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Best practice to care for and protect our trees and woodlands.

Professor Alice Roberts

Trust Patron: Professor Alice Roberts talks about the importance of woodlands, the Forest of Avon Trust and a major new research project launched this week:

I’m passionate about the importance of woodlands – and that importance ranges from the global and economic to the deeply personal and psychological. Forests form a critical component of global ecosystems – and are crucially important for humanity. They support a huge range of life – home to half of all known species; they play crucial roles in carbon and water cycles; they provide us with building materials and fuel; and as we walk through them, they fill us with a sense of calm and wellbeing.

 It’s hard to believe it, but the UK has the lowest woodland cover of any European country. After millennia of deforestation – which started thousands of years ago, in the Neolithic, as farmers cleared woodland to make way for crops and livestock – there’s now a pressing to re-forest. Visions of a sustainable UK include much larger areas of managed woodland. The mission of the Forest of Avon Trust includes protecting trees and woodland, planting more, and helping people to enjoy these wonderful natural spaces.

The University of Birmingham is committed to forest research, which will inform how we sustain and nurture our woodlands as the climate changes. We’ve just launched a multi-million pound open-air experiment aimed at understanding how woodlands will respond to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century. You can read more about the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research here. ’

Find out more about the Forest of Avon Trust’s wide- ranging work in Bristol & Avon here and follow us on Twitter to keep up to date on the latest tree & woodland news.

Posted in: Business Sponsors, Forest of Avon, Future Woods, Latest News, Our Projects, Outdoor Learning, Professor Alice Roberts, Safeguarding our Trees, Woodland Management, Woodland Wellbeing | Tagged , , , , , |

Changes to planning policy

The woodland Trust has highlighted a number of issues in the current planning policy white paper.

The Trust says:

“Our ancient woods and trees are exceptional habitats. Yet currently, they are not effectively protected from development.  The new Housing White Paper – called ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ – sets out the Government’s aims to help reform the housing market and increase the supply of new homes in England. It includes the very welcome intention to improve the protection given to ancient woods and trees, by adding them to a list of the nation’s assets that should be explicitly protected from development.  This is an important step towards stronger protection. But it will only make an impact if the specific planning policy relating to ancient woodland is updated too.

The Trust says that the proposals in the Housing White Paper haven’t just come out of nowhere; rather, they’re the result of years of campaigning by thousands of our supporters.  The website has an informative timeline infographic that shows ups and downs (wins and losses) over recent years.

The Trust says that the changes in the White Paper will lead to amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out planning policy in England, and asks us to help ensure those changes lead to effective protection for ancient woods and trees.  A public consultation closed on May 2nd.

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The Tree Charter Principles

The 6th of November 2017 is the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest.  To mark this, the Woodland Trust is launching the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.  It says that the people of the UK have a right to the benefits brought by trees and woods, and that the new charter will recognise, celebrate and protect this right.  We can all be a part of this historic moment by signing the Charter to show your support for its principles.  The Trust will plant a tree in the UK for everyone who signs up.

The 10 principles are:

Thriving habitats for diverse species

Urban and rural landscapes should have a rich diversity of trees, hedges and woods to provide homes, food and safe routes for our native wildlife. We want to make sure future generations can enjoy the animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi that depend upon diverse habitats.

Planting for the future

As the population of the UK expands, we need more forests, woods, street trees, hedges and individual trees across the landscape. We want all planting to be environmentally and economically sustainable with the future needs of local people and wildlife in mind. We need to use more timber in construction to build better quality homes faster and with a lower carbon footprint.

Celebrating the cultural impact of trees

Trees, woods and forests have shaped who we are. They are woven into our art, literature, folklore, place names and traditions. It’s our responsibility to preserve and nurture this rich heritage for future generations.

A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK

We want forestry in the UK to be more visible, understood and supported so that it can achieve its huge potential and provide jobs, forest products, environmental benefits and economic opportunities for all.

Careers in woodland management, arboriculture and the timber supply chain should be attractive choices and provide development opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses.

Better protection for important trees and woods

Ancient woodland covers just 2% of the UK and there are currently more than 700 individual woods under threat from planning applications because sufficient protection is not in place.

We want stronger legal protection for trees and woods that have special cultural, scientific or historic significance to prevent the loss of precious and irreplaceable ecosystems and living monuments.

Enhancing new developments with trees

We want new residential areas and developments to be balanced with green infrastructure, making space for trees. Planning regulations should support the inclusion of trees as natural solutions to drainage, cooling, air quality and water purification. Long term management should also be considered from the beginning to allow trees to mature safely in urban spaces.

Understanding and using the natural health benefits of trees

Having trees nearby leads to improved childhood fitness, and evidence shows that people living in areas with high levels of greenery are 40% less likely to be overweight or obese. We believe that spending time among trees should be promoted as an essential part of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle and a key element of healthcare delivery.

Access to trees for everyone

Everyone should have access to trees irrespective of age, economic status, ethnicity or disability. Communities can be brought together in enjoying, celebrating and caring for the trees and woods in their neighbourhoods. Schoolchildren should be introduced to trees for learning, play and future careers.

Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management

Good management of our woods and trees is essential to ensure healthy habitats and economic sustainability. We believe that more woods should be better managed and woodland plans should aim for long term sustainability and be based upon evidence of threats and the latest projections of climate change. Ongoing research into the causes of threats and solutions should be better promoted.

Strengthening landscapes with woods and trees

Trees and woods capture carbon, lower flood risk, and supply us with timber, clean air, clean water, shade, shelter, recreation opportunities and homes for wildlife. We believe that the government must adopt policies and encourage new markets which reflect the value of these ecosystem services instead of taking them for granted.

