Building Resilience in South West Woodlands

Plantlife has been awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop ‘Building Resilience in South West Woodlands’, a project that addresses the conservation challenges faced by the South West’s internationally important Atlantic Woodlands, such as those found on Exmoor, Dartmoor, North Devon and Cornwall, and the Quantock Hills.

Through the Future Scientists Programme, children in primary and secondary schools will be able to develop and take part in ‘citizen science’ activities, to help research and monitor these important habitats possibly leading to a presentation of findings at a Future Scientists conference.

If your school or centre is interested in taking part or finding out more, you can complete a short survey to register your interest and tell Plantlife about the opportunities you are interested in.  You can also contact

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Time running out

Time is running out for ancient woodland says the Woodland Trust, adding that habitats are disappearing before our eyes.  The Trust says:

More than 700 ancient woods are under threat right now from houses, roads, quarries and railways (such as HS2).  They can never be replaced, yet development projects are still allowed to nibble away at their edges, cut them in half or destroy them altogether.  In autumn 2017 we had a unique opportunity to demand better protection for the ancient woods and trees we have left.  You helped us challenge Government and ask ‘is this the kind of country we want to be?’  Across the UK government departments had major policy decisions to make.  You helped to influence the ministers who run these departments to ensure the loss of ancient woods and trees becomes unacceptable.   Whilst we recognise the need for investing in infrastructure, we also believe that ancient woodland loss and damage is avoidable. We want to see development projects that respect the value of woods and trees. House building, transport links and thriving businesses need not come at the expense of irreplaceable natural assets.

There’s more here, including a map.

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The Earth Day Network

The Earth Day Network says that although, since 2010, it (with our help) has planted over 15 million trees in 31 countries “we” have got to do much more.  It points to a report published in the journal Science on September 28 which shows that deforestation and land degradation are increasing faster than reforestation.  68.9% of overall losses from the net release of carbon in our atmosphere comes from deforestation, and new forest growth has not kept up.  Scientists tested this theory by taking a new approach.  Previously, the carbon from tropical forests was measured by estimates from satellites that analyzed the change between two different time periods as well as the biomass density of forests. This time, scientists mapped out current aboveground carbon rates in order to estimate the data over a 12-year period.  They found that on every continent, deforestation canceled out the effectiveness of the trees in tropical forests.  It isn’t that reforestation is contributing to more carbon in the environment, but that the positive effects of reforestation are exceeded by the impacts of excessive logging and deforestation.

The net loss of tropical forests can be broken down into these major percentages – 59.8% in tropical regions of America, 23.8% in Africa, and 16.3% in Asia.   In fact, the carbon released annually from forest degradation is greater than the emissions released from all vehicles in the United States each year. Emissions from tropical forests need to be reduced so that we can restore forests and their role to store carbon, and help keep global temperatures from rising too high.  Most of the hands-on research for this study was carried out in South America, specifically the rainforests of Brazil. They found that net loss in aboveground carbon decreased during 2004-2012 when the policies on illegal deforestation were stricter. Since protections were reduced in 2013, carbon net loss in Brazil has steadily increased.  Tropical forests do have the power to decrease the large amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, and by minimizing emissions through ending deforestation and degradation, we can move towards a safer and more sustainable future.

Earth Day Network wants us to help them reach its goal of planting 7.8 billion trees — one tree for every person on earth — in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.  It asks us to support the Canopy Project.

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Slowing Pine Weevil progress

Natural Resources Wales has embarked on an environmentally friendly programme to tackle a pest that lives on conifers: the pine weevil.  NRW is to spray microscopic Nematode worms into and around conifer tree stumps to combat the pine weevil.  The work starts in the Tywi Forest, near Llandovery in Powys before moving northwards to the Hafren Forest, and finishing in Clocaenog Forest in Denbighshire.  The total area covered will be nearly 500 acres (~ 276 football pitches).

Neil Muir, Forest Manager for NRW said:

“Pine weevils can have a devastating impact on young trees. We are trying to move increasingly towards using this biological control method to combat them and create more resilient forests. The nematodes eat the weevil grubs tackling the problem at source. Reducing the overall population of weevils in the forest block which will reduce the damage to young trees and create a more resilient forest. We will monitor the work closely to see if the method can be applied even wider in future, cutting down further on the use of chemicals.”

See the CJS website for further detail of this and other conservation news.


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Trees for Life

Trees for Life has launched an appeal to save the ice age heritage of Scotland’s national tree  – the ancient Scots pines across the Highlands of Scotland – from becoming the last generation in a lineage of trees dating back to the last ice age.  Through its Caledonian Pinewood Recovery Project, the conservation charity wants to help restore 50 areas of remnant and neglected pinewoods – mainly made up of lone, ancient ‘Granny’ pines which are over 200 years old but dying as they stand, with no young trees to succeed them.  The fragments – scattered over a large area – face growing threats from overgrazing by deer, tree diseases and climate change, and are at risk of disappearing forever over the next few years. If they are allowed to die, the extraordinary wildlife dependent on them – such as crossbills and capercaillie – will be lost too.

Thanks to support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Trees for Life has already raised £150,000 for the ambitious project. It now needs to raise at least £20,000 from the public to be able to start the work.  Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive, said:

“The Scots pine is Scotland’s national tree and symbolizes the Caledonian Forest – but the last fragments of these ancient pinewoods are dying. Without action, the chance to bring back the wild forest could slip away forever, with only the skeletons of these special trees revealing where a rich woodland once grew.”

See the CJS website for further detail of this and other conservation news.

