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Most recent news on the Trust’s great range of work

Trees in Winter

The Field Studies Council [ FSC ] has a photographic guide to trees in winter.

Its website says:

Identifying trees in winter without their familiar leaves can apear a daunting challenge, but a closer look will reveal a multitude of slowly swelling buds.  A quick glance at the bud summary photos in this guide instantly reveals their sheer diversity.  Generally they are extremely varied, and often easy to learn and remember. When you consider the difference between types of bark, size of tree and habitat, identification starts to become much easier than it seemed at first.

The guide covers 36 of the UK’s common broad-leaved deciduous species, or groups of species as well as a few rarer trees.  It is one of a range of AIDGAP guides, aimed at non-specialist users age 16+.


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Planet Earth magazine

Planet Earth is a free magazine about the environmental sciences, and is aimed at the general public.  You can access it freely here, and subscribe here to have paper copies sent to you.

The magazine is a great source of up -to-date information and ideas, and the Winter 2015 edition (illustrated here) has features on ocean circulation, soils, and the future of flooding.

Of particular interest to the Forest of Avon are two articles on forests based on recent published papers.  These are about: 

  • Brazil’s successful efforts to slow deforestation which have saved thousands of lives by improving air quality – based on a paper in Nature Geoscience, and
  • How increased deforestation could cause droughts across the Amazon – based on a paper in Geophysical Research Letters

Back numbers of Planet Earth from 2010 are available on line.

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New report on outdoor learning

There’s a new report on outdoor learning in the UK drawn up by the Blagrave Trust, The Institute for Outdoor Learning, University College London, and Giving Evidence.

It’s title is: The Existing Evidence-Base about the Effectiveness of Outdoor Learning

Organisations, such as the Forest of Avon Trust, that get involved in activities that fall under the outdoor learning umbrella, will be interested in this report, but it may be a disappointing read for many as it does not paint an altogether positive picture of activity leading to effective learning – nor of the effectiveness of the research and evaluation studies that are routinely carried out by those involved in outdoor learning.

This is how the short ‘conclusion’ section ends [for some reason it starts with point No. 6].

We recommend:

6. Types and volume of activity: Pulling together the various data sources on this to give the current picture, and creating a system to regularly capture data on the types and volumes of activity.

7. Improving practitioners’ theories of change: both enabling them to create them, and to use them.

8. Convening practitioners, researchers and others to prioritise research topics.

9. Managing the resulting sector-wide research agenda, through relationships with funders, and possibly creating partnerships between practitioners and researchers.

10. Ensuring that both interventions and research are described clearly, fully and publicly.

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How big are the UK’s forests?

According to the World Bank, the area of the UK under forest is now 28,954 square kilometres [ ~2.9m ha ].  This has risen from around 26,000 in 1990.  Encouragingly, there is also a growth of afforestation of 0.31%, although this has slowed down compared to the 1990s.

The total area of the UK is approximately 243,610 square kilometres, which means that about 12% is forest, although this is not evenly distributed across the country.  Scotland has about twice the forest density of England and Northern Ireland, with Wales having 1.5 times as much.  Despite the heroic efforts of the Forest of Avon Trust, and bodies like it, England’s not going to be catching up any time soon.

But what’s a forest, and what doesn’t count?  This is what the World Bank says:

“Forest area is land under natural or planted stands of trees of at least 5 meters in situ, whether productive or not, and excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems (for example, in fruit plantations and agroforestry systems) and trees in urban parks and gardens.”

This means that there is probably a much higher area of land covered in trees than the Bank’s statistics would suggest.


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Update on our recent work

This is a quick summary of some of the recent activity of the Forest of Avon Trust.  Please click on the links for further detail of what is listed here.

The image shows tree planting at Tranmere Avenue, Brentry as part of Bristol City Council’s 1 Tree per Child project.

  1. Setting up our 2016 programme of accredited Forest School and related training;
  2. Securing agreement for and starting to deliver Bristol’s 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;
  3. Producing a detailed costed proposal for Carrs Woodland Bath, for the Great Western Mainline biodiversity offsetting proposal;
  4. Promoting and supporting applications for Woodland Management Plans for a further 3 woodlands;
  5. Delivering 2 school’s mini-orchards in South Gloucestershire with more planned in this authority, North Somerset and Bath & NE Somerset; part funded by Western Power Distribution;
  6. Supporting the Friends of the Community Forest Path in their re-signage of the route;
  7. Delivering the King George’s Road Garden Forest scheme (free fruit trees for front gardens) in Bristol to enhance the streetscape;
  8. Securing sponsorship further from Pukka Herbs to fund management plans for two small woodlands in the area and also from long- standing sponsors, Whitehall Printing; and
  9. Producing Woodland Management Plans for 2 private woodlands in South Gloucestershire. If you know of owners with woodlands over 3ha who might be interested please let Jon Clark know:


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Some positive news about Ash Dieback

An article in last week’s Telegraph reported some potentially good news about ash dieback.  The article, based on a paper in Scientific Reports, said that researchers at York, and the John Innes Centre, have found genetic markers which can be used to predict trees that are resistant to the disease, and which, therefore, might be planted to replace lost woodland.

