Jun 07 2021

Spotlight on Lead Observatree Volunteer: David Griffith

When I spoke to David, he was in Pembrokeshire getting ready to explore the rugged coast of Strumble Head.


Seven years ago, David was on the verge of retirement when he heard a Woodland Trust article on the radio. He looked online, found our volunteer opportunities, liked the look of our Observatree project and went for it.


David was joining the Observatree project during it’s first year. The project was set up in 2014 with several partners, led by Forest Research, to protect UK trees from pests and diseases. By careful monitoring and early detection, outbreaks are more likely to be eliminated or controlled.


“Our volunteers play an essential role within Observatree. They are citizen scientists who survey for pests and diseases and ensure that the Tree Health teams around the UK receive high quality pest and disease reports.” says Rebecca Gosling,Citizen Science Office for Observatree.


As a GP of 35 years, David has great observation and diagnosis skills to bring to the role. He had also been involved in local conservation projects and was keen to learn more about tree ID and their diseases. By attending training and exploring with his tree book in hand, David got to grips with which tree is which and what they look like when they’re healthy. “At first I was learning to identify the basic range of native trees. I thought they were all healthy, but as I got to know them and through attending training, I was able to notice the tell-tale signs of different pests and diseases.”


From his home on the Herefordshire/Powys border David travels regularly to Pembrokeshire, he was spotting more and more ash trees with signs of Chalara – ash dieback. He asked the project officer if he could record outside of his home range and he was given the go ahead. He’s since covered most of Wales looking for ash dieback but also seeing other things along the way. “I enjoy my volunteering for the Trust, it’s given me lots to do during retirement, I love exploring new woods and re-visiting long forgotten gems. The support from Woodland Trust staff has been great.”


In 2017 David won our Volunteer of the Year Bluebell Award – as a guardian for woods and trees. He was nominated for his significant contribution to the project, recording in over 90 new chalara hectads and putting in over 1000 hours to the project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6nUdPjQQQc


Rebecca comments, “David is a dedicated volunteer, he has devoted a lot of time to surveying for the project and upskilling himself to allow him to perform his role to a very high standard.”


As well as being a Lead Observatree Volunteer, David is a Volunteer Verifier for the Ancient Tree Inventory. Although both projects have been fairly quiet during Covid lockdowns there’s activity on the horizon. David will be helping Rebecca and other partner staff to deliver training for Observatree volunteers this summer.  David days, “I can’t wait to see people again. Lots of volunteers value meeting other people and learning from each other.”

Find out more about Observatree here: https://www.observatree.org.uk/about/

Written by Martha Boalch, Volunteer Development Officer for Wales

With thanks to David Griffith and Rebecca Gosling.

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