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Engagement with nature

Nadia von Benzon, a Lecturer in Human Geography at Lancaster University has contributed a blog to the Tree Charter website.  In this, she discusses her research into children’s engagement with nature, particularly the experiences of disabled children, and the use of nature for children’s health and wellbeing.  The post begins:

We are by now familiar with the idea that children’s opportunities for independent exploration of outdoor spaces appear to be in decline.  Numerous studies have illustrated that millennials, and now their children, have fewer opportunities for free play in ‘wild’ spaces than previous generations.  This decline is understood to reflect a variety of socio-cultural and environmental changes such as more competition for children’s time – whether that be from electronic devices, commercialised play opportunities or structured extra-curricular activities, greater perception of risk, and greater difficulty in accessing these ‘wild’ spaces – whether through urbanisation or privatization.

There is some suggestion in the research, that disabled children may have an even more detached relationship with outdoor green space than their non-disabled peers, and this research typically considers the difficulties families may have getting out and about with disabled children.  Specific difficulties may include a lack of disposable income to spend on leisure activities (on average families including disabled children have below average income) and a lack of free time, as much time can be taken attending to the basic needs of feeding, sanitation and medication or therapy for children with complex needs.  These difficulties are often considered insurmountable when the potential destination is unlikely to be equipped with necessary facilities like accessible changing spaces and even surfaces.

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Dementia Wellbeing

Rachel and Sue with their woven willow butterfly and dragonfly; Jeannette decided hers was a long-eared bat!

Through 2017 we have worked with the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service to deliver a programme of wellbeing activities for people with dementia and their partners based at Conham River Park and Kingsweston House. This follows on from a successful and evaluated pilot in 2016 (published in the journal Working with Older People).

This is another successful application of the Trust’s ‘woodland wellbeing’ approach which has seen us work with and benefit groups across Avon over the last 7 years.

Executive Director: Jon Clark said:

‘It is particularly pleasing to be working with the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service as this represents a commitment by the NHS to funding effective wellbeing activities in the natural (woodland) environment. This successful project owes much to the vision of the  Wellbeing Service (Devon Partnership NHS Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society), as well as the skills of Nicola Ramsden and Rachel Tomlinson, in tailoring activities to need.’

Enabling a wide range of people to benefit from local woodlands is central to the Trust’s ethos and as well as the above, we run activities for adults with learning disabilities; people with mental health needs; and young people with special or behavioural needs. This work is supported by a range of grant funders. To find out more about our woodland wellbeing work, please email:

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A new Forest Education Network teaching resource

The Forest Education Network is producing a Primary Forest & Woodland Teaching Resource pack.  FEN says that if you are looking for lesson ideas and activities you can deliver in a forest or woodland environment, then its resource packs will help inspire you.  FEN says that the pack will be equally useful for those new to using woods and forests as a place for learning and those with more experience who wish to try something new.

The pack aims to help you plan curriculum linked activities from a few minutes long to a one-day visit to the woods. Some ideas will help children to adjust to the new, and perhaps unfamiliar, environment. Others support sustained learning in this natural classroom. Overall, this pack offers a range of activities to enable teachers and pupils share a memorable few hours of learning and fun with the trees as your teachers.  Packs will be available later this autumn, but can be pre-ordered.  Find out more about the pack here.

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Trees not tarmac in RIS2

Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Advisor for the Woodland Trust, writes about the alliance of 17 environmental groups proposing a fresh approach to the Government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2), suggesting a focus on improving existing roads and motorways rather than building new ones.

The reportRising to the challenge: a shared green vision for RIS2, has been co-ordinated by Campaign for Better Transport and calls for funding to be prioritised for a ‘green retrofit’ of the current road network ahead of the provision of new road capacity.  The Woodland Trust has contributed to the ‘safeguarding the environment’ section of the report, and Barnes says that the Trust is aware of 45 ancient woods directly threatened by road development across the UK.  He writes:

Following the publication of its first Road Investment Strategy, Highways England hired an external consultancy to create a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) to guide its future infrastructure development.  One of the key statements in this plan is to achieve “no net loss” and in time a “net gain” of biodiversity.  It is impossible to achieve net gain or even no net loss of biodiversity when ancient woodland is destroyed though, it is irreplaceable.  We need to see evidence of BAP delivery to appraise the progress of Highways England in more sensitive environmental mitigation, yet we have seen no evidence that this monitoring is even taking place as their reports are not being published.  Road building doesn’t have to be at the detriment of the natural environment; we have seen some evidence of forward thinking such as the Hindhead tunnel, this is the standard to which all other schemes should aspire.

Some of the examples of road infrastructure impacting ancient woods include:

  • A27 Arundel Bypass, Sussex – open for consultation until October, all three proposed bypass options will see destruction of ancient woodland.
  • Lower Thames Crossing, Kent/Essex – The preferred route of a second crossing will see impacts to two areas of woodland south of the Thames in Kent. Claylane Wood, which is ancient and another, Shorne Wood, which is SSSI-designated and partially ancient, records show it is home to, amongst other species, the ruddy darter dragonfly, marsh tit and hawfinch.
  • A21 dualling, Kent – nine hectares of ancient woodland was destroyed to dual a section of the road. Highways England claim it as a positive example of ‘translocation’ of ancient woodland soil, a measure for which there is no evidence of success, compounded by carrying it out at completely the wrong time of year contrary to promises at the public inquiry.
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California’s Forests Continue To Die

California’s record drought is officially over, but trees are still dying across the state because they were so badly weakened by years without water.  Click here to listen to (and read) a discussion on US public radio about these problems.

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