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Woodland Walks - The Woodland Trust Podcast

Welcome to the Woodland Trust podcast, 'Woodland Walks'. We'll be exploring some of the greatest woods, forests and sites in the Woodland Trust estate. Join our host, Adam Shaw, as we discover the stories and characters that make each of our woods so very special. We’ll explore awe-inspiring ancient woodland and get lost together in the rich habitats that support our native wildlife. We'll meet the site managers and the magnificent volunteers who protect woods and plant trees. For wildlife. For people.

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10. Peckham Rye Park with Charity Wakefield

Charity Wakefield’s passion for the natural world shone through when we caught up at her local green space. I met the actor, environmentalist and Woodland Trust ambassador at Peckham Rye Park to talk about trees, wildlife and acting. Charity explains how nature has made her happy since the tree-climbing, den-building days of her childhood. She is concerned that people have lost their connection with the environment, but is hopeful for the future and encourages us to recognise that we can all make a difference. She believes in ‘people power’. We also talk eco-friendly fashion, filming comedy-drama The Great and climbing a tree to learn her lines in Lewisham! Don't forget to rate us and subscribe! Learn more about the Woodland Trust at woodlandtrust.org.uk Transcript You are listening to Woodland Walks, a podcast for the Woodland Trust, presented by Adam Shaw. We protect and plant trees for people to enjoy, to fight climate change and to help wildlife thrive. Adam: Charity Wakefield is an actor, environmentalist and Woodland Trust ambassador. She starred in BBC One’s production of Rapunzel, Constance in The Three Musketeers at the Bristol Old Vic, and Elaine in the Graduate at the New Vic. She had a lead role as Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and has been in Doctor Who, the Halcyon, Bounty Hunters, amongst other productions. And she’s now starring in the TV series, The Great about Catherine the Great. Well, I met her at her local park to talk about acting and the importance of the natural world. Charity: So now we are at Peckham Ride Park, which has been my local park for most of my time in London. I now have a baby so there’s lots of kinds of mother and baby groups around the area. I have lots of friends here still. Adam: Are you a country girl or did you grow up in the city, or? Charity: Erm, I, I never thought of myself as a country girl. I did grow up though in and around East Sussex. I used to live in a couple of different places down there. We moved a bit as a kid. Adam: Sorry, why don’t you, you grew up in the country, why did you not think of yourself as a… Charity: I don’t know Adam: You know you thought of yourself as you felt your inner urban woman early on? Charity: I just don’t think I grew up with any sense of identity if I’m honest, because I also live a little bit in Spain when I was very small. And like I said we moved around quite a lot. So actually I’m an actress and I trained at drama school and going to drama school at the time of going to university for most people if you do that, that was the first time I really had this interest to work out where I was from, or you know you kind of try to identify yourself by telling each other, and also drama school, in particular, you’re looking at different kind of life experiences and personality traits, because it’s material for you, right? So, you start kind of realising ‘oh I that this background or that background’. Yeah, for me, being from the countryside just meant desperate driving as soon as I can. I could drive about a week after my birthday because I had secret driving lessons with friends and my dad and stuff. Yeah, I guess I have always loved the countryside and I sort of you know had friends you know the family were farmers and we used to go and make camps in the woods. Adam: Well, that’s good, and talking of woods we seem to be, what’s down there? That’s a very wooded area, shall we go, you lead on, but shall we go down there? Or Charity: This is the Common, this is Peckham Ride Common, and erm I think it was, has been around for at least a couple of hundred years and it’s a really big open space with some really huge trees in the middle. They’re probably like, lots of them are London planes and oak trees, and I think this section we’re about to walk into was actually sort of closed off at the beginning I think it was a big common and this was owned by an estate. A sort of family estate and then opened a bit later which is why as you can see it is much more formal Adam: I was going to say, so we are leaving a sort of really a very large green area with the Shard poking its head above the trees, so your urban environment, but walking into this much more formal sculptured… Charity: And actually you can walk the whole perimeter of this, and this is quite close to the road here but the other side is as you can see really big open and free, so it must have been quite weird at sort of the end of the 1800s, I suppose that kind of bridge between a really rich family that owned this huge part of the park in the middle, so this is yeah, now we are under these beautiful red-leaved trees, you probably know what that tree is? [Laugh] Adam: No, no, no, no, let’s not embarrass each other by [Laugh] Charity: [Laugh] Okay no tree testing Adam: No tree testing [Laugh] Charity: Okay Adam: Well, this is, this is beautiful, so let’s… there’s a lovely, lovely bench with a dedication actually, some flowers connected to that. So why don’t we have a sit down here and just have a chat? So, first of all, you mentioned you went to drama school, what drama school was it? Charity: I went to the Oxford School of Drama, which was the smallest, most obscure place I could have probably have found [Laugh] but it probably was the best place for me actually. It’s funny, sometimes what’s for you won’t pass you as they say, erm a tiny drama school in the middle of the north of Oxfordshire. Acting is really hard and part of it is the marathon of it and the difficulties of getting jobs and everybody says this but failing continually and feeling like you haven’t actually achieved things perfectly. In the theatre that means doing a show and there being some moments during the night where you think ‘uh that didn’t work out right’ and you have to be that kind of person that is interested in those kinds of faults and failures and wants to try different things and fix things and part of gaining that resilience is what I think drama school is all about. Adam: I mean apart from, I do want to talk to you more about your acting, but apart from that you do have what I see as quite a close connection to nature, reading a lot of your social media and learning about your activities, so tell me a bit about that, what is it? What is that connection and why do you feel it? Charity: I think growing up, albeit in a kind of little village or a town, but kind of in the countryside it was quite… it was a bit freer back then, I think it was different days, the early 80s. being allowed to sort of wander off, with friends and go into kind of woodlands and stuff. I think, I just feel very happy when I am in nature and I am interested in the differences, everything is growing and changing all the time. And it was interesting I went to LA once, and I thought this is so strange to me because the seasons aren’t so apparent. Particularly when you live in the countryside your so kind of affected by those changes and erm I really love animals and I love knowing the circle of life, like where those animals came from, how they’re are fed, what they do naturally, and then getting older you start to understand a bit more about the history and human history and how we have you know got to where we are today the kind of beginnings of farming and how society functions and unfortunately we are at a point now where we’ve outgrown ourselves, and how do we kind of pair that back? How do we get back? Adam: When you say we’ve outgrown ourselves what do you mean? Charity: I think humans have outgrown ourselves in a sense I think Adam: In what sense? Charity: In the sense that we’ve lost track I think of the essence of how you, I think yeah, we’ve lost track of how life is interconnected with nature. Because we’re pushing technology further and further and some people are saying the answer is to eventually get into space rockets and go and start a new community on Mars and to me that’s mad because I feel like we have everything that we need on this planet. And we just need to reconnect everything. Adam: Why do you think that disconnection has happened then Charity: Yeah well, I think it’s a big question. Because I think it happens on so many levels. I think that there is a disconnect with people who are very very fortunate and have a hell of a lot of money, and in some ways don’t notice the effect that their companies or their personal lives might be having on the environment because they are so loaded that they get given their food people and they probably never see plastic packaging to know that it exists because they are just delivered things Adam: Right Charity: and they don’t really realise the impact that they’re having, they’re living kind of you know the high life Adam: Sure, do you think we’re all living that sort of life? Charity: No, I don’t Adam: Or it’s just the 1%, or the quarter of the 1%? Charity: No, I don’t, I think there are lots of people that are the absolute opposite. They haven’t got the time, the money and the education to be able to do anything about it even if they did notice that there is an issue. Adam: And yet it is curious that isn’t it, because and yet David Attenborough the national hero, his television programmes are all watched, and you know Charity: But they’re not watched by everybody. Adam: They’re not watched by everybody but there seems… I mean I get the feeling that you know there’s this weird thing where everybody’s talking about the environment and very concerned about it, even if perhaps if we’re not changing our lifestyle, but my, my sort of view is that people do get it even if they’re not changing their behaviour. You, you feel differently, I think. Charity: I think that there’s, I think there’s lots of people on those both extremes that don’t get it at all and I also see lots and lots of people living on the poverty line, particularly where I live in the Borough of Lewisham, who are, and I know some people are working crazy hours and don’t have time to think about it. About any kind of impact, and certainly don’t have time to do complicated recycling or and they don’t have the budget to be able to shop in a kind of, what we would probably on our middle-class wage perceive as a kind of eco conscious way. And because what’s difficult is even if you do do that it’s very hard to sort of balance what is the best consumer choice to make. As we all know, so we’re in a difficult way, but what I do believe is that I believe in people power, and I as you say David Attenborough has made a huge impact and it is much more in the mainstream, hugely so in the mainstream in the last couple of year, and I do think its down to kind of lockdown and people staying at home and having the chance to stop and think and reconnect with their immediate environment but whether that’s in a high-rise flat looking out listening to the lack of airplanes, being able to hear nature more, or somebody that’s got, you know, fifty acres and has decided to buy a diamond Jubilee woodland for the Woodland Trust, you know, that there, I think we are kind of you united as we are the people who had a chance to stop and listen and look and then it’s about people that are in positions of power and money to give us a direction to go in. to give us a positive idea Adam: So, apart from being intellectually being engaged with this, you’re worried about it, you’re clearly worried about it, you do a lot of things. Charity: mmm Adam: actually, so tell me about the lots of things you do Charity: err well I really love… I’ve always…So, fashion is a part of my job in the sense that I have to wear lots of different clothes, and um for my work Adam: well then you were recently in The Great Charity: That’s right so I do a TV show, period TV show, and so I Adam: So, there’s lots of costumes Charity: there’s lots of costumes, I don’t really have control over where those costumes are made and bought, but sometimes I do so, for example, if I’m producing a film or if I’m in a low-budget theatre production, I might provide my own clothes for that theatre production, and if producing then I am certainly in charge of