Sep 11 2021

In the Spotlight – An interview with volunteer, Gwynn Dunn

It’s all about the trees… and so much more: staff and volunteers share their nature joys

Today we would like to introduce you to volunteer, Gwynn Dunn

It’s been wonderful to talk to so many of the Trust’s volunteers and volunteer managers for this project, but it was especially so to talk with Gwynn – my first female interviewee! Gwynn leads and organises practical conservation groups for Langton Wood at Redmarshall in Stockton-on-Tees: another of the Trust’s ‘Woods on Your Doorstep’ woodlands created to commemorate the Millennium. 


Years ago, Gwynn worked in nature conservation as a countryside warden and then moved into other work, but maintained her interest, and was looking for ways to use her conservation skills in her local community. When she heard about the Trust’s involvement with Langton Wood, she made contact with the then Site Manager, Richard Wilson, and they initiated the project as a community event with the installation of a seat in 2018.. So Gwynn feels that for her, and the local community, there is a strong sense of ownership of Langton Wood.


Gwynn had just returned from checking for ash die-back in the wood.


“There’s always more work to do in a wood in winter,” she explained to me. “Plenty of clearing, and planting. In summer it’s more about weeding round young trees, and with more people visiting the wood, that needs monitoring too, but checking for levels of die-back is a constant in any season.”


Gwynn is also the Parish Clerk for Redmarshall and for her own village, Stillington, so she has her fingers in all the local pies. She feels this is a positive advantage for her Trust volunteering work.


I asked Gwynn about her favourite tree, or tree species, and she spoke of a large sycamore outside her garden – which she’d watched through many seasons and felt was ‘hers’. But as a species she chose the rowan for its blossom and berries, and for its propensity to grow in strange and apparently barren places, with seemingly little to nourish it.


“The wonderful thing about trees,” Gwynn mused, “is that once you plant one, you never know what’s going to happen… a young tree has such potential… it might last for hundreds of years, depending on the species.”


We moved on to other nature joys and favourites, and Gwynn said for her it’s about seeing nature in action, whether that’s a sparrow in a birdbath, seals pupping at the Donna Nook colony, or a tawny owl hooting on a winter evening – the last one taking Gwynn back to a childhood memory.


Gwynn also recently installed a nest-box camera in her blue tit box, although she wasn’t sure whether that was just too much stressful action! I often think I’d like to do that: to have my own mini Springwatch going on, but I agree with Gwynn: perhaps watching the survival (or sadly not) on a daily basis is too much to bear.


We ended the interview with me getting another invite to another wood, should I be in the area. I am on it! Nature in action indeed.

Daphne Pleace – Volunteer Whittle Reporter

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