Monthly Archives: March 2016

International Day of Forests

Last Monday, March 21st, was the International Day of Forests.

To celebrate this, Cogent is sharing some of its recent forest and tree-related articles.  These are free to read and share.  You can find them here.

One of these has a focus on Forest Schools in the UK, and others focus on a range of scientific studies.

On the UN’s web pages, you’ll find a range of features about the Day, and about forecast in general.

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Kew – 28 years on

BBC Radio 4 Extra has a feature on the trees at Kew, some 28 years after that great storm: An Ill-wind.  The programme website says:

During the early hours of October 16th 1987, hurricane force winds ripped through southern England recording gusts of 110 mph.  In just a few hours 15 million trees across the country were felled. Dawn revealed over 700 of Kew’s trees sprawled on their sides, their root systems spread in the cool calm air after the storm.

Kathy Willis explores how one Kew oak tree – the Turner Oak – that didn’t fall, helped transform the understanding of tree planting, arboreal care and provided insights into why trees stay upright.  She takes a walk with arborealist Tony Kirkham around Kew Gardens to learn how this natural clearout gave a once in a generation chance to rethink Kew’s arboreal canvas.   It also created an opportunity for the first ever comprehensive tree root survey which has since transformed our approach to tree planting and long term care that’s now finding its way into horticultural practices today.

Well worth a listen, and not just to hear about the revolutionary Air Spade.



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In the treetops at Westonbirt

The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald recently carried a story about a new visitor feature at Westonbirt.  The headline was:

“Arboretum visitors to get a treetop treat.”

The brief story said:

“Believed to be the longest walkway in the UK at a length of 300 metres, it will be officially unveiled by BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison on April 26 before it is open to the public from April 27.  Standing at 13 metres tall, the walkway features a number of interactive hotspots that will give visitors of all ages the chance to get up-close with nature and learn more about the world of trees.”

It will, no doubt, be hugely popular, but it seems a stretch to say the treat will be a “tree-top” route.  As the Gazette’s (and Westonbirt’s) pictures show, “mid-trunk” might be a better term.  However, given that there is step-free access, and it will afford new vistas, we don’t want to be picky about it.  Indeed, when you walk along it, you’ll likely find us there.

Click here to read what Westonbirt has to say about it.


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High Praise for March Level 1: Introduction to Forest School Principles course at Kings Weston House, Bristol

Our recent Level 1: Introduction to Forest School Principles course held at at Kings Weston House, Bristol has been a great success. Over 2 days, the enthusiastic trainees were able to test the Forest School approach for themselves, whilst learning lots of practical activities and ideas to use with their groups.

We have already received some lovely feedback from the trainees about the course with high praise for our fantastic Training Director, Jon Attwood:

‘Very friendly, helpful trainer. Have lots of new ideas as well as gaining an insight into the administration/rules & regulations regarding Forest Schools. I am currently a parent volunteer and feel I am able to offer more within the Forest Schools sessions now – thank you’

‘I was quite nervous as to what to expect from Forest School but I found John to be a really down to earth guy who made this seem much less scary!….the setting was brilliant, the house was really interesting, but the grounds were really good, had everything we needed e.g flat spaces, different trees, shrubs, flowers, canopied areas etc. I would have liked it to be longer….very sad to be back in school today ‘

‘Jon was very friendly and knowledgeable. His passion about his job came across in his teaching. It was a very hands-on experience which meant we played the games and took part in the activities rather than being in a classroom being told about them.’

‘It was a wonderfully grounding experience and I can’t wait to share some of the activities with both my pupils and my own friends and children. Jon Attwood was a very personable, inspiring, informative and thorough trainer.’ 

‘Trainer was excellent, very knowledgeable and approachable. I really enjoyed the sessions and have come away very inspired and armed with lots of activities that I can use with my children at school. It was good to have a range of activities – creative, social, games, understanding the world.’

Forest School is a fantastic way to engage groups in woodland activities which support their personal development. The Forest of Avon Trust is committed to this inspirational approach and provides opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to undertake accredited training to lead their groups.

Those taking part in Forest School Training have included: teaching staff, nursery workers, youth workers, parents and those wanting to developing outdoor businesses.

Some of those doing the Level 1 will go on to do the more demanding Level 3 course to become fully qualified and accredited Forest School Leaders.

For more information about Forest School Training as well as our other Outdoor Learning courses, please see our Training Calendar:

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

Yet another killer disease

Last week, the Times ran a headline: “Killer disease coming for mighty oaks“.  It was about “acute oak decline” which the Times said might do for oaks what Dutch Elm disease did for elms.

This is not a happy prospect and Defra has provided research funding of ~£1m to investigate the issues.  The Guardian also had the story, although with a less lurid headline.  Its picture (left) showed one of the symptoms.  Confor says that possibly a few thousand trees are affected, mostly in the English Midlands.  Forest Research has a lot of information about the problems.

Posted in: Latest News, Safeguarding our Trees | Tagged |

Chestnut Gall wasp

The Tree Council has asked tree wardens (and others) round the country to look out for signs of a new pest – the Chestnut gall wasp (Dryocosmus kuriphilus).  This has been discovered in sweet chestnut trees in Kent, and the Council wants to find out whether there are other outbreaks.  It says please report any sightings on sweet chestnut to the Forestry Commission.

To report sightings, you can call 0300 067 4000 (0830 – 1700 Monday to Friday) or email  The Council’s website has details of the information you need to provide.

Pictures of what to look for, and a useful PDF guide to symptoms is also available.  The Forestry Commission also has details of the wasp, along with details of the top tree pests in the UK.

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News on how trees combat drought

Just before Christmas, the Guardian carried a positive story about how trees are helping combat drought in South Africa.

The article reported that, according to the UN, land degradation and desertification is now affecting 168 countries around the world.  Living Lands, an international not-for-profit organisation, started working in South Africa in 2008 to bring together the users and beneficiaries of a water catchment; government, communities and farmers to resolve issues around water supply.  Together they planted more than 3.7 million trees to try to stop land degradation and restore the degraded water catchment system.  There is now evidence that this is being successful.

This project is addressing a problem that began in the 20th century, when farmers were subsidised to run as many sheep as they could, and cut water channels into the land to aid runoff.  This wiped out the subtropical thicket – a forest which retained water during periods of low rainfall.  Compounding that, South African scientists say the changing climate now causes rain to fall in more isolated storms, which in turn cause even more runoff.

This “double whammy” is typical of degraded lands around the world, according to IUCN, which has highlighted the project as a successful way to regenerate landscapes.

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Mike Collins’ blog

Mike Collins blogs about the natural world, drawing on a love of wildlife and the outdoors. He works in the National Trust press office and is chair of trustees at Bath City Farm.

He writes a lot about trees.  His latest post is: Telling our tree stories.  It begins …

“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. …”

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A search engine that plants trees

The mission of the Nature Conservancy is to conserve lands and waters on which all life depends.  Its vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill needs and enrich lives.

It has a feature on its website about Ecosia, a Berlin-based search engine, that contributes 80% of its revenue to rainforest protection.  Since 2010, Ecosia has contributed nearly $1.7 million to conservation, and for two years from August, 2013, Ecosia has contributed this funding to the Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees program, with a minimum payment of $150,000 per year.

Ecosia says it has planted more than 3 million trees around the world, most recently in Burkina Faso, and generated over more than 5 million Euros for forestry programmes since its founding in December 2009.  It has a blog which discusses recent developments.


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