deciding where we can get clothes, so for example, we go to charity shops and second-hand places because there is so much stuff in the world already. And I try to do that in my personal life. Adam: But do you have a label, a fashion label? Charity: No, nothing like that no Adam: But you, but you talk a lot about conscientious fashion on social media Charity: Yeh, I do because erm, …. Erm I am looking for the word, influencers! And stuff like that because I get approached for things like that and so I’m very conscious that If I am going to be in front of any kind of camera people are going to make a judgment or think that might be a good idea to wear, so I try to conscious about what I’m wearing if in the public in any way. And really that’s just an extension of my real life, I’ve always shopped in charity shops, when I was growing up that was because we didn’t have any money, so my clothes were given to me by other families, or when I first started to work, which was around fourteen, I worked in a strawberry farm – that was my first job! And my second job was in another strawberry farm, picking strawberries and my third job was the same strawberry farm but in the grocery shop. Adam: Okay, you got promoted! Charity: Promoted Adam: Promoted out of the fields! Charity: Absolutely, literally up the hill Adam: and Charity: I’ve become extremely aware of how difficult it is to manage woodland, and I didn’t even know that as a concept, I just thought that big areas or parkland or woodland or farmland, I had not concept really of how that was looked after, and that’s one thing that I think is I don’t know, its both inspired me and made me realise what a huge challenge it is to be able to reforest large areas and the other fact of everything being so slow – trees reaching their maturity at such a slow rate – and that being a very difficult kind of challenge to sort of ask people to become involved with because I think when you’re asking people to you know kind of sympathise with a charity or donate money to a charity in some ways its more difficult to say this is an extremely slow process but we need your help urgently… so it has been interesting to learn about that side of things. And I’ve also been deeply shocked and saddened about how many of our ancient woodlands and hedgerows and trees that are still being cut down in this country, partly for huge roadways but partly for new buildings and farmland and that does feel quite urgent to me. But yeah I’ve learnt a lot. I think one of my favourite things has been seeing the tree listening which I put on my Instagram if anyone wants to have a look Adam: So, tell me about tree listening. Charity: so, there’s a way to hear the water being filtered up and down trees and it’s the most beautiful sound and to me, it’s a sound that I could go to sleep to. I keep thinking, I must try and find if there’s a recording online that I can grab and put on my phone to listen to at night-time. And it gives you that sense of the tree being alive in the here and now. Trees grow so slowly it’s sometimes quite difficult to think if the as, as kind of, living in the same time zone as us. So, hearing that, that’s a very present sound really, I don’t know, it makes you… it makes you want to hug the tree even more [laugh] Adam: Are you a bit of a tree hugger? Charity: Yeah, yeah, I am! Adam: Do people spot you in Peckham? Strange woman hugging trees? Charity: I do sometimes do that, the weird thing is, this was, I was in a different park in Lewisham, and I’d actually climbed the tree because I just felt like it and I also had some lines to learn. And it was quite an empty park and I thought well this is fine, and I was in a tree learning my lines and a lady came and she saw my bags on the floor and she was so freaked out she just looked up and saw me in this tree, and I have to say it was a weird sight. I have to really say Adam: [Laugh] Charity: This is so weird, I’m an actress and I don’t know what I’m doing, sorry Yeah, I just, yeah, I love…I think it was also, when I was growing up, a bit of a place to kind of go and hide, you know if you’re kind of stressed out or worried as a kid, and rather than run away, go and climb a tree and be up really high – it completely changes your perspective. Adam: Has having a child changed your perspective at all? Charity: I think it just strengthened my love of nature because it’s the first thing that you teach kids about. All of the books that people give you are all about spotting different animals and trees, and the sunshine and the bees, everything he loves is related to outdoors, I mean that’s, it’s his first summer, he’s fifteen months old and erm I’ve moved to a new house recently and been trying to work the garden a bit because it was very very overgrown. So, it’s been my great pleasure to be outside and doing lots of digging and his first proper words has been digging, dig, dig, because he heard me say digging and he just started saying dig, dig, dig. [Laugh] Adam: Fantastic Charity: He said that before mummy or daddy. Adam: So, are you optimistic, I mean all those things you talked about erm are you optimistic that the world for your child will actually, things will get better during his early life? Or not? Charity: I feel burdened with the worry of it, and I try to not think about it, because the world is huge and there’s only so much, I can do. I do feel optimistic in the human endeavour and human invention and ingenuity. But I am sad that it’s going to get to a point of huge environmental catastrophe before real change is made by our governing bodies. But then if you look back at the pictures just pre-industrial revolution of these thousands and thousands of huge billowing chimney pots in London and you know, they’re not there now, and the world is a lot greener than it was then, at least in cities. So, I kind of, yeah, I have hope otherwise you know… what’s the point? Adam: I mean it’s interesting isn’t it, there’s… I often think about how to shape the narrative here because I think often the narrative of ecology and the environment is one of ‘there’s an impending disaster’ you know ‘it’s all terrible’ and I’m not saying that’s not true, but I think it’s hard for people to engage with because it’s like ‘well what, what can I do about that?’ and I think it was, hopefully, I got this right, I think it was Barrack Obama who wrote a book on it called the Audacity of Hope and you talked about hope and it is this sort of weird thing, actually to be hopeful is an extraordinary thing, it is audacious to be hopeful and that might be, might be a better message actually, that there is this big challenge and actually the audacity of hope in what can, can we do, individually? Individuals can make a difference. You know yes joining the Trust and what have you, and doing other things, and planting a single tree Charity: I think you also have to look after yourself as a human in the world. Try to give yourself time and love and energy. Then you’ll be in a really good spot to be able to help other things and other people and the environment. It’s very difficult like I say if you’re on the breadline and you’re exhausted to actually have the headspace and the energy to do stuff. And you know, and so those people that are unable to do that we need to, I do believe, socially we need to enable people to be able to care for the environment. If you’re in a position where you do have enough money, and you do have enough time, and you still feel worried, then there’s tons you can do on a day-to-day level. And I actually think that action is much more infectious than talking. I know we’re talking here today, but the best thing that I have probably ever done is about two or three years ago I just wrote on Twitter I’m giving up plastic for the month of January, this was before it was kind of fashionable to that and rather than saying everyone should do this, everyone should do that, I just said ‘this is what I’m doing’. I didn’t even talk about it. I just said ‘I’m gonna do this’ and so many of my friend’s a couple of months later said ‘oo you said that and actually, I tried it as well’, they didn’t even talk to me about it they just kind of tried it. They started, whenever they came over, they said ‘we I didn’t bring, I didn’t buy any plastic because I knew you weren’t interested’ I thought wow! You just actually have to put a stick in the mud sometimes and say this is what I’m doing, and try to have the energy to stick to it, and of course, we have… we can’t be perfect… the world is set up in a certain way at the moment as consumers, as everything is wrapped in plastic, it’s very difficult to get around without, you know in lots of places, without a car because public transport has a lot to be desired and it’s expensive, but if you can try to support things that are doing the right thing, that will slowly, slowly build, and if you can have joy in that, that builds as well. Adam: It is interesting to me, we tend to do what our friends do, or people we know do, so, and that’s why a single person can make a difference isn’t it because, a friend will copy you. And suddenly what you do isn’t a single thing, it’s a big thing. That’s, that’s amazing. So, look we’re in this park which is very nice. I’m not sure I’ve met one leaf yet; we’re meant to be walking around and I lazily dragged you to this chair! But, have you, I mean there’s lots of Woodland Trust places outside of London, they are quite close but also quite far. Have you been to many? Are there any that stick in your mind? Charity: I’ve been to Hainault, and I’ve been to Langley Vale. What I would love to do is go to Scotland, I know there’s lots of work happening there at the moment and I’d really like to visit, it’s really interesting to see the difference between a very very ancient woodland and something that’s quite newly developed, and I know that there are some places that the Woodland Trust are trying to connect two different forests, and I think, is it the pine martin (?) that they are trying to get to, sort of, repopulate? And it’s very difficult to do that because they like travelling and so you have to have a long distance in between, you know, one dense forest and another dense forest for them to actually want to stick around. So, I would kinda like to see that in action. Adam: Well, the Langley Vale Forest, I have just been to, and it features in our previous podcast. All the commemoration of the First World War. Which I think was one of the most interesting and sort of, I don’t know, shocking, I don’t know, because there’s a lot of… it commemorates really terrible events, but in a sort of, living memory, which I thought was really forceful. And that’s I think one of the more interesting podcasts so if you listen to this one, but also that one, I also thought that one was great. So, it’s amazing to sort of talk to you about this, but as you were saying, you are an exceptionally busy actor as well, so you’re doing… is The Great still in production? Charity: It is, we’re filming season three at the moment. Adam: Wow, so how many programmes in a season? Charity: so, there’s ten episodes in each season, and the first two have come out via Hulu, and, in America and STARZPLAY, the first season was out on Channel 4 a couple of years ago and the second season is coming out this summer, on Channel 4, and we’re filming season three. So, um, it’s a lot of fun, it’s very silly and it was lovely to be doing something, I was so lucky to be working during the last lockdown, albeit with really rigorous Covid protocols in place, we managed to get it done. Adam: Well fantastic, I will watch out for the next season! And all of your stuff on social media and everything. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you Charity, thank you very much! Charity: Thanks. Well thanks to Charity for taking me on a tour of her local small, wooded area in South London, and do remember if you want to find a wood near you, well the Woodland Trust has a website to help. Just go to woodlandtrust.org.uk/findawood. Until next time happy wandering. Thank you for listening to the Woodland Trust Woodland Walks. Join us next month when Adam will be taking another walk in the company of Woodland Trust staff, partners, and volunteers and don't forget to subscribe to the series on iTunes, or wherever you're listening to us, and do give us a review and a rating. And why not send us a recording of your favourite woodland walk to be included in a future podcast? Keep it to a maximum of five minutes and please tell us what makes your woodland walks special. Or send an email with details of your favourite walk and what makes it special to you. Send any audio files to podcast@woodlandtrust.org.uk and we look forward to hearing from you.


