Monthly Archives: November 2016

An Early Years Pack from the Forestry Commission

To help enable teachers to participate in outdoor learning, Forestry Commission England’s learning team has developed an ‘Early Years Teachers’ Pack, linked to the Early Years and Key Stage 1 curricula.

It’s available here.

This is a free learning resource, which contains curriculum-linked activities, to teach learners about forests and how they’re looked after for people and wildlife. All the activities have been designed to be used outdoors, in your local woods, park or school grounds. Plus, children can complete a Gruffalo-themed forest activities at home.

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Wood Week

A week-long programme of outdoor and indoor education about trees, forestry and wood — Wood Week — was developed and tested with one lucky primary school.  This tells the story of the week.

Sylva Foundation’s Education Manager Jen Hurst teamed up with Forester Paul Williams, Carpenter Julian Angus and staff at Combe Church of England Primary School to provide children with a week-long programme of activities on the topic of British trees, forestry and wood.  This was supported by head teacher Charlie Marshall as part of the school’s new Curiosity, Creativity and Challenge curriculum.

The week kicked off with an assembly on the OneOak Project  which provided the school with inspiration and ideas for their own tree; a Norway Spruce to be felled in the school grounds.  On Day Two Paul Williams of Trees and Gardens came into school and ran forestry workshops for the children explaining his work and equipment.   Jen worked with children to learn more about Norway Spruce, its biology and value and to estimate the height and age of the tree before its felling. Once felled the children re-measured the tree and watched Paul cross cut the trunk 122 rounds so that each child took one home.

Julian Angus runs his own carpentry business from the Sylva Wood Centre but also works with schools to make wood products.  On Day Three of Wood Week Julian set up a ‘pop up’ wood workshop in the school grounds and gave the Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11 years) the task of making two benches out of Douglas-fir timber.  The children were completely hands-on measuring, sawing, hammering, bolting and working as a team.  The benches are needed by the school to increase the seating area for outdoor learning. Key Stage 1 children (aged 4-7 years) also enjoyed using tools making tree cookies with hand drills at their Forest School sessions on the same day.

Jen Hurst led classes outside on Day Four with engaging tree identification activities. Learning the names and uses of the trees will enable staff and pupils to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning.  On the same day Years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11) learned how wood was used in the past by building a wattle and daub wall out of hazel and willow as part of their Anglo-Saxon history lesson.  In classrooms teachers taught lessons related to Wood Week, including literacy by comparing Norway Spruce and Oak, debated the of felling trees, and produced artwork using materials from trees. These lesson plans, resources, photos, films and activities will be uploaded onto TIMBER! website.

The finale of the week was the branding of 10 logs of Lawson Cypress donated by Blenheim Estate.  Julian Angus set up a ‘pop up’ Black Smith forge complete with bellows. Key Stage two children selected the individual iron letters and branded the log poles to spell out the school’s values.  Key Stage one children helped shave the bark off the logs with a spokeshave.  A final school assembly was held outdoors and the offspring of the OneOak tree, a young oak sapling, was planted to replace the Norway Spruce.

There has been lots of positive feedback from parents and children, one 8 year old said:

“it was the best week of my life!” and many children have expressed an interest in careers in forestry and woodwork.

Charlie Marshall Head Teacher said:

“Schools can focus on the negatives of deforestation so we decided to look at the positive…and learn about the journey of a tree through its life…”

Sylva’s Education Manager Jen Hurst explained the many outcomes from Wood Week:

  • educating young people, teachers and their families about British trees, forestry and wood
  • training and enabling school teachers to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning
  • improving school grounds with benches and sculptures to enable outdoor learning
  • giving young people a genuine hands on experience making products out of wood
  • providing young people with the opportunity to meet professional foresters and carpenters
  • developing new resources for teaching and learning on British trees, forestry and wood that will be available nationally on Sylva’s TIMBER! website. “

More detail is available from Jen Hurst

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A new jigsaw from the Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust has added to its list of available jigsaws for Christmas.  This one, a walk in the woods, is by Amanda Loverseed.  You can follow the path through the woods and see how many things you can spot.

Is it possible that it’s based on the Forest of Avon?

There are 200 pieces and it measures 50cm x 38cm and is suitable for ages 5 to 105 +

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HS2 and the loss of trees

The Times reports a row in government over the hectarage of trees to be planted to replace those to be destroyed as HS2 wends its way to Birmingham.

