Monthly Archives: July 2016

Ancient Trees of the National Trust

This is a book that will soon be published in by the National Trust.  The publisher says:

“The National Trust is one of the largest private custodians of ancient trees in Europe.  Amidst its properties are oak trees that support entire ecosystems, yew trees that were fully grown before the Romans arrived in Britain, and woodland that has remained virtually unchanged since the last ice age.  It is possible to stand under the yew tree that witnessed the sealing of Magna Carta and to picnic near the tree that changed scientific history by dropping an apple on the young Isaac Newton.”

It’s authors are Edward Parker and Brian Muelaner.

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The Forest Economy: woodland as New Economy metaphor

In his latest blog posting, Rob Hopkins writes about woodland as a metaphor for a new economy.  He begins:

“I spent Sunday afternoon having a beautiful walk in the woods with my son at Venton Brook, near Holne on Dartmoor, one of the most beautiful places on earth.  As we walked down through this ancient woodland, with its stream, its waterfalls, its trees, moss and lichen, the sun breaking through the canopy, I found myself thinking of this woodland not as an ecosystem, but as a metaphor for the kind of economy we are seeking to create in Transition.

It ends:

“As you walk through the woodland, what initially appears to be a messy riot of untidy chaos is in fact a highly sophisticated, vibrant, thriving ecosystem.  It works.  As do resilient local economies.  And they’re beautiful.  As Mollison once said, “if we lose the Universities we lose nothing: if we lose the forests we lose everything”.  Amen to that. “

In between there is a closely argued case for forests, and for the transition movement.  There are also some rather fine photographs.  All this is something to ponder on when next walking in the Forest of Avon, perhaps – or wherever you are.  NB, we’re not quite as sure as Mollison is that losing universities will make no difference.

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A Forest Education PhD

A fully funded PhD at the University of Aberdeen aims to explore the educational and other influences on young people’s career choices with respect to forestry.

There is worldwide concern about the fall in the numbers of students undertaking forestry courses in universities.  While there may be some evidence that some young people are more attracted by careers that offer high salaries, there is also evidence that young people can develop an interest through their own experiences in outdoor and forest settings.  This PhD aims to investigate the conceptions that young people, teachers and career guidance professional have about forestry.  How these perceptions compare with the changing nature of forestry requirements for the 21st century, and the experiences that young people have which are influential in setting them on a career path into forestry and forestry related professions.

Applicants should have a good honours degree and/or a Masters level qualification in relevant disciplines including but not limited to education or a relevant social sciences discipline, environmental sciences or sociology.  The PhD will begin in October 2016 and will be based at the university’s School of Education.  The project is a collaboration between the University of Aberdeen and the University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness College and is funded by Scottish Forestry Commission (Scotland and GB) and the Scottish Forestry Trust.

For further details and information about this scholarship and how to apply click here.  Informal enquiries can be made to Dr Donald Gray: .  The closing date for applications is August 5th.

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Caught between wildfires and bark beetles

Last week’s Economist carried an extensive account of the problems facing forests in the USA – from fires to bugs and other parasites.  It makes for gloomy reading, and all that might get gloomier yet as the climate continues to change.

The article says that …

“Stricken trees provide clues about how America will adapt to global warming – but little hope that it can be averted.”

And yet, amid stories of biological havoc and human mis-management, there are signs of people co-operating to do something about it all, even if that looks to be getting more and more of a challenge.   The article ends:

“A big question is whether such progress can help build a consensus for more serious emissions-cutting.  Bipartisan support for the new forest collaborations is encouraging. “It doesn’t seem to make a difference what party the local official is from,” says Mr Tidwell.  Yet there is a long way to go.  Indeed, the lack of much public disquiet over the arboreal havoc out West is striking.

The American, the daily witness of such wonders, does not see anything astonishing in all this,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, marvelling at the new continent’s vast forests and their rapid clearance. “This incredible destruction, this even more surprising growth, seem to him the usual progress of things in the world.”  That was in 1831; it is largely true today.”

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Droughts across Europe affect British trees the most

Environmental scientists from the University of Stirling have found beech forests across western Europe are increasingly at risk from drought – with areas of southern England worst affected.  In a new €1.4 million study, part-funded by NERC, researchers examined tree ring data from across Western Europe to help uncover the extent to which the growth of beech forests is being impacted by changes in climate.

Results published in Global Change Biology show beech trees located at the centre of the region where the species grows, in this case southern England, were least resistant to drought compared to forests located elsewhere in Europe.

