Thank you to our volunteers in the Central region – Toby Bancroft
Dear Central England volunteers
It would be easy, whilst writing during another England lockdown, to reflect on all the difficulty and challenges we have faced this year, but it is actually all the positive aspects of the year that are highlights that I wanted to share. In a year when we planned for uncertainty, and had 3 months of downtime, so much has still been achieved by team ‘Woodland Trust’, both staff and volunteers. The value of our woods and accessible greenspace has been demonstrated in these tough times, with an increase in awareness and appreciation for the huge benefits our woods provide, and whilst we have not always been able to carry out all the volunteering activities we have wanted to, I do hope you have been able to engage with woods and trees throughout these difficult times.
The Estate has been busy; we were pleased to announce the acquisition to extend Hainault Forest this year, completing on 25 hectares in the London Borough of Havering which will be planted over the next two years, starting early next year. The Site Managers have been busy completing tree health surveys, safety surveys and putting together harvesting contracts, as well as lots of catching up from the downtime earlier in the year.
Our site at Londonthorpe was given a huge boost this year with a successful bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a 4 year partnership project with the National Trust to link our site with Bellmount, part of the Belton House Estate, and encourage local residents to make use of this amazing landscape. If you are local to our hometown of Grantham, you might like to check out what is going on?
Our outreach teams have also been busy catching up, and through working in partnership and with other landowners are on target to deliver over 180 hectares of woodland and an additional 50,000 trees ‘outside of woods’.
Looking forward, 2021 will be an exciting year. We’ve launched an appeal to buy land which will extend our site at Pepper Wood, near Bromsgrove. This is one of those opportunities that does not come up very often; to be able to protect this amazing ancient woodland through a large extension, creating new woodland by planting and natural regeneration would be a significant achievement – fingers crossed we can pull this off. The management of Pepper Wood is also so important, and I could not mention Pepper Wood without acknowledging the Woodland Working Group there. These volunteers have dedicated many years to the care and management of the wood, and their knowledge of the wood is incredible.
Our regional Communication and Engagement team will also have a busy year in 2021, particularly at Hainault Forest. We are working closely with our neighbours at Hainault Country Park following exciting investment by landowners London Borough of Redbridge in Hainault Country Park’s sustainable future. Among a number of areas in development, we will be looking to create a joint visitor offer, interpretation and volunteering opportunities. Look out for further updates next year.
And of course we cannot do everything ourselves, to truly have an impact and do our bit to mitigate the twin emergencies around climate change and biodiversity, we need to work at scale. Next year will see us ramp up our activity with landowners through our own grant scheme Morewoods, as well as scaling up our work in partnership. Our ambition in the east of England, in response to Ash Dieback will be to replace 80,000 trees in the landscape as part of our long term plans to replace 2.5m trees we believe will be lost in the next 10 years to the disease. Our work with local authorities is also an area we will look to expand on, building on some pilot projects underway this year. Our policy teams continue to work directly with local authorities to support their ambitions to a carbon net zero position, the role of woods and trees in this is central to this, not only locking up carbon, but also providing so many other benefits.
So it’s been a challenge, particularly around some volunteering activities; thank you again for your patience if you have been impacted by the processes we have had to follow. We’ve achieved an impressive amount for woods and trees across the region, here’s hoping for a bit more stability next year. Please do contact Amanda if you have any questions relating to volunteering, or need support. We hope to keep you informed.
In the meantime, a final thank you; we cannot do what we do without your commitment and generous support. I hope you have a great break over Christmas, and looking forward to some exciting opportunities in 2021.
Feature image – Sunset over Tring Park by Amanda Brookes
Havering – Nick Sherriff
Hainault Wood – Katherine Jaiteh