Monthly Archives: May 2016

The oak processionary moth

The caterpillars of this non-native moth have, so far, been found in London and Berkshire.  Caterpillars feed on oak leaves leading to severe loss of foliage but not usually fatal, and weakening of the trees can make them more vulnerable to other diseases.








They are a risk to human health as well as to trees.  The caterpillars’ tiny hairs contain a toxin which can lead to itching skin lesions and, less commonly, sore throats, breathing difficulties or eye problems.

Has anyone spotted them in the Forest of Avon?

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Local ecosystem service maps

Last Wednesday, the West of England Nature Partnership (WENP) unveiled a series of maps that show the most important environmental areas in the West of England.

The maps illustrate how green space is vital for better water quality, local flood protection and pollination, and the maps are designed to inform local decision making and help ensure that the West of England remains green and nature-rich place to live and visit.

The maps, known as ‘ecosystem service maps’ are the first time that nature’s services have been mapped and analysed in the West of England. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people get from nature, such as composting, air and water cleaning services, as well as for recreation opportunities.

The maps were created using over 200 datasets and show where the nature is working to support our economy and society.

If you click here, you can see the WENP website, but if you click here, you get to maps of the woodland network showing the best areas of woodland in the Forest of Avon Trust area, as well as the land which connects them, allowing wildlife to move.

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Is there any point in planting new trees?

This question was posed by the BBC last week in an article on its science & environment webpages which is worth reading.  It began …

“Successive governments have made popular pledges to plant large numbers of new trees.But do these trees ever actually get planted and, where they do, does it ever achieve anything useful?”

The article says that environment minister Rory Stewart has promised to plant 11 million new trees up to 2020.   Of course, he’ll not be doing this himself; one million will be planted by schools, and Defra will do the rest through its £900m Countryside Stewardship scheme.  This pays land managers up to £6,800 per hectare to plant, weed and protect young trees, but, the article says, Andrew Heald, technical director of forest industry body Confor, says the grant schemes are confusing, advice is not easy to access, and the financial incentives are skewed.  For example, the Countryside Stewardship scheme will pay £144 to cut down a tree, but just £1.28 to plant one.

The Forest of Avon Trust knows there’s a lot of point in planting trees, and that’s the message of the article – despite the question in the title.



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Ash Dome

Have you been to Ash Dome?  Probably not, as it is hidden from sight in a forest.  In another sense, it’s hidden in plain sight – a group of trees in a clearing within other trees.  First established in 1977, Ash Done is a living artwork created by David Nash – a circle of ash trees, growing to maturity in Snowdonia.

This picture shows it in 2004.

It featured in the recent BBC 4 film: Forest, Field and Sky: Art out of Nature, which explored a range of such British artworks that are not just in the countryside, but of it.

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Choosing trees with climate change in mind

The RHS has a web advice page devoted to Trees for Climate Change.  Ît begins …

“Trees are potentially long-lived and it is highly likely that they will face a significantly different climate when mature.  Gardeners are concerned that they choose trees that can withstand whatever changes climate change brings about.”

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Using citizen science to find disease-resistant ash trees

The Guardian website has an article about a new scheme starting today to identify trees that are resistant to ash dieback disease.

From today, members of the public will be able to go to the Living Ash Project and request tags to mark ash trees, and provide details of the trees on the website.  People will then be able to monitor the health of those trees and report those that do not succumb to dieback.  The aim is to find at least 400 resistant ash trees from which cuttings will be taken in order to create a new generation of healthy trees.

The aim of the AshTag project is to take cuttings from resilient trees in the hope of creating a healthy generation of ash trees.  Gabriel Hemery, chief executive of the Sylva Foundation, one of the promoters of the AshTag project, said:

“Last month scientists announced they had identified one ash tree that appeared to be resistant to the fungus that causes dieback. We want to find more trees like this. Then we can create stock to replace affected ash trees.”

The Forest of Avon Trust hopes that lots of people in our area will join in this project.


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Ancient woodland

The Woodland Trust has a feature on its website about ancient woodland in the UK with some fine pictures such as the one here.

The Trust says that ancient woodland is our richest habitat for wildlife, and home to more threatened species than any other.  What little is left are the only fragments of the wood that once covered the land.  Now, a fraction of its former extent, such woodland is still relatively widespread, although in small pockets, across the country, and not just in the countryside.

The Woodland Trust says that the real ecological value of ancient woodland begins with the soil.

“Ancient woodland soils are unique, rich in organic matter and with a very complex structure which has taken centuries to develop in the absence of disturbance from ploughing or chemicals. They are alive with fungi, insects, microbes and worms.”

This is what the Forestry Commission has to say:

“Whilst much of Britain was cleared of native woodland during prehistory, many remnants have subsequently been maintained as a valuable resource for hundreds of years.  Some formed parts of the medieval royal forests, whilst others have a long associated history with industries such as iron and pottery production.  Some provided timbers (and still do) for ships of war such as the flagship HMS Victory and most woods contain local myths, legend and folklore.  Many woodlands today are themselves, or contain part of an ancient wooded landscape. Ancient woodlands may also have a long associated biodiversity and this is often seen in the ground flora where certain species can be used to identify areas of long and continued woodland cover.”

There is something wonderful about old woodland which makes them even better places to be in than ‘middle-aged’ ones – although many people think that woodland of any age is wonderful anyway.  Do you have a really favourite spot?  And is it old?



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Trees of Britain c/o the RHS

If you search for trees of Britain on the Royal Horticultural Society website, you get a bewildering 2420 links across over 200 screen pages which isn’t very helpful.

Although the top link may be the one you’re looking for [ Trees and shrubs: native to the UK ] the next one probably isn’t all that helpful:

Get the Press Release template for the Bowden in Bloom: RHS Britain in bloom 2013 launch (Leicester)

All told, five out of the top seven links are about Britain in Bloom.

That said, if you rummage through the list, you will find much of interest.  For example,

  • trees for climate change
  • an article on root pruning, and
  • a feature on greening grey Britain

… and obviously a lot more.  Mind you, a better search function would be helpful.





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The 2016 Nature Connections conference

The 2016 Nature Connections conference in Derby on June 15th, with a focus on Getting Connected to Nature.  The conference themes are:

  • Improving links between research, policy and practice
  • Latest research and perspective on the benefits of a connection with nature, getting connected to nature, and engaging people

The keynote speaker is Tony Juniper.  Looking at the draft programme, there is much here that is relevant to anyone interested in trees and woodland, and to the work of the Forest of Avon Trust, more generally.

We noted the following:

  • The potential for connecting to nature through forest school
  • Making Local Woods Connect: Social enterprise as a mechanism for reconnecting people with woodlands
  • Investigating the effects of ‘forest school’ on the mental wellbeing and environmental connectedness of young people
  • The impact of walking environment on connectedness to nature, mindfulness and empathy: a comparison of natural and urban locations
  • 30 Days Wild


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A year in the life of an oak

Have you seen the BBC’s 90 minute programme about a 400 year old oak tree over a 12 month period?  It was first shown in 2015, and was on BBC 4 again last night – and is now available on iPlayer for a month.

The programme aimed to provide insights into the life of the oak.  Filmed over a year, it illustrated the transformations the oak goes through to meet the challenges of the transitions between the seasons.  What was particularly fascinating was how technology was able to show the oak in novel ways.

There is much to admire in this film, and a lot to learn.  Although it was about an oak tree near Oxford, on land owned by the University, it was, of course, about oak trees everywhere in the country, and it could be that the next time you see an oak in the Forest of Avon, or near where you live, you will look at it differently.

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