8 Aug 2022

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9. Langley Vale Wood, Surrey

Langley Vale Wood is a really special place. Created as part of the Trust’s First World War Centenary Woods project, it’s a natural living legacy for the fallen that symbolises peace and hope. Memorials offer space to remember in an evocative and moving tribute. As well as these important reflections on the past, the site has a bright future. Previously an arable farm that became non-viable, nature is now thriving, with butterfly, bird and rare plant numbers all up. Join site manager Guy Kent and volunteer David Hatcher to explore the ‘Regiment of Trees’, the ‘Witness’ memorial and Jutland Wood. Discover too how the site is being transformed into a peaceful oasis for people and nature and why some of these fields are internationally important. Don't forget to rate us and subscribe! Learn more about the Woodland Trust at woodlandtrust.org.uk Transcript Voiceover: You are listening to Woodland Walks, a podcast for the Woodland Trust, presented by Adam Shaw. We protect and plant trees for people to enjoy, to fight climate change and to help wildlife thrive. Adam: Hello! I've got to start by telling you this. I have driven to Langley Vale today and I've been driving through suburban London, really not very much aware of my surroundings, and you come up this hill and suddenly everything falls away and you burst out onto the top of the hill and it's all sky and Epsom Downs. And the racecourse is just ahead of you! And it dramatically changes. So, it's quite, it's quite an entrance into the Langley Vale forest area. I've come to meet, well, a couple of people here. I’ve drawn up next to a farm, I don’t really know where they are, but it gives me a moment to tell you a little bit about the Langley Vale project which is amazing. It's a lovely thought behind it, because it is about honouring those who died in the First World War, and of course, there are many ways in which we honour and remember the people whose lives were changed forever during that global conflict. There are war memorials, headstones, poetry and paintings – and those man-made accolades – they capture all the names, the dates, the emotions and the places. And of course, they are vital in recording and recounting the difficult and very harrowing experiences from that conflict. But, what this venture, I think, wanted to achieve with its First World War Centenary Woods Project was a natural, living legacy for the fallen. Flourishing places that symbolise peace and hope, as well as remembering and marking the dreadful events of war, but doing that in the shape of nature and hope for the future. Both now and for many, many generations to come, providing havens for wildlife and for people – and I'm one of those people – and so it’s a great project, it's in its very early stages, but it’s a great opportunity, I think, to have a look around today. So, oh! There's two people wandering down the road there in shorts, I think they’re hikers, I don’t think they are who I am seeing. [Pause] Adam: So, Guy you're the site manager here, just tell me a little bit about the site. Guy: So, we are on the North Downs here in Surrey. It's a huge ridge of chalk that runs along southern England and down through Kent, it pops under the channel and pops up again in France. And this chalk ridge has got very special habitats on it in terms of woodland, chalk grassland, and we're very thrilled here that we've been able to buy, in 2014, a formerly intensively managed arable farm that was actually not very productive. The soils are very thin here on the hills the chalk with flints, so, pretty poor for growing crops, and we were very lucky to buy it as part of our First World War Centenary Woods project as England’s Centenary Wood. Adam: So, tell me a bit about the Centenary Woods part of this. Guy: So, the idea of the project was to put a new woodland in each country of the United Kingdom, that being Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. This is the England site, and it is the largest of the four sites. We've actually planted 170,000 trees here. We did go through a full Environmental Impact Assessment and this enabled us to find out where we could plant trees because there are some special habitats here, and there is a national character to the North Downs – national character being that much of the woodland is planted on the high ground and much of the lower land is actually open space, be that for arable use or pasture. Adam: This is a Centenary Wood, so, is this just an ordinary woodland planted in the name of those who died during the First World War? Guy: Yes. The difference is… one of the reasons this site was selected was because we do actually have history here from the First World War. We’ve got a number of memorials that I hope to show you today. One of which commemorates a day in January 1915. Lord Kitchener inspected 20,000 troops here that had gathered and recently joined, taking up the call to join his new army. So, there were many sorts of civilians here in civilian clothing. They got up at 4am in the morning, I’m told, to all assemble here for him arriving at 10am with his equivalent French minister, and they inspected the troops for a very short period of time because they had other troops to go and inspect nearby. But many of those 20,000 actually then ended up going over, obviously, over to the frontline and many were not to return. Adam: Shall we have a walk down? And what is there then to commemorate that? Are there, are these just trees planted in memory of that occasion, or have you got a sort of statue or something? Guy: Yeah, well, the Regiment of Trees as we’re just about to see, as you go around the corner… An artist, we commissioned an artist called Patrick Walls who has actually created some statues for us replicating that event. So, we have men standing to attention carved out of sandstone… Adam: Wow, yes. Just turning around the corner here and you can see this, yes, individual soldiers standing proud of a field of, actually, white daisies just emerging made from that sandstone you say? Guy: Yes sandstone. Adam: Sandstone soldiers. We are just walking up to them now, but behind that is all, I mean, I'm assuming this is a statue, but a statue made of trees. Guy: Indeed, what you’re looking at there Adam is a memorial that we've called Witness. It's actually created by an artist called John Merrill and it is made up of parts of oak trees that have been assembled and it's inspired by the World War One painter Paul Nash, who was a cubist artist, and a particular painting of his called ‘Trees on the Downs’ and that's inspired by that. And we're very lucky to have included within the memorial part of an oak out of Wilfred Owen's garden. Adam: Wow! Guy: Yeah so it's constructed to look like trees that have been obliterated, effectively, on the frontline, very evocative. Adam: Yes, you get very evocative pictures of a single tree either, you know, scarred black or sometimes actually still alive in a field of chaos. Guy: That's right yeah. And that's kind of trying to illustrate that in our memorial here, and what you can do, the public can actually walk through it. We've got a couple of benches within it, actually, where people can sit and contemplate, and actually written on the inside of some of these beams that go up are actually excerpts from poems from First World War poets. Adam: So, this first statue we’re actually standing by it’s sort of transformed in the flow of the statue – so it comes out of the ground as a sort of textured rock and as you go up 5 foot, 6 foot the statue also transforms into a man, but this man is wearing a suit and flat cap, so is a civilian. Guy: Indeed, and that's kind of trying to illustrate the fact that many of them are just joined up and a number of them haven't even got their uniform yet. Adam: So, let's move on, ahead of us, there’s this sort of city gent on the left but looks a bit grander, but on the right, there are obviously… these look like officers. Guy: Yeah, the best, how I can best describe this is, that we've actually got 12 statues here and they're actually sitting among standard trees that were planted. So, we've got birch here, we've got beech, we've got whitebeam and we've got maple. But, these statues, the twelve of them, are in four lines. The guys at the back have only just joined up and they haven't had their uniform yet. And what the artist wanted to illustrate was the fact that all classes joined up at the same time. So, we have a working-class guy with his flat cap down the end there, we have our middle-class guy here with his hat on, and then we have the upper classes as well – it's meant to illustrate that everybody was in it together and joined in. Adam: I thought this was an officer, but I can see from his insignia he's a corporal. Guy: Indeed, and if you look at the statues Adam, as we go nearer the front to where Kitchener would have inspected, they all put the guys at the front who had all their webbing, all their uniform already, and as we move back through the lines it was less and less uniform and equipment. Adam: It’s very evocative, I have to say, it’s much more emotional than I thought it would be. Shall we go over to the sculpture? Guy: Yes let’s. Adam: So, this is called ‘Witness’. Guy: So, this is ‘Witness’ yes, and this is… John Merrill created this, he's got a yard in Wales where he works wood of this size. As you can see, it's quite a structure. Adam: So, yes as you say this size… So, I'm very bad at judging, six… I am trying to think, how many six-foot men could you fit under here? Six, twelve, I dunno thirty foot high? Was that fair? Guy: I tend to work in metres, I don’t know about you, but I'm going to say about six metres at its highest point. Adam: So, it’s made of, sort of, coming into it… it's… actually, it's quite cathedral-like inside. Small but is that a fair description? Guy: Yeah, I think so. Adam: *inaudible* Now, every second tree here has a line of First World War poetry etched into it rather beautifully. Do you want to read just a couple out for us? Guy: Yes… so here we have one saying: “And lying in sheer I look round at the corpses of the larches. Whom they slew to make pit-props.” [editor: Afterwards by Margaret Postgate Cole]. “At evening the autumn woodlands ring with deadly weapons. Over the golden plains and lakes…” [editor: Grodek by Georg Trakl]. Adam: Amazing, it’s an amazing place. There are a couple of benches here and these are… Guy: These are the names of the poets. So, we have W Owen here, we have E Thomas, J W Streets, M P Cole, amongst others. Adam: Very moving, very moving. Okay, well it’s a big site isn’t it, a big site. So, where are we going to go to next? Guy: Well, we can walk through now Adam, we can see a new community orchard that we planted in 2017. Adam: So, we’ve come into, well a big part of, well there are a huge number of trees here. So, is this the main planting area? Guy: Yes, this is the main planting area. There are approximately 40,000 trees in here. Adam: We’re quite near a lot of urban areas, but here they’ve all disappeared, and well, the field goes down and dips up again. Is that all Woodland Trust forest? Guy: That’s right, what you can see ahead of us there is actually the first planting that we did on this site in 2014, on that hillside beyond. Adam: 2014? So, eight, eight… Guy: Eight years old. Adam: [laughs] Thank you, yes mental maths took me a moment. So, the reason I was doing that, is that they look like proper trees for only eight years old. Guy: It just shows you that obviously, you think that when we're planting all these trees now – that none of us will perhaps be here long enough to enjoy them when they’re mature trees, but I think you can see from just by looking over there that that woodland is eight years old and it's very much started to look like a woodland. Adam: Very much so, well, brilliant. Well, very aptly I can see, starting to see poppies emerging in the fields amongst the trees. They do have this sort of sense of gravestones, in a way, don’t they? They’re sort of standing there in regimented rows amongst the poppy fields. So, where to now? Guy: So, we’ll go to Jutland Wood, which is our memorial to the Battle of Jutland. Adam: The famous sea battle Guy: Yes, it was the largest battle of the First World War which raged over two days, the 31st of May to the 1st of June 1916. We're going to meet our volunteer, lead volunteer, David Hatcher now, who's been working with us on the site for a number of years, and he's going to tell you about this memorial that we've got to the Battle of Jutland. Adam: Right, I mean, here it's, it's different because there are these rather nice, actually, sculpted wooden stands. What are these? Guy: Yeah, these are… actually commemorate… we've got what we call naval oaks. So, we've got a standard oak planted for each of the ships that were lost in that particular battle and we've also, between them, we've got these port holes that have been made by an artist called Andrew Lapthorn, and if I can describe those to you, they are sort of a nice piece, monolith of wood with a porthole in the middle of…, a glass porthole, that indicates how many lives were lost and it has the name of the ship. Adam: So, this is HMS Sparrowhawk where six lives were lost, 84 survivors, but HMS Fortune next door, 67 lives lost, only ten survivors, and it just goes on all the way through. Guy: As you walk through the feature Adam, the actual lives lost gets a bit more, bigger and bigger, and by the end it’s… there were very few survivors on some of the ships that went down, and they are illustrated on these nice portholes that commemorate that. Adam: And this is all from the Battle of Jutland? Guy: Battle of Jutland this is yeah. Adam: And just at the end here HMS Queen Mary, 1,266 lives lost, only 20 survivors from 1913. Very, very difficult. [Walking] Guy: This memorial, actually illustrates…, is by a lady called Christine Charlesworth, and what we have here is a metal representation of a sailor from 1916 in his uniform. And that faces the woodland here, where you can see ancient semi natural woodland that would have been here in 1916. So, this sailor is looking to the past and our ancient woodland. If we look to the other side of the sailor, we have a sailor from 2016 in his uniform and he’s looking in the opposite direction, and he’s looking at our newly planted trees – looking to the future. Adam: Let’s walk through here, and at the end of this rather… I mean it is very elegantly done but obviously sombre. But, at the end here we’re going to meet David who’s your lead volunteer. So, David, so you’re the lead volunteer for this site? And, I know that’s, must be quite a responsibility