carry on in a safe environment has been exemplary and huge thanks to them.

Smithills too has seem some huge success this year, including coming up with new ways to engage our volunteers and communities during lockdowns. Despite the situation our volunteers have still managed to clock up an amazing 2593 hours of volunteering for the project. We have expanded our use of digital technologies including video, and zoom to keep in touch with our social media followers but also to run events for our dementia or well-being communities. We have run events virtually including bat walks, nature talks and theatre shows and have seen in total nearly 6,500 attendees/ viewers at our digital events!

Our wildlife volunteers have analysed over 30,000 wildlife records for Smithills, going back a decade, helping us to see trends and patterns in species on site. Our wardens have given over 1500 hours to the project this year, adapting to lone working / constant changes in restrictions. Members of our Woodland Working Group have spent lockdown teaching themselves photography skills and collating some wonderful woodland photographs for an online exhibition.

We have also seen the success of our partnership project with M4F which will see almost £1m spent on restoring the moorland at Smithills. The Smithills team are working on the final stages of our Natural Flood Management programme which has seen more than 11 flood interventions go onto the estate, this includes leaky dams, and means that 12,000m3 will be held back on the estate allowing water courses downstream to cope better in high rainfall events. They have developed the Smithills Collective which is a group of businesses that are using the estate to build their own social responsibility programmes. the project has featured on the Woodland Trust podcast and many publications including the Bolton Evening News and North West tonight.

And last but not least we come to our Young Peoples Forest at Mead, Derbyshire. 2020 has been a monumental year for us as despite the difficulties and setbacks caused by Covid . At the Young People’s Forest we have been incredibly fortunate with the amazing adult volunteers who have joined our team in many different roles; their passion for the project is evident every time we talk to them. A highlight from our Zoom calls with adult volunteers has been our very own volunteer Steve Cresswell regularly bringing his guitar out and performing tree and nature songs he has written, which has undoubtedly lifted the team’s spirits!  We now have two volunteering groups of young people – a first for the Woodland Trust. Our 13-17 year old Young Volunteers have got stuck in, getting their hands dirty, building new skills and creating a physical difference to Mead. So far they have explored the site gathered acorns from some of the mature trees on site and potted these up, coppiced willow and featured in a short film being made by WT colleagues to help us promote young people’s voices. Meanwhile, our 16-20 year old Youth Forum members have begun unpicking the visitor experience to help to develop the identity of the Young People’s Forest as well as making their initial decisions about ways of working and outcomes for different aspects of the project. We’re really excited to see what all of our volunteers achieve next.

Such a year, so many successes and so much to celebrate and be grateful for. Thanks to you all from all of us in the North England team and we look forward to building on what we have achieved and continuing to work together for the Woodland Trust in 2021

Claire Green, Volunteer Development Officer, North England


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