This is what the paper’s abstract says:

Tree disease epidemics are a global problem, impacting food security, biodiversity and national economies.  The potential for conservation and breeding in trees is hampered by complex genomes and long lifecycles, with most species lacking genomic resources.  The European Ash tree Fraxinus excelsior is being devastated by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which causes ash dieback disease.  Taking this system as an example and utilizing Associative Transcriptomics for the first time in a plant pathology study, we discovered gene sequence and gene expression variants across a genetic diversity panel scored for disease symptoms and identified markers strongly associated with canopy damage in infected trees.  Using these markers we predicted phenotypes in a test panel of unrelated trees, successfully identifying individuals with a low level of susceptibility to the disease.  Co-expression analysis suggested that pre-priming of defence responses may underlie reduced susceptibility to ash dieback.

We welcome this research.  Here’s what the Forest of Avon had to say about Ash Dieback when it first emerged as a problem.

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Grants for Rural Action Now Available

The West of England LEADER Fund is now open for Grant Applications

The new West of England LEADER programme is now open for applications for grants from rural businesses and communities across North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset.

Eligible businesses and communities can apply for grants for capital projects to help support their growth and sustainability.  Applications for investments from £10,000 up to £100,000 can now be made.

The LEADER programme is primarily designed to promote business growth and stimulate job creation.  The programme is focused on rural areas and its priorities are supporting micro and small rural businesses, farm diversification projects, forestry projects, tourism projects, rural services and cultural and heritage projects.

The Forest of Avon Trust is really pleased to be part of the Local Action Group for Leader. For more information on the grants available, please click here.


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National Forest update

The National Forest now covers 200 square miles across 3 counties, with 17 Forestry Commission woodlands within it; 3 of these are existing woodlands, and 14 are newly planted sites.


The National Forest covers parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire and it aims to link the two ancient Forests of Charnwood on its eastern fringe with Needwood Forest to its west.  You can find out about its history here, and there is more detail on what it’s setting out to do here.  There is, of course, lots to see and do.  You can download a National Forest Explore leaflet for a detailed map of all the main forests and their features.

The Forest of Avon Trust is obviously a keen supporter of the further development of the national forest, but hopes that not too many people will make a special trip just to see it.  There are, after all, many woodlands within easy reach of home where you can enjoy and appreciate the special experience of being amongst trees and all the wildlife they nurture.


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Forest Live 2016


The 2016 line-up for the Forestry Commission’s long-running Forest Live music events is taking shape.  In 2016, Forest Live will be taking place in: Bedgebury Pinetum, Cannock Chase Forest, Dalby Forest, Delamere Forest, Sherwood Pines Forest, Thetford Forest, and, more locally, in Westonbirt Arboretum.

Forest Live concerts began in 2001 at four Forestry Commission venues, and are now are well known for their artists, atmosphere and locations.  You can see all the 2016 locations here, and the tour dates are here.  The 2016 line up includes:

John Newman
Guy Garvey
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott
Simply Red

It was announced last week that the band playing at Westonbirt on June 16th is going to be Rudimental.  Tickets cost £37.50, plus a £4.25 booking fee, and are available from the Forestry Commission on: 03000 680400 – or:

Will we see you at Westonbirt?  If, however, you think that loud music and forests don’t go well together, happily there are lot of other places to visit in the Forest of Avon where a more tranquil experience is to be had.  Maybe we shall see you there.

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Get a Woodland Management Plan for Free

A new range of woodland grants are available under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. These provide funding for a five- year programme of work to improve woodland and also capital payments for specific improvement work.

To apply for these grants you now need a current Forestry Commission woodland management plan and the Forest of Avon Trust can produce this for you for free.    

The Forest of Avon Trust has produced approved woodland management plans for 750 ha of woodlands locally. We can produce a plan for you for free if you have woodland 3ha or larger and you allow us to claim a Woodland Planning Grant from the Forestry Commission.

Interested? Then please contact Executive Director: Jon Clark on: or (0117) 963 3383 for a without obligation discussion about the options and the grant payments you could receive to help you manage your woodland.

Details of the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme are available at:

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