because this is quite a site! David: That’s very flattering - I’m a lead volunteer - I have lots of brilliant colleagues. Adam: Really? So, how many of you are there here? David: About seven lead volunteers, there are about one hundred volunteers on the list. Adam: And what do you actually do here? David: Ah well it’s a whole range of different things. As you know this was an intensively farmed arable site. And there were lots of things like old fences and other debris. It was also used as a shooting estate, so there were things left over from feeding pheasants and what have you. Adam: Right. David: A lot of rubbish that all had to be cleared because it’s open access land from the Woodland Trust, and we don’t want dogs running into barbed wire fences and things like that. Adam: And it’s different from, well I think, almost any other wood. It has this reflection of World War One in it. What does that mean to you? David: Well, it actually means a lot to me personally, because I was the first chairman of the Veteran’s Gateway. So, I had a connection with the military, and it was brilliant for me to be able to come and do something practical, rather than just sitting at a desk, to honour our veterans. Adam: And do you notice that people bring their families here who have had grandfathers or great grandfathers who died in World War One? David: Yes, they do and in particular we have a memorial trail in November, every year, and there’s a wreath where you can pick up a little tag and write a name on it and pin it to this wreath, and that honours one of your relatives or a friend, or somebody like that, and families come, and children love writing the names of their grandpa on and sticking it to the wreath. Adam: And do you have a family connection here at all? David: My father actually served in the, sorry, actually my grandfather served at the Battle of Jutland. Adam: Wow and what did he do there? David: He was a chief petty officer on a battleship, and he survived I am happy to say, and perhaps I would never have been here had he not, and all of my family – my father, my mother, both my grandfathers were all in the military. Adam: And do you remember him talking to you about the Battle of Jutland? David: He didn't, but what he did have was, he had a ceremonial sword which I loved, I loved playing with his ceremonial sword. Adam: Gotcha. And you are still here to tell the tale! [Laughter] David: And so are all my relatives! [Laughter] Adam: Yes, please don’t play with ceremonial swords! [Laughter] That’s amazing. Of course, a lot of people don’t talk about those times. David: No. Adam: Because it’s too traumatic, you know… as we’ve seen how many people died here. David: Yes. Adam: Well look, it’s a relatively new woodland and we’re just amongst, here in this bit, which commemorates Jutland, the trees are really only, some of them, poking above their really protective tubes. But what sort of changes have you seen in the last seven, eight odd years or so since it’s been planted? David: It's changed enormously. It's quite extraordinary to see how some trees have really come on very well indeed, but also a lot of wildflowers have been sown. We have to be very careful about which we sow and where because it's also a very valuable natural wildflower site, so we don't want them getting mixed up. Adam: So, what's your favourite part of the site then? David: Ah well my favourite part…, I'm an amateur naturalist, so there’s the sort of dark and gloomy things that are very like ancient woodland. We call them ancient semi-natural woodland. So there is Great Hurst Wood which is one of the ancient woodlands. Adam: Here on this site? David: Yes, on this site. It's just over there, but we have another couple of areas that are really ancient semi-natural woodland, but actually, I love it all. There's something for everybody: there’s the skylarks that we can hear at the moment; the arable fields with very rare plants in; the very rare fungi in the woods. Actually, that line of trees that you can see behind you is something called the Sheep Walk, and the Sheep Walk is so-called because they used to drive sheep from all the way from Kent to markets in the west of the county, and they've always had that shelterbelt there – it's very narrow – so they've always had it there to protect the sheep from the sun, or the weather, or whatever. And it's the most natural bit of ancient woodland that there is, even though it's so narrow and it's fascinating what you can find under there. Adam: And I saw you brought some binoculars with you today. So, I mean, what about sort of the birds and other animals that presumably have flourished since this was planted? David: It's getting a lot better. The Woodland Trust has a general no chemicals and fertiliser policy and so as the soil returns to its natural state then other things that were here before, sometimes resting in the soil, are beginning to come up. We, I think, we surveyed maybe 20 species of butterflies in the first year… there are now over… 32! And there are only 56 different species over the country, so we have a jolly good proportion! We have two Red List birds at least here – skylarks and lapwings nesting. It's all getting better; it’s getting a lot better under new management. Adam: [chuckle] Fantastic! Well, it’s a real, a real joy to be here today. Er so, we’re here in the Jutland woodland. Where, where are we going to next do you think? Where's the best place…? David: We’re going to have a look at one of the wonderful poppy fields. Adam: Right. David: Because the poppies come up just as they did in Flanders every summer and it's, it really is a sight to behold. Adam: And is this peak poppy season? David: It's just passed… Adam: Just passed. David: So, we hope they are still there and haven't been blown away. Adam: It would be typical if I have got here and all the poppies have gone. Forget it, alright, let's go up there. So, well this is quite something! So, we've turned into this other field, and it is a field, well never in my life have I seen so many poppies! Mainly red poppies, but then there are…, what are these amongst them? Guy: Yeah. So, what you can see is a number of species of poppies here. The main one you can see, it's the red Flanders poppy. Adam: And is this natural or planted because of the First World War reference? Guy: No, it's mostly…, we did supplement this with some…, we've actually planted some of these poppy seeds, but most of them are natural and it's a direct result of the fact that we continue to cultivate the land. One of the most important conservation features we have here on site is rare arable plants. Bizarrely, these plants were once called arable weeds, but when intensification of farming began in the mid-20th century, the timing of ploughing was changed, the introduction of herbicides, all these things meant that these so-called arable weeds actually became quite rare and they were just hanging on to the edges of fields. What we've been able to do here is to continue to cultivate the land sympathetically for these plants and we now have much, much better arable plant assemblages here. We have rare arable plants here now, that mean that some of these fields are of national importance and a couple of them are of international importance, but a by-product of cultivating the land every year for these is that we get displays of poppies like this every year. Adam: And when you cultivate, you’re talking about cultivating the land, you’re planting these poppies, or what does that mean? Guy: No, it’s almost like replicating the fact…, it’s as if we're going to plant a crop, so we actually plough the field and then we roll it as if we're going to prepare a crop. Adam: But you don't actually plant a crop. Guy: No, no exactly. And then we leave it fallow and then naturally these arable plants tend to actually populate these fields. Poppies are incredibly nectar-rich, they're actually quite short-lived… Some of you may know poppies that grow in your garden, and they could be out in bloom one day and completely blown off their petals the next day. They don't, like, last very long, but they do pack a powerful punch for nectar, so definitely invertebrates… Because we don't use chemicals here anymore which would have been used constantly on this farm – and what that means is that many of these arable plants, they require low fertility otherwise they get out-competed by all the things you'd expect like nettles, docks and thistles. So as the land improves so will hopefully arable plant assemblages making them even more impressive than they already are. Adam: But actually, as the, as the soil improves isn't that a problem for things like poppies ‘cause they'll get out-competed by other plants which thrive better? Guy: It's a fair point, but what is actually crucial – is that to actually increase biodiversity in these fields it actually requires low nutrients. In terms of a lot of these fields, as well, we have, from years of chemical application, we have a lot of potassium, we have a lot of magnesium in them, and they have a lot of phosphorus too now. Magnesium and potassium tend to leach out of the soil so they will improve naturally, phosphorus tends to bind the soil and sticks around for a long time. So, we're trying to get these chemicals down to acceptable levels to make them more attractive for rare plants and therefore increasing biodiversity. Adam: Well, it is, it is like a painting and I'm going to take a photo and put it on my Twitter feed. I just, [gasp] so if anyone wants to see that, head over there. But it is beautiful, properly beautiful. I mean, so we were walking by this extraordinary painting of a poppy field to our right. It's a site which has been revolutionised because it was all arable farming less than a decade ago. What has that done for biodiversity here? Guy: Well, as we can imagine these fields, it’s quite difficult to imagine them as we walk through them now, but these would have all been bare fields that were basically in crop production and there’s clearly been an explosion of invertebrate activity here. We've got increasing butterfly species every year, our bird numbers are starting to go up, but also importantly we've got certain areas where habitats are being allowed to develop. So, we have a former arable field here that is now developing, it has been planted up with hazel coppice in a system we call ‘coppice with standards’, where we plant… Adam: Coppice with standards? Guy: Coppice with standards yeah. Adam: Oo, well very grand! Guy: It is! It’s an old forestry practice where they planted lots of hazel trees that would have been worked and then periodically in amongst them, there will be oak trees that would be allowed to grow longer and then harvested at a later date. What this has meant is that we've got long grass now that is growing between these trees and that's making it much more attractive for small mammals on site. Adam: Like what? What sort of small mammals? Guy: Things like voles, wood mice, field voles, these sort of things that make sort of tracks and sort of tunnels within the grass. And what that has meant is, as we go up the food chain is, that that's become more attractive now on the site for raptors. A nice story from two years ago - we have a volunteer that works with us who is a BTO bird ringer, and he sort of approached us to say “you've got barn owls nearby and your site is starting to develop nicely. How do you fancy putting up some raptor boxes to see if we can attract them in?” So, which was great, and we managed…, the local bird club donated some barn owl boxes, we put the barn owl boxes up in this field we have just talked about – the hazel coppice field – and the expert said “well they probably won't nest in it this year. They'll come and have a look…” Anyway, we put it up…, two months later… it was being used and we were able to ring those three chicks that came from that and they've been breeding ever since. Adam: Wow, how amazing! Must be very heartening to be working on the site which is growing like that so quickly. Guy: It is, it's amazing and when you consider that we’re within the M25, we’re very close to London, but we've got this site that is growing and it's only going to get better as we manage it sympathetically for the wildlife that it hosts. Adam: We’re just coming round the bend and back to almost where we started into this field of standing soldiers amongst the growing trees, and the cathedral-like tree sculpture there which will take us back to the beginning. So we’ve just done a little tour… Guy: Yeah, Adam: So, I dunno half an hour, 40 minutes or so. Presumably, we skirted the edges of this… Guy: You certainly have Adam! It’s a fraction of the site. We are 640 acres in size and we're just at the top part of it. This area that we've largely walked around today is very much focused on World War One and our memorials, but much of the rest of the site is, actually, is quite a bit quieter, there are fewer people around and the focus is definitely more on wildlife. Adam: Yes, well, it has been an amazing trip, I have to say, I’ve been to lots of different Woodland Trust woods all the way up the country, to the far stretches of Scotland. I have to say I think this is my favourite. It’s quite, quite a site! And the memorial is done really tastefully and fits in with the landscape. I think this is quite, quite a site for you to manage, it's quite a thing. Guy: It’s incredible and we are just so proud of it and we just can't wait to be able to open our car park and invite people from further afield, and not just locals who get to enjoy it as is the case at the moment. Adam: Absolutely. Well look, thank you! It started this morning, bright sun, it looked like I shouldn’t need to bring a coat then all of a sudden, I thought “Oh my goodness”, we’re standing under a completely black cloud but it has not rained, it is not raining, we're in running distance of the car so… Guy: Somebody's looking down on us Adam, at least for a couple of hours. Adam: They are indeed, well thank you very much! Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the Woodland Trust Woodland Walks. Join us next month when Adam will be taking another walk in the company of Woodland Trust staff, partners and volunteers and don't forget to subscribe to the series on iTunes, or wherever you're listening to us, and do give us a review and a rating. And why not send us a recording of your favourite woodland walk to be included in a future podcast? Keep it to a maximum of five minutes and please tell us what makes your woodland walk special. Or send an email with details of your favourite walk and what makes it special to you. Send any audio files to podcast@woodlandtrust.org.uk and we look forward to hearing from you.


