Last updated on August 6, 2014

Chris Bloor: the Community Forest Path

Chris BloorChris Bloor joined the Forest of Avon Trust in April as Trust Director with responsibility for outdoor access. Here Chris reflects on his interests and some of the work that he will be leading for the charity:

“One of my main interests in working for the Forest of Avon Trust is to improve and promote the Community Forest Path (CFP) – the 45-mile route around the City of Bristol, designed by Rennie Dickins and created by the Forest of Avon  to link areas of the Community Forest and also lead people out of the city into the countryside.

The Community Forest Path at Dundry“I have been looking after the path for four years, since the ending of the Forest of Avon Partnership. I think of myself as taking care of the forest in its original sense, which has little to do with trees and woodlands. The forest was the place to get out, from the Latin foras! (to the gate! or out!), the answer the exasperated Roman might give when their partner asked Quo vadis? (Where are you going dear?) I agree with internationally renowned, conceptual artist Richard Long (who lives in Failand) when he says, ‘A walk expresses space and freedom’, (except I would say run).

“I instituted the Green Man Challenge to promote the Community Forest Path and reinvented the term Woodwose to describe those who complete the challenge inside 24 hours. There are currently 266 Woodwoses entered in the Forestal Book of the Honourable Order of Woodwoses. The number of people completing the challenge has increased considerably now that Ultrarunning Ltd has taken it up as an ultramarathon race.

“I have written two books of walks designed to carry out the aim of the Community Forest Path (CFP) to lead people out of the city into the countryside. These routes circle off sections of the CFP and are designed to visit community centres such as pubs and cafes and to link woods, rivers and nature reserves to the CFP. They are beginning to look a little dated as pubs close, bus routes change and green spaces are built on.

“As a Director of the Trust I want to help the charity continue to grow and in initially will focus on: improving signage and waymarking along the Community Forest Path; finding ways of making my routes freely available and building links with the North Bristol Health Trust.”

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Training with the Forest of Avon Trust

Scott shows his whittled spoon

Scott Burnett is an art psychotherapist with a particular interest in working with people creatively and therapeutically outdoors. Scott hopes to combine his Forest School training with his art therapy training to provide environmental arts therapy workshops. This is Scott’s blog post about his experiences of the Trust’s Level 1 Forest School training:

“I did my Level 1 training with the Forest of Avon Trust at Lawrence Weston Community Farm. I was hoping to develop a basic level of knowledge and skills to lead outdoor workshops with groups of children or adults. I also hoped that this would provide a good introduction to the Level 3 Forest School Leader training that I’m also planning to do.

“I really enjoyed the two days of training. Jon Attwood lead the sessions very well including a good mix of practical and creative activities in the woodland. This was combined with some ‘classroom’ learning about things such as: the Forest School approach, effective risk management, assessing Forest School sessions, and what Forest School can provide to groups in terms of learning and personal development.

“With my art therapy background, I particularly enjoyed learning new creative activities such as making leaf prints on cotton, using natural clay to make animals, mud painting, putting clay faces into tree trunks and writing poems/reflections about our experience of a particular tree. I also enjoyed learning the more practical woodland skills such as making fire with a fire-steel, camp cooking and putting up a tarp shelter.

“A big part of the experience was sharing activities with a diverse group of fellow trainees. It was a really good opportunity to build networks with like-minded people and I have kept in touch with a few of the people following the training.

“The Level 1 training helped me to build confidence in working with groups outdoors and provided me with new skills as well as potential outdoor activity ideas. I’ve already incorporated some of the creative ideas into my own environmental arts therapy workshops.”

Scott has now started his Level 3 Forest School training with the Forest of Avon Trust. If you are interested in Forest School Level 1 or Level 3 courses or other training with the Trust, please go to: http://forestofavontrust.org/training/

Posted in: Forest School, Training activities | Tagged , , |

Trees offer a great return on investment

View up into tree canopyMore evidence about the (really) positive role of trees. Government agency Natural England has published a report about the benefits of investing in the natural environment (MEBEI2). The report sets out evidence from a number of studies into the effects of natural infrastructure on health, wellbeing, work, productivity and climate change.

The importance of trees and woodlands, particularly in urban areas, was highlighted throughout the report. Some key points are:

  • “Trees and plants can reduce the need for heating and cooling of buildings, and therefore lower energy costs.
  • “Urban centres in particular may in future suffer from dangerous heat and air pollution. Some of the impact may be reduced by investment in the natural environment (particularly trees).
  • “By increasing infiltration rates in forest soils, trees can have significant impacts on flooding, modelling since the O’Connell review in Pontebren in Wales suggests that in this context, a shelterbelt at right angles to the slope could reduce field scale flood peaks by 40%.
  • “Urban forests intercept rain water and reduce peak run off… Test plots in Manchester demonstrated that over a year, the addition of a street tree could reduce stormwater runoff by between 50% and 62% in a 9 square metre area, compared with asphalt alone.
  • “Trees can contribute to greater hydraulic roughness of floodplains, slowing water flow. Modelling around the River Parrett… found that floodplain woodland could slow water velocity within the woodland, increasing the water level by up to 270mm and increasing flood storage by 71%.
  • “Green infrastructure makes a number of important contributions to local climate regulation… A single large tree can transpire 450 litres of water in a day which uses 1000 mega joules of heat energy, making urban trees an effective way to reduce urban temperature.
  • “Modelling of the impact of trees on a two-storey office building in Scotland found that using trees as a shelterbelt could potentially reduce office heating energy use by 3.64 kilowatts per square metre of floor area (18.1 percent of total heating energy use)… from October to April.
  • “Surveys across 26 different-sized cities in the USA found that shoppers reported being willing to travel further to visit, stay longer once there, and more frequently visit, business districts with trees.”