Natural England wants a 1 (old) to 30 (new) ratio; the Department of Transport says a 1 to 5 ratio will do.

The Woodland Trust said the rejection of Natural England’s advice has created a “very dangerous situation” because it sets a precedent in which the cost of compensation for the loss of ancient woodland would be so low as to encourage developers.  And a Natural England spokes(wo)man said the response was “deeply disappointing”.  It seems that phase one of HS2, affect 63 ancient woods.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “It seems inappropriate that DfT should question the expertise and experience of the government’s own statutory advisory body.”

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Engagement with the Natural Environment: 2015 to 2016

Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey provides data over time showing how people use the natural environment across England.

The survey collects information about the ways that people engage with the natural environment such as visiting the countryside, enjoying green spaces in towns and cities, watching wildlife and volunteering to help protect the natural environment.  Data are collected about how people use the natural environment, includes the:

  • type of destination
  • duration
  • mode of transport
  • distance travelled
  • expenditure
  • main activities
  • motivations
  • barriers to visiting

The comparability table explains how MENE compares with other outdoor recreation, sport, leisure and tourism and arts, culture and heritage surveys.

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Accrediting and labelling tree nurseries

The Woodland Trust plants around a million trees a year, and switched two years ago to getting all its trees from Britain.  he Woodland Trust is now launching an accreditation scheme for tree nurseries to guarantee that trees have been grown in Britain from British seed.

Currently, imported trees and plants, and their soil and packaging, are one of the ways in which disease is carried into the UK, and there is no requirement for the origin of trees to be stated.

Austin Brady, director of conservation at the Trust, said he hoped that the scheme would encourage people to ask more questions about the origin of the trees they were buying.  He said that EU rules had made it difficult to protect Britain from diseases arriving on imported trees and that Brexit was an opportunity to impose tighter controls.  He said that the UK-grown assurance scheme would require nurseries to commit to selling trees from British seed that had been grown entirely in Britain. This would prevent loopholes under which trees could be partly grown in foreign nurseries and partly in Britain but still be labelled as British.

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Rick Astley to perform at Westonbirt

Rick Astley, whom the Wiltshire Times describes as a “soulful-voiced pop icon“, will give a Forest Live gig at Westonbirt Arboretum on June 17, 2017.

He is the first to annouce 2017 dates for Forest Live – a series of concerts promoted by the Forestry Commission.  Tickets, which will cost £36.50 plus a £4.50 booking fee, will go on sale from 9am on Friday, October 21, from the Forestry Commission box office on 03000 680400 or online at

Income generated from ticket sales will be spent on protecting, improving and expanding England’s forests and woodlands and increasing their value to people and wildlife.

See you there!

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Trees as Art

Travelling around these autumn days in a bit like being in an outdoor art gallery where at every turn there is shifting colour, texture, shape and form.  Sometimes this is on a huge scale; sometimes, it’s small.  And this year, it’s not just the usual acer and beech suspects that are pleasing to the eye; every species has something to contribute, even, rather paradoxically, the trees staying resolutely green in late October.  There also seem to be so many shades of yellow this year that a proper artist would struggle to transfer them to paper or canvas.  Although Canada is magnificent as the Sugar maples undergo their red shift, there’s no real need to leave the Forest of Avon.

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Why the UK needs 64 million new trees

The Woodland Trust recently paid for a feature on the Guardian website.

There was information; for example:

In 2015 the value of UK woodlands was estimated at £270bn. If 250,000 additional hectares of woodlands were planted near to towns and cities, they could generate societal net benefits in excess of £500m a year.

Forest cover in the UK is just 13% compared to a European average of 37%. Within the UK Northern Ireland has the least woodland cover at 7%

Did you know half of the UK’s ancient woodland has been lost or damaged in the past 70 years? Since 1999, 319 ancient woods have suffered loss or damage, with another 633 under threat. Currently, 85% of ancient woodland is unprotected by government legislation.

To date, 8 million trees have been planted in the National Forest, which spans 200 sq miles in the Midlands. By 2100 this programme of replanting is expected to bring an estimated £909m in financial benefits – far in excess of the estimated cost of £188m.

And there were some very nice pictures.  The link to the Woodland Trust website had to be searched for.  All very understated.



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