Alistair Jump, Professor of Plant Ecology at the University and lead author, said:

“Beech trees across Europe are extremely vulnerable to the effects of drought. These long dry spells cause sudden and widespread reduced growth within the species.  We might expect beech forests in hotter and drier regions of Europe, such as southern France and Spain, to be most at risk. However, we have found that the south of the UK – the very centre of the area where the species grows – is most badly affected.”

The research also revealed that the damage inflicted on beech trees during the record-breaking hot summer of 1967 has impacted forests throughout the UK.  Professor Jump continued:

“We previously found that the so-called Great Drought of 1976 continues to impact forest found in South Wales.  Many beech trees were killed, while survivors often experience reduced growth now 40 years on.  We now understand this extreme event had a big effect on tree growth right across the country.  As our climate continues to warm, droughts will become more frequent and more extreme.  Beech forests across Europe will be hit increasingly hard, with a high risk of widespread mortality when the next big dry spell hits – particularly in southern parts of the UK.  These trees at the centre of the region where the species grows are more vulnerable to our changing climate than we previously realised and as a result, I would expect to see long-lasting changes to the makeup of our woodlands.  We know the effects of the 1967 drought have lasted to the present day and expect that future changes to our forests may be sudden and put many of our most iconic beech woods at significant risk.”

 Note – The study ‘Global Change Biology “Highest drought sensitivity and lowest resistance to growth suppression is found in the range core of the tree Fagus sylvatica L. not the equatorial range edge” will be published in Global Change Biology and will be found in full here.

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Arkive on pollination

Arkive, which is part of the Bristol-based charity, Wildscreen,  marked national pollinator week at the end of June, by setting up a topic page showing the key pollinator species responsible for providing one of our most crucial ecosystem services.

It’s here and it includes much of interest about trees.

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69 million dead trees in California

The Guardian is reporting that there are 69 million dead trees in California that could result in catastrophic wildfires.  The report begins:

“The number of trees in California’s Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears that they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people’s lives, officials said on Wednesday.  Since 2010, an estimated 66 million trees have died in a six-county region of the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic, the US Forest Service said.   Officials flying over the region captured images of dead patches that have turned a rust-colored red.  The mortality from Tuolumne to Kern counties has increased by 65% since the last count announced in October, which found 40m dead trees.”


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A Forestry Commission Summer

The Forestry Commission has lots going on this summer, including:

Stick Man Games – These are special sports day events, self-led activity arenas or you can host your own games with a downloadable activity pack. 

A Gruffalo Play! – You can star in your own Gruffalo story with a downloadable ‘How to Put on a Gruffalo Play’ pack.

New Wild Running routes – You can escape the streets with wild running routes through stunning scenery.

Forest art works – art trails, exhibitions, events and sculptures in the forests.

Bounts – providing that extra motivation to exercise in the forest.

There are opportunities to do all this, and more, in the Forest of Avon area.  Maybe we shall see you there.

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The latest from the Forest of Avon

Here’s a selection of what the Forest of Avon Trust has been doing over the last three months.  First, it’s very important to say that we are extremely grateful to the late Mr. Cottrell who left us a legacy. This will not only enable the planting of native trees and improving native woodlands, but it’s also an important endorsement of the charity’s role in Bristol and Avon.

The picture shows fruit tree planting at Crockerne School, Pill.  Other activities include:

  • Running successful Forest School Level 1, Level 3, Outdoor Cooking and Outdoor First Aid courses as part of our 2016 training programme. A good proportion of the Forest School Leaders in and around Bristol have probably done our training: thanks to Jon, Jackie, Nicola & Rachel;
  • Delivering the Dose of Nature pilot project working with local GP practices, Public Health Bristol and other partners to prescribe woodland activities for people with mental health needs;
  • Starting the Dementia Well-being pilot project in partnership with Bristol Dementia Partnership. This evaluated project will offer woodland activities to people with dementia and their partners/ carers;
  • Producing a detailed report on woodland condition and potential projects to inform the Bathscape phase one Heritage Lottery Fund bid;
  • Producing 2 Woodland Management Plans for owners in South Gloucestershire and Bath & NE Somerset;
  • Cutting paths and removing more tree shelters at the charity’s community woodland: The Retreat, near Upton Cheyney. WoodWatch, the local Friends group needs new members, so please email:, if you are interested and we will pass details on;
  • Delivering 2 school’s orchards in the Radstock area, part funded by Western Power Distribution;
  • Charity director: Chris Bloor running 3 successful guided walks as part of Bristol Walk Fest (just ended);
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