Jun 01 2021

Volunteers’ Week Thank You from Toby Bancroft – Director for Central England

Dear Central Region Volunteers,


Writing this feels like deja vu, it does not seem that long ago I was writing a message coming out of the first lockdown, and here we are a year later, with restrictions lifting, and a sense of excitement that some form of normality will return again, and with it the return of volunteering. Whilst there has been some limited volunteering possible throughout, our recruitment of new volunteer roles has been on hold, but there are some exciting new opportunities coming up, both on and off our estate – watch this space….!


We have not sat still however, the estate has been busy – and growing! Following our appeal, we are now in a strong position to take forward our acquisition to extend Pepper Wood in Worcestershire, and we have planted the first trees at our new site in the London Borough of Havering – an extension to Hainault Forest. We look forward to hopefully being able to plant the rest later this year with support from local people. 



Our 4-year partnership project with the National Trust, ‘Reconnecting Grantham to its Historic Landscape’ – funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund is continuing at pace with the resumption of guided walks on site and the launch of the project webpage and Facebook group. Conservation grazing has also been introduced onto the site over the past month. The project group are working together on new interpretation signage and have been developing new volunteering roles and training. They are also looking at future engagement opportunities, such as participating in Heritage Lincolnshire’s Heritage Open Days which are due to take place in September. Working with the current wildlife monitors, wildlife surveying is being planned and carried out. Bellmount Tower, a distinctive and interesting historical feature on the project site is being restored, ensuring its presence on site for years to come.


View from Five Gates Lane


As we continue to ramp up our work with other landowners in response to the twinned crisis around climate and biodiversity, our outreach teams are doing more and more in partnership with others. Over the past year we have delivered about 15 Ha of new woodland in Essex with the local authorities and 9km of hedgerows on Suffolk County Council farms and are looking to extend that work with other councils. We are also working with other NGO’s to scale up their ambitions; we are currently working with the National Trust at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire to deliver a large scale woodland and agroforestry project, that will deliver around 150 acres of new habitat. There will be opportunities to get more involved in both of our priority landscapes, in Sherwood and the Eastern Claylands in Suffolk and Essex, so do keep your eye out later in the year.


Whilst we are scaling up our tree planting efforts, we are sadly aware of plans to build homes on a large proportion of our Jubilee wood that we planted with the support of local volunteers on the Defence Infrastructures Organisation’s Grantham Barracks site. We are looking to influence these plans to reduce the areas impacted.


As we get back to normality, I wanted to thank all volunteers that have not been able to continue volunteering, as well as those who have been active, for your patience and your continued commitment to woods and trees, and of course, the Woodland Trust. We really do have an incredible cause, what else cleans air, cleans and manages water, provides shade to us and livestock, cools our cities and rivers, supports wildlife, and just makes us feel better providing an amazing place to enjoy and relax –  I need say no more.



Best wishes,

Toby Bancroft

Regional Director, Central England



Image credits

Blue spades by Victoria Chesterton

Bellmount Tower – View from Five Gates lane by Estelle Legers – Helsen

Tring Park gate by Judith Parry

Feature image by Brian Legg


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