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Forest of Avon Veteran Tree Project

Field trees Bitton


















The charity has long been convinced of the importance of field trees to landscape character, biodiversity and to local culture.

Through generous grant funding from The Mercers’ Company, we are launching the Forest of Avon Veteran Tree project, initially focusing on North Somerset and Bath & NE Somerset.

Over the next 18 months we will work with a wide range of partners to record veteran trees, candidate veteran trees (and where different) significant landscape trees in fields and woodlands. Anna Brunton, who will lead on the project, will submit details of unrecorded veteran trees to the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt website, as well as training Tree Wardens and other volunteers to record significant trees.

Anna will also work with farmers and landowners to provide advice on tree conservation and grants. If funding can be found, we hope to deliver a further phase of the project working in South Gloucestershire.

To find out more about the project and how you can get involved, please email Anna or call (0117) 963 3383. We will also Tweet regularly about progress.

Posted in: Latest News, Our Projects, Safeguarding our Trees, Training activities, Volunteering, Woodland Management | Tagged , , , , |

Forest Research update

You can read some of the latest news from Forest Research here:

If you would like to receive the Forest Research e-newsletter, you can subscribe online or send your contact details to:

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Outbreak of Sweet Chestnut Blight in the South West

We have received news from the Forestry Commission about an outbreak of Sweet Chestnut blight in the South West with notification of four 5km zones that are subject to movement restrictions.

Sweet chestnut blight is caused by a fungus called Cryphonectria parasitica, which gets into the trees through wounds or graft sites. Although oak trees suffer very little damage if they are infected by the fungus, they can spread it, so restrictions on movements of oak material are also required as a precaution.

Sweet chestnut blight was found in Devon in December 2016, initially south of Exeter. The Forestry Commission have now identified another zone in Devon and one in Dorset where restrictions are required.

Read more about how the Forestry Commission are managing the outbreak here:

Further information and a symptoms factsheet and pest alert are also available  to help you know what to look for when inspecting your trees.

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It was that sycamore …

The winner of the English tree of the year was a sycamore in Northumberland – the so-called Sycamore Gap tree Hadrian’s Wall, which is, it seems, famous for being in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.  Along the Wall, however, it’s just famous.

Meanwhile, the tree of the year in Wales was the Brimmon Oak which is also famous, this time for not being cut down to accommodate a by-pass.  Well done to both in every sense.


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Natural Connections

What do the following have in common?

Lunar Thorn  Selenia lunularia
Privet Hawk-moth  Sphinx ligustri
Ash Bud Moth  Prays fraxinella
Brick  Agrochola circellaris
Mottled Beauty  Alcis repandata
Lilac Beauty  Apeira syringaria
Twin-spotted Quaker  Orthosia munda
Brown Oak Tortrix  Archips crataegana
Variegated Golden Tortrix  Archips xylosteana
Centre-barred Sallow  Atethmia centrago
Tawny Pinion  Lithophane semibrunnea
Ash-bark Knot-horn  Euzophera pinguis
Ash Pug  Eupithecia innotata f. fraxinata
November Moth  Epirrita dilutata
Dusky Thorn  Ennomos fuscantaria
Coronet  Craniophora ligustri
Privet Twist  Clepsis consimilana
Common Slender  Caloptilia syringella
Feathered Slender  Caloptilia cuculipennella
Brown Ash Ermel  Zelleria hepariella

Although it sounds a bit like an Oxbridge entry exam question, the clues are in the English names … They are all moths – ones native to the UK.  More than that, they are the moths that use the Ash as a foodstuff.  This picture is of the Dusky Thorn.  The Wildlife Trusts say that at least 60 of the rarest insect species in Britain have an association with ash – mostly rare beetles and flies.

The Wildlife Trusts website has an informative section on the Ash and Ash dieback, which is where this detail comes from.


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Problems of the Plane Tree

The Arboricultural Association website has a link to a story in the Telegraph about problems with the Plane tree across parts of the continent.  The article says that it’s only a matter of time before plane tree wilt (canker stain) reaches Britain.  The disease is currently spreading north through France and is reported to have reached Paris.  It has already wrecked parts of the Canal du Midi in southern France.

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What are your elms like this summer?

It seems to have been a bad summer for the elm across southern England.  Wherever there is elm, there are the tell-tale signs of attack by the elm bark beetle with shriveled brown leaves and bent-over branches standing out against the green hedge background.  From being green and healthy-looking in May and June, during July and August the elm gradually fell victim to the fungus the beetle carries.

To try to stop the fungus spreading, the tree blocks the vessels within the wood that carry water and nutrient, causing tissues to die.  So, just when the elm was fighting back, it’s had another knock, and the cycle of attack – recovery – attack – recovery … continues.  Curiously, however, as Mark Cocker has pointed out in his Spectator review of Fiona Stafford’s book: The Long, Long Life of Trees, this is not so much a story of decline, as one of survival.  Thankfully, we have not seen the last of the elm, although the industrial use of elm is not what it was at its height.  Elm wood is strong, durable and resistant to water.  Traditionally it was used to make furniture, floorboards, boats, wheel hubs, water pipes, troughs, coffins and lavatory seats.  Odd then, perhaps, that it has a reputation for not generating much heat as this old rhyme reminds us:

Apple wood will scent your room,
with incense-like perfume;
Oak and maple, if dry and old,
keep away the winter’s cold;
Ash wood wet or ash wood dry,
a king will warm his slippers by; but
Elm burns like the graveyard mould,
even the very flames are cold!


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