Tag Archives: Woodland Trust

Volunteer army gets wild

Across the UK there are conservation organisations, large and small, that depend on an army of volunteers to help look after special habitats and create the right environment for species to flourish.

More than ever the natural world needs us to do our bit. In just a couple of generations wildlife has started to really struggle. Barely a week goes by without a new report about the challenges facing nature in the UK and across the globe.

Getting involved in supporting a wildlife organisation by giving up some of your time is a great way to make a real difference. Armies of volunteers are helping to create the space for nature and also helping us to understand what is happening and why.

Working at the National Trust for more than a decade I got a real insight into the important role that volunteers made. From a postman who had catalogued the number of birds at Malham Tarn in Yorkshire for over forty years to people getting involved in surveying a precious coastal site in Dorset.

Groups of volunteers from companies coming in to help with improving habitats and helping to survey the land is a brilliant way to make a real difference.

If regular volunteering can prove a bit tricky in terms of time commitments there are loads of great citizen science surveys  – including the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, the Woodland Trusts’s nature’s calendar and Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count. These really matter in terms of helping wildlife experts understand changes that are happening across the UK.

Volunteering is a wonderful way of giving back to your community and doing your bit to keep our green spaces special.

 

 

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Bluebell heaven

I’m stood in the middle of a bluebell wood.  All around me is a carpet of blue. This is the most astonishing display of these much loved spring-time plants that I have ever seen. I feel like I need to rub my eyes to make sure that this is real and not some daydream. The only word that comes into my head is ‘wow’.

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I look around and as far as the eye can see is bluebells. The overcast nature of the day and the lush green of the emerging leaves amplifies the colour. I’ve seen countless images of bluebell woods: it’s a staple of photo stories in the nationals and social media channels such as Instagram  in late April and early May. But I have never seen anything to compare with this. The stresses of the day begin to ebb away the longer I stand in the woods, showing the power of nature to add a real calmness to our daily lives. We all need our patch of natural heaven to refresh us.

This magical Bluebell wood is called Hagbourne Copse. It’s carefully managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. For years I have passed this place on the way to and from work in Swindon. Finally after years of anticipation I made it into the woods. But this first visit exceeded any expectations that I had and I hadn’t fully anticipated the natural treat that was in store for me.

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The most remarkable thing about this Bluebell wood is its location. This woodland, roughly the size of a few football pitches, is surrounded by roads and an industrial estate. Its minutes away from Junction 16 on the M4 and is next to the main route, used by tens of thousands of people every day, on their way to and from work in Swindon.

It seems remarkable to think that so many people will pass this special place every day totally oblivious to its beauty.  Many people have written about the so-called edgelands: marginal and often non-descript places on the edge of our towns and cities. These are places where nature moves in when people move out; or places where nature gradually takes over the forgotten strips of land or abandoned brownfield sites.

Hagbourne Copse is a classic example of the need for us all to look closer to home for nature. It can be found in the most surprising places. Near to where I work in Swindon is a footpath that negotiates it’s way between the railway and a car-park: and yet this short green corridor is awash with natural treats.

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Little did I think that my favourite ever Bluebell wood would be in a place like this. For me it shows the ability of nature to thrive where-ever it’s found. This copse will have been here long before the warehouses, car showrooms and hotels. It’s a place that transports us deep into the heart of nature and connects us to why wildlife has the ability to provide a sense of awe that few other things can compete with.

Telling our tree stories

At the back of my house there is a tree. I can see it from our kitchen window. Every day it’s a reassuring sight as the seasons come and go. Looking out of the window it’s bare branched architecture frames the skyline. As spring arrives and the foliage starts to burst into life the birds arrive and will take up residency. The sweetness of birdsong will pour forth from its branches during the early arrival of daylight hours. Then its leaves will slowly begin to fall as the days shorten and we head into darker nights.

For me this very familiar tree symbolises how trees are part of all of our stories. They provide the backdrop to our lives but are so much more than that.

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Trees surround us and they are an important part of our lives

In our technology saturated lives as we charge from A to B there is a risk that we forget about the wonderful trees that fill our landscapes and cityscapes. Just take a moment to think about the trees that touch your life every day, maybe on the route that you take to work, in a local park or your back garden. They help to enrich our lives and they’re such an important part of the ecology of the U.K.

The launch of the charter for trees is a timely intervention. Forty plus organisations have come together to collate our stories of trees to remind us all of their importance and create a nationwide storybook that reflects there central role in the fabric of the nation.

The risk that we take trees for granted is a real one. Organisations such as the Woodland Trust and Tree Council do fantastic work in promoting these gentle giants of the natural world. Trees are firmly part of our history: think of the English oak, Newton’s apple tree and the yew in Wordsworth’s poetry.

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One of the wise old wonders dotted around Charlcombe just outside Bath; sustaining an entire community of wildlife

Creating a charter for tree would enshrine in the national mindset the importance of trees. What is also needed is greater and more robust protection for our trees, in the same way as historic buildings and the listings status that they have. This is a very practical measure that can make a huge difference.

So, think trees, tell the story of trees in your lives and make trees part of your everyday life. Our trees need us and we need our trees.