8 Jul 2022

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8. Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood, Leicestershire

Join us at Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood, Leics to discover a thriving 10-year-old wood, chat royal trees and celebrate the Platinum Jubilee. We meet with site manager David Logan to explore the site's connections with the royal family, its special art features and some of the wildlife, sights and sounds you might encounter on a visit.  Don't forget to rate us and subscribe! Learn more about the Woodland Trust at woodlandtrust.org.uk. Transcript Voiceover: You are listening to Woodland Walks, a podcast for the Woodland Trust presented by Adam Shaw. We protect and plant trees for people to enjoy, to fight climate change and to help wildlife thrive. Adam: Well, like all good podcasts let's start with a story and this one obviously is about a tree. It stands in a quiet part of central London called Lincoln's Inn Fields – the centre of the legal profession. It sits, well, just outside of a gated 11-acres of parkland in one of the otherwise busiest and noisiest parts of the country. It was planted in 1953 and since then the well-heeled men and women of the legal profession, who worked there, often sheltered under its branches, passed it by, both ignoring it and perhaps enjoying it. In the 70 years that tree has been growing, there have been many monumental events and world figures who have both entered and left the stage. When it was first planted, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister. Since then, entering and often leaving the limelight – Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King, Yuri Gagarin, The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, video players were invented, personal computers and mobile phones were created, and there have been 15 prime ministers. But in all that time, as a living witness to that history of the new Elizabethan Age, there has been only one monarch – Queen Elizabeth II. No one has played such a long-lived part in the nation's history as the Queen. The tree that still stands by Lincoln's Inn Fields is one of literally millions that have been planted in the name of the Queen. Trees, of course, have an even longer perspective on time than Her Majesty but both stand as witnesses and part of history stretching back and reaching forward far beyond the timescales most of us live by. It's very fitting, therefore, that on this Platinum Jubilee the Woodland Trust has partnered with the Queen's Green Canopy Project to invite everyone across the UK to plant a network of trees, avenues, copse, and whole woodlands, in honour of the Queen's service and legacy From a single sapling in a garden to a whole wood, the aim is to create 70 Platinum Jubilee Woods of 70 acres each – every tree bringing benefits for people, wildlife and climate – now and for the future. And so, I took this opportunity to visit the Trust's Diamond Jubilee Wood in Leicestershire, where I met the man responsible for looking after the woodland, David Logan. David: So, this is Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Woods and it's a flagship site of a scheme that the Woodland Trust has to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. So, what we endeavoured to do, and we've successfully done. We created 75+ woods of 60 acres or more and they were the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Woods. And, this is the flagship one of those woods, making it the largest single-owned block of native broadleaf woodland in the National Forest area. Adam: What immediate, I mean, we've not really gone in yet, but what immediately surprises me is this is really quite, well, it's a very young wood. Yet, it already but quite mature I mean, were these species, was this all planted? David: You're looking at a hedgerow and beyond that are the trees at the same height as the hedgerow. So yeah no, it is to me, you know, a refute to people who say 'why bother planting woods because you never get to walk under the bows of the trees' but these, only ten years ago this was planted and when you get into the site, you're definitely in a wood now 10 years later. Adam: those trees are all on the quite tall… David: They must be 10-12 feet tall. Adam: Yeah, looks even taller to me but then I'm unsure. Okay, go on, lead on. Tell me a bit about then what this site sort of is, why it's special, you know, biologically special? David: Because of, it's big! You get that really wild feeling when you're here. So, you know, 267 hectares are completely devoted to nature. There's not, well, I don't think there's anywhere else particularly like that in this part of the country. And, so yeah, it does stand out. We get lots of different wildlife: lots of birds, lots of invertebrates, butterflies and a really good show of wildflowers as well. We will see some of them. Adam: And what was here before? Was it just an empty field? David: No. So, it was an open cast coal mine. So, the whole lot was owned by UK Coal and then the central part of it where the lake is was the largest hole in Europe! When it was done 750,000 tonnes of coal came out. Adam: Wow! So, I mean, there's no sign of that at all, because open cast mining can be a real scar on the land, can't it? I mean, it doesn't look pretty and then yet is there still a hole, was that all backfilled? David: That's all backfilled yeah so all of the substrate that wasn't coal will have been stored around the site and then all put back in the hole. Adam: How long have you been here then? David: So, I've been site manager for three years now, so.... Adam: Right. David: Yeah, seen it develop.  Adam: So, what sort of, I mean, three years is not a long time, especially in the life span of trees, but what sort of changes have you seen over that period? David: I think the biggest one recently is we took away all of the tree tubes and the fencing that the original kind of planting scheme relied on to protect it from deer and rabbits. Yeah, which has completely changed the way the site feels. So, no more sea of plastic tubes and no more fences to get in the way. So, you can get to walk where you like now, as well as the wildlife can get around the site a bit easier, and it really has changed the way it all feels Adam: In terms of the local community engagement and their use of this wood, what’s that like? David: It's been great. Yeah, been great right from the outset, so, we had a lot of community involvement with the original planting and then again with extensions, voluntarily. Adam: And how well used is it by the locals then? David: Yeah, yeah, very well used, very rarely do you ever come to the car park and there's less than five cars in it. Adam: We're coming to, I can see... what's that building over there? That looks very pretty! David: So, that is what we call the welcome barn. So, I've got two buildings I've got on this site. I've got the welcome barn and I've got bird hide as well. Adam: Wow! So, what happens? Is there someone with tea and crumpets in the welcome barn for us? David: Unfortunately not no, but there are some interpretation panels that tell you the story of the site and a nice mosaic that was made by the volunteers as well, at the beginning of the site. And then a little compost toilet round the back! Adam: Laughs Okay that's good, good to know, good to know! And tell me about the bird hide then. David: So, the bird hide is yet another lovely building overlooking a lake. So, the lake was kind of formed by the sinking of the coal mine and the soil around it, and yeah, so just a nice bird hide, we’ll go and look at it. Adam: What sort of birds do you get? David: The most exciting bird that we've had here is a hen harrier.  Adam: Right! Wow! And look, and this welcome barn, this also seems to be unusual for a Woodland Trust site? You don't normally see these things. David: Don't normally get a building no, I’m lucky to have two! Adam: And look at... really, really lovely sort of mosaic on the floor – Woodland Trust mosaic which sort of looks quite 1950s like... Do you know how long this…? This can't be that...? David: No no, that was built when the barn was built and the site was created in 2012 and it's meant to, kind of, reflect the Roman history of the site. So, we’ve got a Roman road that we just crossed over there, and then we've got two areas of our underlining archaeology which we know are Roman on the site. And so, we know there's certainly a lot of Roman activity, hence a Romanesque kind of mosaic. Adam: So, just explain a bit about where we are. David: So, these are called the groves – The Royal Groves – as part of Royal Groves Walk, and as part of the creation of the site. There was a royal Grove created for each year of the Queen's reign, so, they’re in a series of circles and each one has a post and people can sponsor the grove and the post and then they get their little plaque added to the grove post for their year. I believe that certain years become more popular than others for various reasons and, but yeah, you'll see all these names. My favourite one, I think, is just this one. This grove is dedicated to the dahlia. Adam: That’s fantastic laugh dahlia appreciation society sponsors. So, tell me a bit about the trees we're seeing here, there's clearly a whole mixture. David: Yes. So, they’re all native broadleaf trees. We have got birch and oak going round. There is no ash in this part of the wood because ash dieback was kind of discovered just as the planting was going ahead and so we’re lucky. There is a compartment in the north which got ash put into it. You might see the occasional ash tree that's self-set. So, we've got a Jubilee Grove Trail going on at the weekend for the... to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee that's coming up, encouraging people to, kind of, wander around the trails, and we're going to have these tree rings, sections of a tree... one per decade of the Queen's reign and with various large events that happen within that decade there will be a tree ring. Adam: Will that be permanent? David: No, it'll just be for the month of June and there will be a large wicker crown somewhere onsite as well. Adam: That's all happening next weekend? David: Well, late this week, next weekend. Adam: You've got a lot of work to do. I'm amazed you’ve got the time spare to wander around with me. David: Yeah well. Yeah, yeah there's always... it's always a rare commodity time I'm afraid Adam. Adam: Now you didn't design this here? You're a new boy! David: I am a new boy here! Adam: So, who actually designed it? David: So, it was a lady called Kerrie who is here, here now. She knows lots more about the groves than me as the designer and helped put it all in. Adam: Brilliant, hi Kerrie! Kerrie: Hi Adam. I think I don't think I want to say that I designed the wood but... Adam: I was building you up! Kerrie: You were, thank you, but the layout of the groves and... I was certainly involved in the design of the concept and then how we spoke to individuals about whether they would like to be involved in this. So, it was an opportunity for families to dedicate their own acre of woodland and help us develop this wood, as well as being part of a feature that enables you to walk through the Queen's reign. Kind of, physically walk through every year of the Queen's reign, so it's really special. Adam: Which is amazing, isn’t it?  Kerrie: Yes, it is.  Adam: Tell me a bit about this royal connection because this wasn't, sort of, just a random, sort of, marketing idea. There's a really good basis for this royal connection isn't there? Kerrie: Absolutely, yeah so, at the Woodland Trust in 2011 we started a project to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee – so, sixty years of the Queen's reign – and we wanted to enable people across the country to plant trees and create woodland. We did that in a number of ways. So, we had this aspiration to create sixty Diamond Woods each of 60-acres in size, which is a big, really big commitment! And we also encourage people to create Jubilee Woods which were much smaller copses of trees in community spaces. And we distributed trees to schools and communities all across the country. Actually, it was hugely successful so the wood we are here at today is the Woodland Trust's flagship Diamond Wood. And then we had landowners and organisations and local authorities who also wanted to be involved. We needed to create 60-acre woods, we didn't know if we'd get to sixty actually inaudible we did get to sixty, we surpassed that, we had seventy-five woods at that scale created! Adam: So, seventy-five 60-acre wood Kerrie: Plus woods yeah, amazing, so, it's the first sixty of the Diamond Woods and then we have fifteen woods that we call the Princess Woods. Adam: Amazing, and so this was to commemorate that reign, and this is a lovely theme though! You can wander through the years of the Queen's reign. But the royal connection to woods is long and deep, isn't it? Kerrie: It is yeah. So, we were really fortunate that Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal was patron of that project. But there's a long and well-established connection between the royal family and tree planting, and as part of the project that we did we wanted to map all the woods that were created, and the trees that were planted. So, we copied... Adam: So, for the, for the queen? Kerrie: For the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. So actually, we took inspiration and sort of copied the Royal Record that had been done previously to mark a coronation. So, we actually have physically created and produced, published a Royal Record which is a huge red tome and that charts where all those trees are. And this is something that had already been done before the Queen’s father. It’s actually very heavy and so we have a copy at our office in Grantham, there is a copy in the British Library, and we gave a copy both to the Princess Royal and to the Queen.  