Read the full report on the Natural England website. Also, don’t forget what you can do locally by supporting the Forest of Avon Trust to get more trees planted and more woodland managed. Details of the great role that North Somerset’s trees are playing in locking up pollution to be blogged soon.

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Natural Connections launch for Somerset, Bristol & Wiltshire

Natural Connections, one of the largest outdoor learning initiatives in the country, is coming to Somerset, Bristol and Wiltshire. This new educational project aims to inspire and connect school children with the natural environment by supporting and promoting teaching outdoors. David Bond, the inspiration behind Project Wild Thing, will launch Natural Connections on 27 June at a conference at Ashton Court.

80 local primary and secondary schools will work together through Natural Connections to develop a culture of taking learning outdoors. The project hopes to inspire and engage teachers, pupils, parents and volunteers. Teachers can also benefit from specially tailored online resources and links to local partners as well as information on additional funding sources for outdoor projects. Schools in Somerset and Wiltshire are supported by the Forest of Avon Trust, and in Bristol by Lighting up Learning.

Natural Connections Project Manager Ian Blackwell said: ‘Parents, teachers, businesses, communities… Everyone has the same ambition over the coming years. We all want to see children enjoy learning, keep healthy, and achieve more in our schools. We hope that access to local outside spaces for lessons through the Natural Connections Project will help achieve this.’

Jim Burt, Principal Advisor for Outdoor Learning at Natural England said: ‘The Government wants to see every child in England given the opportunity to experience and learn about the natural environment… Feedback from teachers and schools participating in the trial to date has been overwhelmingly positive.’

The Natural Connections conference, on Friday June 27, is open to schools, partners, community groups and outdoor learning providers from across the area. You are welcome to attend the event to find out how to get involved in the project and to discuss partnerships. To book a place email telephone Sam Wilson: 07 90 77 53 100 or email: info@lightinguplearning

Natural Connections Hub Leaders manage the project at local level, in partnership with Plymouth University. The Forest of Avon Trust is hub leader for Somerset and Wiltshire. For more information please contact Jon Attwood on: (0117) 963 3383 or email: jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org

Download the Natural Connections Conference flyer (pdf) for 27 June.

Posted in: Forest School, Latest News, Natural Connections Demonstration Project, Our Projects | Tagged , , |

Volunteering with Forest of Avon Trust

Portrait photo of Scott Burnett in the woodsScott Burnett is an art psychotherapist with a particular interest in working with people creatively and therapeutically outdoors in local woodlands. Scott has a written this blog post about his experiences as a volunteer with the Forest of Avon Trust:

“I wanted to volunteer at the Forest of Avon Trust because it’s a great opportunity to participate in the various activities that the charity provides to help build my skills, knowledge and experience of working with groups outdoors.

“I’ve really enjoyed volunteering on the Woodland Works workshops with adults with learning disabilities run by Rachel Tomlinson and Nicola Ramsden. I learned a great deal from Rachel and Nicola about leading workshops like these and enjoyed seeing how much the participants clearly get from activities such as coppicing, dry-hedge building, sawing, fire-making and camp-cooking.

“In a recent workshop we did a pond dip. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic and focused the participants were to identify pond wildlife. We were all impressed at how big and ‘mean’ the predator dragon-fly larvae looked!

“I was also fortunate to be able to help Jon Attwood when he led a Level 1 Forest School course  and workshops for teachers, play workers and other trainees. Whilst helping out I was able to learn from Jon’s long experience of providing Forest School activities and training.

I’ve already used one activity in my own environmental arts therapy workshops: the group make a circle of wood on the ground and divide it into segments, one for each person. Standing in a segment, each group member faces outwards and walks into the wood to spend time alone reflecting. They also bring back some natural objects that they find, which the group discusses. This activity may seem simple enough, but it offers so much in helping people to immerse themselves in the experience of being in a woodland and sharing this with others in the group.

“I look forward to continuing my association with the Forest of Avon Trust in the future to continue building my knowledge and experience.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Forest of Avon Trust, please get in touch with Jon Clark at: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

Posted in: Forest School, Training activities, volunteering | Tagged , , , , |

Exciting Opportunity for a Planning Volunteer

We are looking for a Planning volunteer to:

  • Identify and review the status of references to the Forest of Avon (FoA) Community Forest in the planning and policy documents of the West of England authorities;
  • Make recommendations about where references to the FoA Community Forest would be most effective in forthcoming planning and policy documents and (ideally) to:
  • Work with the charity over a period of time to secure a greater recognition of the FoA Community Forest in local planning and policy documents.

