Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year from the Central England Woodland Trust team!
As the world continues to adapt to the challenges that the past year has brought, we have had the time to reflect on these challenges and decide how we move forward. Being forced to stop a usual way of working, however uncomfortable, allows time for reflection and innovation, which in turn leads to more efficient ways of working. I want to focus on the positives that this year has brought and highlight some key areas which are cause for a collective high five for our Woodland Trust team!
The value that people place on greenspace still remains high as there is continued recognition of the benefits that woods provide for health and wellbeing. During last years’ lockdown we had many new visitors to our woods, with people searching out their closest greenspace and they were warmly welcomed. The brilliant news was that some of these visitors went on to take action! In a time when volunteering may have suffered a decrease in numbers of people getting involved, we actually saw an increase in those wishing to join our collective woodland conservation cause. Whether you’ve been a volunteer for a while, or have just joined us, whether you carry out one role, or multiple roles, whether you are new to conservation, or have a lot of experience, we are so very grateful to you for choosing the Woodland Trust to give your time too!
Across our estate we have been busy, with volunteers hard at work in our woods throughout the central region. Our woodland working groups and other on-site volunteers remain vitally important, helping us to monitor and look after our woods. The central region operations team have been busy with site managers carrying out their programmes of work across our estate and our communications and engagement team have been working together to plan and deliver events, work on signage and interpretation to welcome people to our woods and lots more besides.
Down at Hainault Forest a huge amount of volunteering has taken place, with people from the local community helping us to plant over 17,000 trees on an extension to the Forest. This will be the first woodland planted as part of our contribution to the Queen’s green canopy initiative where we aim to create 70 woods across our estate, and on others land to celebrate 70 years of the Queen’s rule. Thanks to investment by the London Borough of Redbridge we are working with project partners Vison Redbridge to develop a joint visitor offer, interpretation and volunteering at Hainault. One of the outcomes will be our first ever manned visitor centre, due to open in summer 2022. Looking to the north, we are working collaboratively with the National Trust on our Londonthorpe and Bellmount project which focusses on getting the Grantham community connected with their closest greenspaces. Since last year we have built on the existing volunteer base which included wildlife monitors, guided walk leaders, historical researchers and the woodland working group, and now have livestock monitors in place to help us keep an eye on our amazing grazers.
Woodland creation remains a focus, our recent acquisitions include an extension to Pepper Wood in Worcestershire and Green Farm in Norfolk. Our outreach team has been supporting landowners to plant trees and hedges on their own land as part of our MoreWoods and MoreHedges schemes, planting approximately 150Ha of woodland and 17,000m of hedging in the central region. Across the Eastern Claylands landscape in Suffolk and Essex we’ve been continuing to help partners and landowners to plant trees both in woodlands and outside, with the aim to mitigate the impacts of tree pests and diseases in an already fragmented landscape. In Sherwood Forest we are working to protect and manage existing ancient and veteran trees and areas of wood pasture, all vital for the future of the area.
This year saw the resumption of our practical conservation activity with Lloyds corporate volunteers, with 49 staff members coming out to our sites to plant around 1000 trees both on and off our estate and supporting us with other woodland work.
Playing a vital role in protecting woods and trees, many volunteers have supported us in our campaigns work, some joining us on demonstration marches, some keeping an eye on planning applications which may have an impact on woods and trees and some helping us to raise funds for our work – these just a few examples of the huge amount of volunteering activity that has taken place.
Looking forward to 2022 we’ve got a lot planned, a new strategy emerging and together with our amazing volunteers we’ll work towards our goals to create, protect and restore our native trees and woods. Please do keep an eye on Whittle and e-newsletters as we’ll keep you updated.
Of course, behind the Woodland Trust’s achievements is our extraordinary team of volunteers. We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated bunch of people who contribute their time, energy and efforts to make a tangible difference to our cause. You are the backbone to our organisation and we are forever thankful for all that you do! I hope that you have found volunteering to be both fulfilling and enjoyable during 2021.
Wishing you a peaceful festive break, hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
Toby Bancroft and the Central Region Team
Image credit: Fox crossing path in Tring Park (WTPL Nick Spurling)
Image credit: Snowman (Pexels – Jill Wellington)