Adam: There are lots of royal connections to trees and tree planting even beyond Queen Elizabeth. So, tell me a bit about that. Kerrie: That's right, yes. So, in the 1660s Charles II commissioned several avenues of sweet chestnut and elm in Greenwich Park and in 1651 he hid from pursuers inside an ancient oak during the English Civil War. and I think that's one of the reasons actually that you see so many pubs called the Royal Oak. Adam: Right okay because he hid in one? Kerrie: He hid in one yeah. Adam: Now you came... when did you see the hole in the ground? This was an open cast mine? Kerrie: Yes. Adam: You saw that? Kerrie: Yes, before any trees were here. So, I can't believe it's been several years since I've been here today, and it is now it's a wood! Adam: Yeah, there is no sign of that is there? Kerrie: No absolutely not, a complete transformation. Adam: It is amazing, isn't it? How quickly really that the natural world can recover. I mean, it needs a bit of help obviously and certainly in this circumstance. But no sign of what must have been really quite horrific bit of landscaping. Kerrie: Yeah. I think given how stark it felt at the beginning and when we first saw all trees grow in the ground here. It is genuinely remarkable for the transformation in a ten-year period of time! You can hear the birds, the trees are overhead, you know, we've seen butterflies, caterpillars... It really feels like nature has reclaimed this space it's really really exciting Adam: And when you start, I mean, look it's already done! It’s a success! It looks fantastic, but when you started was this always a ‘this is gonna work’ or at that stage did you think ‘this looks horrible, this might be a disaster, no one might come, no one might get on board with this project’? Kerrie: Well. I think we all had the vision, we all had hope. There are colleagues of mine that have been working at the Trust for longer than me who knew how this would look. I just didn't know that. This is one of the first projects I worked on so, to see it within ten years, the change that's the thing that I find you know really amazing! I thought I would have to wait much longer, and I'd be coming back with grandchildren to say look at this, but actually, here we are within a decade and it is transformed. Adam: Brilliant! Alright, well let's move on, let's find David again. Kerrie: Well, David on a previous visit has actually shown the Princess Royal around this wood. So, in terms of royal connections David has been a royal tour guide. Adam: Okay, so we have a living royal connection here? Kerrie: We do. Adam: Look here’s a little bench, I might just sit here for a while. Brilliant, ah there’s a dedication, what does it say? 'In honour of Sally Whittaker who believed in the beauty of wildlife and protecting it'. I have to say I always do like stopping at a bench and reading those dedications. Brief pause So, David, I'm not the only super important person you’ve taken around this woodland, am I? David: You're not the only super important person maybe, you are charming Adam! Adam: Ahhh thank you that's very sweet, very sweet laughs come on tell me about the even more important people you've taken around! David: So, yeah well, the most important person I guess would be Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, alongside Darren [Moorcroft] the CEO of the Woodland Trust. So, I was pretty nervous that morning, to be honest. The CEO, I’d never met him before and obviously a member of the royal family! But yeah no, I remember being nervous at the beginning, and then by the end of the day when I finally said goodbye to Princess Anne I was longing to spend a bit more time with her. She is incredibly charming, yes. Adam: Yeah. So, we come to a waymark, which? It’s left, is it? David: Follow the blue and white arrows. Adam: Right so, if there are... there two different paths? Does blue and white mean anything or? David: Yeah. So, there’s three waymarked trails around the site and we just happen to be happening on a little bit that's on two of those. So, there's the woodland walk which is the longest walk around the whole of the wood, and then there's the Royal Groves Walk. And then there's the lake walk as well Adam: Right so, explain a bit about where we're heading off to. You're taking me into the centre of the woods, it feels like? David: Yeah. So, we're continuing along the groves and eventually, we will get to a broad open vista, and you will be able to see most of the features of the site. Adam: So, we are already walking out to what looks like a less wooded area. David: Yes, we're kind of skirting the western edge of the site now and then... Adam: It's a big site, isn't it? how long will it take to walk over the whole thing do you think? How long are these paths? David: Like a good tour of every feature of the site here's looking at half a day really, probably, and that's with a bit of pace on. Adam: I’ve only got short legs laugh so I’d add a few hours. So, there's another one of these posts. Shall we just have a look? 1985 were through to, anyway so... David: Green woodpecker there, did you hear? Adam: Oh no wow! I missed out, I've been looking out for posts, I missed the green woodpecker. So, we're just coming out of a rather wooded area into – it suddenly opens up very dramatically – and look at that it's a very different view! So I can see a lovely wildflower meadow almost and then at the bottom a huge lake! A huge lake. So, this is where the old open cast mining just sunk down a bit and has since got naturally filled? David: Yeah. So, what you're looking at now is the epicentre of the open cast coal mine and obviously the wider landscape around it. So, yeah that's our lake and the end of the groves walk. So, you can just see the final three or four grove posts just heading off down the hill. And then this was an open area left to retain the view and then on the other side of the lake we've got a 5-hectare exclusion zone so there's no paths in that area. Just, no paths in the area, just to allow nature to completely have five hectares for resting birds et cetera. Adam: Let's go down because I think... David: We've got something else to show you. Adam: Sorry go on, rushing ahead, what is it? David: So, we got this piece of land sculpture that was created by an artist called Rosie Levitan and there are calls every now and again. We get somebody asking if we can put some kind of panel up to explain what it's all about, but the artist herself expressly asked that not to happen. So, I think she is more inclined to allow you to kind of figure it out for yourself or come to your own conclusions as to what it's all about. So, it was created with money from the Arts Council at the inception of the site. So, no money that could have gone into conservation went into creating this piece of art. But yeah, I'll leave you to... Adam: Sorry, this is it? This is it? David: This is it; I'll leave you to come to your own conclusions. Adam: So, when you said a piece of art, I thought you meant like a large statue of something out of wood, but actually, this is a sort of an earth tiered... almost like amphitheatre going downwards counts I think 5 tiers there. David: It's in a spiral so you can walk around the outside which takes a lot longer than you think! Adam: Laughs Yeah right I think I might take the direct route down, but to be honest, it seems like a brilliant place to put on a play! David: Yes! That's my thoughts as well, yeah I'd love to get a play here. Adam: Yeah! Have you ever gone down then done a soliloquy? David: Errr not, well, do you want me to? Adam: Yes, if you if you've got a piece ready laughing David: Unfortunately, I haven't. I mean I could maybe do a jaunty jig or something like that? Adam: Yes, well look, we’re recording. David: Yes, well, no let's not! Adam: That’s a shame laughing I think you probably come down when there are not many people around. So, if you ever do see a man in Woodland Trust clothing doing a jaunty jig at the bottom of this amphitheatre-like piece of art you know who it is and that he just wouldn't do it for us laughter very nice, very nice. Adam: So, you're gonna take me down to the lake now? David: Yeah, take you down to the lake. Adam: And it's there that we are going to meet one of your volunteers, is that right? David: That is right yep, a chap called Gerald. So, he's been volunteering with us on the site since the site was created and in various different roles Adam: And I’ve just gotta say it is beautiful walking down here because there are just huge numbers of buttercups aren’t there? David: Yes, it is stunning, isn’t it? Adam: It is stunning, it’s like a sort of it's like a painting! It’s like a painting, brilliant! David: This is our pond dipping platform. Adam: There’s a cuckoo Bird song Adam: That’s very good, so Gerald, sorry, we’re distracting you. I can see you distracted by some swans coming over with their little babies. They're coming over to investigate you think? Gerald: I think they are yes! It's good to see it, I, they must be relatively young because a few weeks ago they were they weren't about so it's... Adam: Right. We’ll let these swans investigate us as I chat to you so tell me. I'm told you do tonnes on this site. What was the local community’s feeling when the trust took over this site and sort of explained what it wanted to do? Gerald: Generally, really good because you can imagine if you've got an open cast colliery on your doorstep a wood is a big improvement! Adam: Well, that’s what I was going to say, because sometimes there is, sort of you know, some resistance or sort of misunderstanding about what is trying to happen. But here you go ‘surely this is going to be better for everybody’? Gerald: Yeah, so I think, overall, the mood was very good. There will be people who say yes but why don't you do this because this is better? We had some debates about whether we could put in some fruit trees, for example, and because we're in a sort of prime growing area in Leicestershire here. And there were debates about whether that was acceptable, whether they were native trees or not. But it was all good healthy discussion and it's interesting to see how the trees have grown and they have particularly grown well on this area here which was the open-cast. When you think – this all was disturbed ground that was put back – the trees have grown probably better here than they have in parts of what was the agricultural land. Adam: I have to stop because the swans have properly come up to us now. There they are! How involved do you get now, now it's well established what do you actually end doing? Do you come down here most weeks or? Gerald: It's a couple of times a month at least now. During the pandemic, it was sort of very limited of course, and well before that time, I used to do a monthly walk which was really... Adam: This is your guided monthly walk? Gerald: Yes guided, with a series of friends and colleagues. Adam: Do you have a favourite part of the wood? Gerald: Actually, probably near the bird hide just along from there. Adam: Why? Gerald: I don't know really. It's gotta mix, you got a mix with the water, you got the mix of the trees, a bit of the open meadowland here, and yes, the bird hide does add a bit of character to the place. I think we're lucky to have that there. Adam: I think David's waiting for me there. Shall we go over and have a chat with him? We’ve paused for a moment because we’re just passing a black Poplar and a little plaque next to it saying it was planted by BBC Breakfast on 1 June 2012 in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Gerald: Yes, we have the two black poplars here. Adam: There's another one here. Was that planted by ITV for balance? Laughter Gerald: Oh no much more prestigious. Adam: Oh sorry, yes it was planted by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal who is patron of the Jubilee Wood