The context for this work is that the FoA Community Forest operated as a formal partnership from 1992 to 2009, during which time Council Officers ensured a range of supportive policies were included in planning and policy documents. On the ending of the partnership, the Forest of Avon Trust carried forward the principles of the FoA Community Forest, but has lacked the capacity to undertake this important planning policy work.

This voluntary role provides a great opportunity to directly support a growing charity and to make use of (and develop) planning policy skills and experience. For the first two components of the role, we need someone with a good knowledge of the planning system. For the latter one, (which could be a separate role), we would also need someone with experience of working in the planning system and with good communication skills. Both roles would need access to a computer and phone. 

Work could be undertaken very flexibly over a period of time, averaging approximately 1- day/ fortnight. It would principally home- based with occasional meetings with Jon Clark, Trust Executive Director.

If you are interested, please email Jon on jonclark@forestofavontrust.org to arrange an informal discussion, or call (0117) 963 3383.

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An introduction to Forest School

Level 1 Forest School traineesForest School is well-established as a great way to engage groups in woodland activities and support personal development. The Forest of Avon Trust is committed to this inspirational approach and we run accredited training to support outdoor enthusiasts to lead their groups.

During March we ran level 1 Forest School training courses at Lawrence Weston Community Farm and the trust’s Retreat woodland, near Bitton. These two day courses are a great opportunity for people to find out what Forest School is and to take away lots of practical activities and ideas to use with their groups.

Those on the course were enthusiastic and couldn’t wait to get going leading their own groups. One participant commented: “Really amazing. Now I feel I can really do this”, another said: “This has re-lit my passion for learning outdoors”.

A combination of teaching staff, youth workers, parents and those wanting to develop outdoor businesses attended the training. Some of those doing the level 1 course will now go on to do the more demanding level 3 course so that they can become Forest School leaders.

Find out about the courses we run or book onto training at: http://forestofavontrust.org/training/

Posted in: Forest School, Latest News, Training activities | Tagged , , |

Woodland Works

Collecting tree guards

Two groups of adults with learning difficulties have been visiting The Retreat over the last year to learn new skills and help us manage the woodland.

Last week people from Choices4U helped clear dozens of tree guards and create a small area of hazel coppice. Participants from The Milestone Trust’s Stepping Forward group have also been hard at work in the woods, creating a dead hedge and pond dipping amongst other things.

The Woodland Works project was funded by South Gloucestershire Learning Difficulties Development Board and The Baily Thomas Charitable Trust and has been running since last summer. Participants have learned about fire lighting, shelter building, safe use of tools and wildlife identification (in all kinds of weather!)

A support worker from Milestone Trust said: “The retreat experience gave the service users valuable outdoor experiences. Learning about safety outdoors and using tools and fire. They learned to work together as a team and did independent projects. Outdoor confidence grew as they learned to make things from nature… All ask to go back to experience more.”

Using hand made bows and arrows

It hasn’t all been hard work though! The groups have also had fun making bows and arrows, building shelters, making music and creating woodland art. The Retreat also provides a therapeutic environment to spend time sitting quietly, listening and watching, a chance to feel connected to nature.

If you are interested in finding out more about Woodland Works, please contact: jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Latest News | Tagged , , , , |

Trees & Golf Go Together

The Trust has been very pleased to accept a kind donation of a V.W Golf Car and trailer to support our activities. The donor: Dr. Malcolm Rigler, a G.P in North Somerset, has made this donation in memory of his kind benefactor: Rev. Frank Linthwaite.

Dr. Rigler has discovered a little about Rev. Linthwaite, but is keen to meet someone connected to the Forest of Avon Trust who has a interest in researching genealogy, so that he can find out more about the education and interests of Rev. Linthwaite. If you can help, please email: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org and he will pass on your details.

Posted in: Community Partners, Latest News | Tagged |

North Somerset’s Trees Remove £1.7 Million of Pollutants/ Year

Through 2013 the Trust worked with a group of committed volunteer Tree Wardens in North Somerset to survey nearly 200 sites across the District to collect information on any trees present. This information, along with climatic data for the survey period, has now been processed using the US Forestry Service’s iTree model.

The results graphically set out the invaluable pollution management services that North Somerset’s trees provide. They also demonstrate the huge contribution that volunteers can make and this project is the first to use volunteers to collect information in the UK.

In North Somerset, tree cover removes harmful pollutants (CO, NO2, O3, PM10, PM2.5, SO2), with an annual average value of £1,703,648.30.  This is another compelling reason why we need to look after our existing trees and plant more of them.

The iTree model can be applied at a variety of scales ranging from a local authority to a Parish or Ward, or a local park/ green space. The Trust can provide a free introductory meeting, or a detailed briefing for £125. Details of these and other services are here: iTree Flyer Text_1.

Posted in: Community Partners, Future Woods, Garden Forest, Grown in Britain, Latest News, Our Projects | Tagged , |

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