Project on the 1 of June 2012. And doing very nicely! Gerald: Yes, they are indeed! They've both grown quite a bit in the last year, I think. Adam: Very nice! So, what's the way to the bird hide? Is it round here? Gerald: Just go up to post on turn left. It's at the moment, hidden by a willow screen. It's a piece of willow art, although it's not particularly obvious Adam: You can see they’ve been bent over at the bottom haven’t they to form a sort of willow fence. Gerald: If you were to look down on it from a drone it will be an outline of a skylark. It's a little bit overgrown and that's on our task list for next winter to prune that and try and weave in the lower bit. So, it's going to task our skills! Laughter Adam: We’re going into the bird hunt now. We’re in the bird hide. David, ironically having seen lots of birds the moment I get in here actually I can’t – oh I think there is one over there – but do people, is this a good actual spot to be watching birds from? David: Yeah, yeah because it gives you that cover so the birds don't necessarily know you’re here. It is quite a light bird hide though but it was created in conjunction with the Leicestershire Wildlife Trust, so they must have built a few bird hides, but yes. Adam: To be honest it's lovely weather today. But if it was raining a little bit this would be a fantastic place just to sit down for a while, wouldn’t it? David: Yes, it would yeah. Just get out of the rain, I’ve done that a couple of times! Adam: Right, fantastic, alright well where are we going to next? David: So, there's just one last thing I would like to show you onsite which is just a short walk back up the hill. Adam: Okay, what is that? David: It is called the photographic plinth and so it's basically some encouragement for people to keep on visiting the site year after year. So, what we've got is we've got a plinth that you put your camera on and then a brick area that you supposedly stand on so you can get exactly the same photograph every year. You can visit the site and you can watch your family grow as the wood grows around you Adam: What a brilliant idea! What a brilliant idea. Okay, okay so David so there is a plinth. David: Yes, this is our photographic plinth. What it needs is updating, because obviously when this was made smartphones didn't exist and now you wouldn't really get a smartphone balanced on that! Adam: Yes, that's true David: It needs a little block bit putting on so you can rest a phone on it. Adam: So, it's not only the trees which have changed, it's the technology that it's referring to. I’ll tell you what, I mean, obviously I'm going to have my photo taken aren’t I? Can I give you my, I haven’t got a camera, I do have my smartphone, so I'll go stand... I’ll go stand here, and in a couple of years I'll come back and I’ll have even less hair. Hold on a second – do I look better with my hat off or on? Pause Neither. I feel that was an undiplomatic pause I felt. David: What I was thinking is that I need to see both to answer correctly, that's why I was thinking. So, I'm gonna take it from the correct position. Click There you go Adam: I'm not confident that looked any good from the look on your face. I'm not going to look at it now I'll check it when I'm home. There is clearly a lot more to it than I've managed to explore today but what a wonderful treat, on a lovely, beautiful Monday, in this very special royal year! To come and celebrate that here! thank you very much David. David: that's quite alright Adam it's been a pleasure Footsteps Adam: Well, that was a great walk and thanks of course to everyone who arranged that. It's a fantastic place to visit especially in this Royal Jubilee year. If you know about these things, you can find it at grid reference SK 390132. The nearest train stations are Burton, Tamworth and Loughborough, although they're all a bit of a car journey, I have gotta say, from each of those stations. But if you're looking for a woodland perhaps nearer to you do have a look at the Woodland Trust website which has a special site to find a wood near you it is woodlandtrust.org.uk/findawood. I do recommend you do that until next time happy wandering. Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the Woodland Trust Woodland Walks. Join us next month when Adam will be taking another walk in the company of Woodland Trust staff, partners and volunteers. And don’t forget to subscribe to the series on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to us and do give us a review and a rating. Why not send us a recording of your favourite woodland walk to be included in a future podcast. Keep it to a maximum of 5 minutes and please tell us what makes your woodland walk special, or send us an email with details of your favourite walk and what makes it special to you. Send any audio files to podcast@woodlandtrust.org.uk and we look forward to hearing from you.


27 May 2022

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7. Avoncliff Wood, Wiltshire

Lying next to the River Avon just inside the Cotswolds, Avoncliff Wood is no ordinary wood. The site hosts one of the biggest trials in the UK to find biodegradable alternatives to plastic tree guards. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also a living laboratory, revealing how ash dieback will really affect nature. Site manager Joe gives us a special behind the scenes tour to learn more. We also meet volunteer wardens Kay and James, and catch up with TV presenter Alice Beer who lives nearby. Don't forget to rate us and subscribe! Learn more about the Woodland Trust at woodlandtrust.org.uk Transcript Voiceover: You are listening to Woodland Walks, a podcast for the Woodland Trust presented by Adam Shaw. We protect and plant trees for people to enjoy, to fight climate change and to help wildlife thrive. Adam: Well, I've changed trains at Bath Spa for what appears to be a very small train which is taking me to Avoncliffe. Now, in fact, the train conductor has told me the platform is so short when I get there only one door is going to open. He came through asking “Is anybody getting off?” and I'm the only one, the only one. Well, I have to tell you, the station here is straight out of a 1930s style Agatha Christie film, that's what it screams to me. Beautiful signs, beautiful flowers, the River Avon just almost next door to the station, a great looking pub and down at the end of the platform one single man who I'm assuming is Joe Middleton with the Woodland Trust, site manager here and the guy who's going to show me around. Joe: So, welcome to Avoncliffe Wood in the Avon Valley just in between Bath and Bradford-on-Avon. We just crossed over the famous Avoncliffe Aqueduct and just followed the River Avon until we hit even Avoncliffe Wood which carpets the side of the valley across this area of the Cotswolds AONB, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, right at the southern end of the Cotswold AONB. Adam: There's very little woodlands right here, so what's going on in this first field? Joe: So, we’re just at the edge of our woodland creation. So we bought 20 hectares, about 40 football pitches, of ancient woodland – untouched for generations – and to buffer that, to try and expand carbon storage and fight climate change and the ecological decline we’re seeing we actually bought another 10 hectares, another 20 football pitches, worth of agricultural fields essentially and meadows which were very intensively grazed and we've planted that up with over 5,000 trees to try and get the next generation of trees in here. Adam: Wow, okay so shall we go through, have a look? Thank you. Joe: So just next to us as you can hear the birds singing away, there are blackbirds, robins and blackcaps in there. There’s one acre, here, just on the right-hand side, which was actually planted up 25 years ago by a neighbour. So, the very small one acre square now 25 years later is teeming with you know 30-40 foot birch trees, willows, hazels and hawthorns, full of cherry blossom and hawthorn blossom, and birds nesting, tweeting, and insects buzzing all around us! It's quite rare these days! So hopefully we think everything we planted up here, all 5,000 trees would look like that in 25 years. A proper young woodland. Adam: And you've clearly, I mean, they're not uniformly planted so there's a big patch in the middle which you’ve got nothing and they seem to be done in clumps, so why have you done it like that? Joe: Do you want to know what that patch in the middle is? That’s a sledging lane. Right well so we carried out community consultation when we first bought the woodland. We asked all the locals, we said look there’s this really lovely kind of big expanse of fields all around the wood, we want to buy it, we want it to, you know, fight climate change, we want to try and do our bit for wildlife. And they said whatever you do leave us a sledging lane because when it snows here this hill is perfect for tobogganing down. Adam: laughs you see I thought it was going to be for some really technical reason! You need to do that for a very specific reason, I didn’t realise it was gonna be sledges. Joe: There are also wide rides, you know, big areas that people can walk through. We’ve created a really good path network in here as well in some areas and natural regeneration so there are areas unplanted and there are areas purely for tobogganing fun in the middle of snowy winters. Adam: And why not? It’s very important. Now, the thing that we can see in this immediate field is a lot of tree guards and well I'm also standing by a little sign which says biodegradable tree shelter. I always call them tree guards, but this was called tree shelter. Now that is not by coincidence. The tree guards are a huge issue, aren’t they? Joe: Yeah, I mean with governments pledging to plant millions if not globally billions of trees to fight climate, you know hold onto carbon, stop floods, we have to be able to do it without using oil-based plastics. For the last 35 years people have just, every tree that's gone in you know, not every one, but most trees that’ve gone in have been planted with a giant plastic tree guard which doesn't biodegrade, it litters, it causes microplastics, and people… Adam: And are they reusable those plastic guards? Joe: They are to a certain degree, they're not easy to recycle, there are some better recycling schemes now just starting. But actually, probably one in three are reusable. But a lot of places are too far to go and get them, people don't bother they get left and derelict and are expensive to go and collect every single one, especially when you’re planting hundreds of thousands. So the biodegradable alternative is the absolute key. Find something that naturally, you know, biodegrades away back into the soil, doesn't harm anything, it doesn't use oil. Adam: Right, I'm just going to go up to… So, this is a biodegradable one? Joe: Exactly. Adam: It looks sort of yellowish and quite canvas-like but it's very it's very firm, it doesn't feel, I mean that feels a sturdy old thing this. Joe: Yeah so, we've got 5,000 trees we put in. We are using some old recycled plastic ones, so we've been given a few, but actually we've got 16 different types of biodegradable alternatives to plastic here. So, they range from cardboard, you know, made from paper or mulch to biodegradable plastics, which the jury is out on at the moment, to actually resins and oils from things like cashew nut shells and pine resin. We’ve got a train coming past us! Train noise Two and a half years ago, when we planted the 5,000 trees in all these biodegradable guards, we launched something called Big Climate Fightback, a big Woodland Trust campaign to bring people out to help plant trees and do their bit. And actually, we ended up with over 250 people arriving one Saturday – spades in hand – on the trains in all the train stations. And the people in Bath, and Bristol and Bradford-on-Avon must have thought “what on earth is going on?”, with over 250 people arriving with spades on the platforms. And they came in here, they planted trees en masse – school kids, families, local groups. Everyone came here to try and plant trees and with that we, you know, told people about the problem of plastics and we've basically now got one of the biggest sites in the UK for trialling an alternative to plastic – to try and protect these trees so they get to five, seven years to get to a good height where they’re no longer susceptible to browsing by deer, by rabbits, by voles, which is the main reason the shelters and guards are here to protect them. Adam: And correct me if I'm wrong but there is a sort of school of thought saying well don't use any guards. I mean it's now sort of established practice that you’ve got to use a guard otherwise the tree won't survive, but there is this sort of vague thought we never used to use guards in the distant past, so why have we suddenly got obsessed with them? Joe: I mean deer numbers are higher than they've ever been, it's a huge amount of browsing by deer with no natural predators, so it's complicated, that is the simplest answer, but putting up a giant 6-foot fence is probably you know the other solution which is in a lot of cases, depending on size, it can be much more economic, more practical. Very small areas – probably not massive areas, but medium sized – deer fencing is probably the answer, but then you’ve still got rabbits and voles you’ve got to fence out. So, doing nothing, over-planting, natural regeneration – we've got an area if you look up to the edge of the woodland we've left the buffer zone of about 20-30 metres around lots of this woodland, all around it, with nothing, we’ve just fenced it off and we're just going to allow the woodland to expand – every one of those berries and those nuts and seeds that drops into the ground will hopefully just have a, you know, wild natural generation. Like Knepp with a huge rewilding – that hope of what happens there doesn't happen as easily here but can take a long time. Hopefully that will establish woodland itself, but it may take 50 years. At the moment we've got a climate emergency on us and amongst us, so we have to do something now so planting trees is a very good quick solution. Adam: A huge issue because if we are planting for ecological reasons what we don't want to do is every tree comes with its own polluting plastic. I mean that’s not the future. So, the answer to that question may well lie in the thousands of experiments you're carrying out in this field we’re standing in. Joe: Absolutely. Adam: Right, well I've stopped us walking. We better… I better get my steps in. So, let’s carry on. Where are we heading to now? Joe: So, we're gonna go and find our two volunteer wardens in a minute. Adam: So, we’ve got two volunteers hard at work. I can see just up the hill a bit. Joe: So, this is James and Kay who are both our two volunteer wardens. They’ve been working now replacing broken, rotted, fallen biodegradable tree guards, replacing the trees as they die as well, and these two have been working hard to help keep an eye on them for the last few years for us. Adam: It's got them hard at work! Joe: They are incredibly hard at work. Hey guys how you doing? Kay and James: Alright? Hi! Hello. Adam: They do have you hard at work! So Kay and James, so first of all before we get to what you’re actually doing, why have you been doing it? What's your interest? Why did you volunteer to do all of this? Kay: Well, you’ve been a volun… a member of the Woodland Trust for about 25 years. James: Well, it’s about 35 years now. Kay: Since this is really on our doorstep, this is a perfect opportunity to get really involved with the Woodland Trust. Adam: James, I mean, you’ve been a Woodland Trust member for a very long time. And, ah the debate around trees has changed enormously. Hasn’t it? James: It has, and I am glad that people have suddenly valued trees. I was in the military but, before that, I was out of Kent, out near Canterbury and my uncle was a farmer with orchards and basically from the earliest days I knew about the trees, the names of trees. The pollards at the end of the field as windbreaks, the various wetland trees down in the floodplains around the Romney Marsh area. But I already had a fascination for the massive oaks, the spectacular deciduous trees on the horizon I think made this this countryside look like it does, so British, and so English, with these gorgeous round shapes, compared to a lot of conifers you see in all the European places I’ve been to. Adam: Okay, talk me through a bit about what you’re actually doing here – I mean, you know, hammer in hand I can see. Kay: Hammer in hand, we're replacing some of the tubes that haven't stood up to the wind and the rain. We found that circular rather than rectangular and… Adam: works, circular works… Kay: circular works, because otherwise if it's square they act as a flag, especially cardboard ones. When they get wet, they just disintegrate – as you can see there's lots of bare sticks around here, so yeah, we're going through and replacing them with circular ones. Adam: Fantastic, now I know that the local community were very involved with the Trust, sort of when the Trust took over and sort of designed this site. Tell me a bit about what the local community feel. Kay: That was a great day. We had two schools frog marched in, and yeah, with their teachers and staff and they planted the whole area, which was lovely – they were naming the trees as they were planting them. I know the whole village got involved with planting 5,000 trees over a progressive few weekends and subsequently James and I have been replanting the failures. Adam: And James I mean very clear how engaged you are with this sort of issue but to tell me about the feelings then of the local community and what they what they felt when Woodland Trust first came here and how involved others are apart from you two. James: So, I'm very pleased that people are actually accepting, on the whole, that their backyard has been filled with trees and shrubs which are growing up for their children's lifetime. Kay: We have had some objections to this, but they haven't given their reason why. I assume it's because it's used when we do get snow, which is very rare, it's the sledging field. The Woodland Trust have kindly left a gap for sledging but then they moan that the grass is too long so you can't please everyone all of the time. Adam: But when it was first thought about, and I think it's really interesting isn’t it, that you say the community are largely behind this, but I think if others are listening to you now where they may be talking about a woodland on their doorstep created by the Woodland Trust or their own sort of organisation – I wonder what people's first reaction, what were their concerns and hesitancies that you heard about that may have been overcome? Kay: People don't like change do they? And at the moment it's, yeah, it doesn't look picture perfect with the stakes and the guards on, but you've got to envisage what it will look like in 10-15 years’ time. You've only got to look at the hedgerow, which is behind us now, and at this time of year which is beginning of May, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The blossom’s out, the fresh burst of the leaf is so colourful and vibrant, what’s not to like about having a wood on your doorstep? And we were very lucky. Adam: Okay, well brilliant, well thank you very much. Look I don't want to disturb you anymore but that's brilliant. Thank you very much. Kay: Thank you! Adam: So, we're gonna head up now to the ancient woodland. Now this is certainly unique in any of the Woodland Trust sites I’ve been to, because normally the Trust actively encourages people to come in, but this is the only site I've been to where the ancient woodland bit you stop people from coming. Oh, look this is… Joe: This is our nifty little fenced area which… Adam: We’re going through the barbed wire so just be careful going… So, explain to me why you've unusually actually kept the public out of the ancient woodland. Joe: Ash dieback really is becoming a huge problem across a lot of woodlands I manage. I manage about 30 woods across the West Country and every one of them has large amounts of ash that really grows really well on these sort of limestone soils and in these hills around the Mendips, the Cotswolds. Gosh there’s a huge Buzzard just soaring over the edge of the woodland there. So, ash dieback is killing off essentially all our ash trees. Estimates vary at the moment. You know recently it was about 95% and then people said it was around 60%. So, the latest estimate is that about 60% of our ash trees will die over the next 50 years. How fast they die is the worrying thing but when we bought the wood in 2019 ash dieback was blowing across the landscape. It is a fungal disease. It naturally spreads. It came over from Asia originally in infected stock of nursery trees being planted out. So, no one's been able to plant any ash for the last three years. It's now being reported all the way from the east of Great Britain, all the way to the west, every year, until it’s spread and spread and spread now our mature ash trees – whether they're in a hedgerow, along roadsides and country lanes, whether they're in woodlands – ash trees are essentially dying en masse, and this is killing off everything that lives and breathes on those ash trees. Adam: And the reason you're keeping the public out is because the trees are dangerous, are they? They might fall? Joe: Yeah exactly, so where you have a path or road or property you have to maintain, you know, what's reasonably practical safety for people to be able to walk under it. We realise if we were to create a load of paths, allow a load of people into now what is a fantastic ancient woodland, but it has never really had any paths in, it's been undisturbed for generations – over 100 years now – we don't think anyone set foot in it. So, we didn't want to create any paths because we didn't want to fell any trees, so we've kept it shut and all the locals have seemed to have bought into that and are really pleased this is just a woodland for wildlife. They're happy enough to walk around the fields where we've created woodland. Adam: And is it also something of a laboratory to see what happens to ash dieback? If you really don't step in and try and do anything? Joe: Exactly yeah, so, in so many woodlands across Britain because of the large amount of public footpaths, people are having to fell for health and safety reasons, so there's not very many examples where if no one goes in and nothing happens, what happens to that wildlife? Does it also dramatic- dramatically decline, with the trees losing? Or are there some winners? So, are there some decay species? Some fungi species? Some insects, beetles that love decay rotting wood that increase? So we don't really know. So, this site we've turned into a living laboratory, this is a unique case of where we are monitoring the species within the wood, how they react to ash dieback over time. Adam: We're now going into the bit of ancient woodland which the public are locked out of and so we have got this big “keep out, closed due to ash dieback” (sign). Joe: You have exclusive access! Adam: Brilliant, now I gotta say, I mean I've got to take a photo of this because this is a sea of amazing plants. I'm really, I want to be careful where I tread, I don’t want to disturb anything. Because I'm completely ignorant, what are these plants? Joe: Can you smell it? Adam: Yeah sure, it’s extraordinary! Joe: This is wild garlic. Adam: Is that what it is? Joe: Ramsons are all in flower at the moment and now we can see for literally, well, hundreds of metres is the white snowy tops of these wild garlic flowers that are just coming up across the thick green leaves and when there's no path in sight you have to be careful where you tread. So, luckily wild garlic’s quite prolific, so we’ll tread carefully, but an undisturbed wood looks like this. It's like a sea, or a carpet of sort of snow. Adam: That is extraordinary, isn't it? Yes it is a sea of snow and that's the advantage of actually having undisturbed places. Is that it, I mean, yeah sea is exactly what it looks like. These sort of white foaming tops to the rolling green waves of vegetation. Quite amazing. Joe: All you can make out are the occasional tracks of foxes, badgers, stoats, weasels, that have gone through it, maybe the odd deer as well. But insects seem to be declining catastrophically. The ideal analogy is, you know, people used to drive around even in the 80s and you get windscreens splattered with bugs and insects. It just doesn't happen anymore and that massive decline of insects, it’s unknown the reason, it probably doesn't help with, you know, when people are using lots of pesticide sprays across the countryside, along with climate change, but as all those insects decline so do our birds that feed on them, so are our bat species – so they're not fat enough to basically get through the hibernation and then when they come out of hibernation and the young are born there are just not enough insects so they don't make it through the summer essentially, and they don't have another generation that makes it. So, yeah, bat species are declining at the moment, so that's one of the first things we've noticed, and well ash are declining en masse. There were a lot of these species of ash that we’re monitoring that are all dying en masse. Adam: I mean so that, I mean, …you're telling me all these terrible things Joe: Yes, I know. Adam: But I mean that's important it's still amazing landscape still isn't it? Joe: Absolutely. Adam: And that's always been true with woodlands. That decay brings its own new life and decaying trees are very important parts the of the ecosystem, but even given all of those challenges that you talk about are there any, are there any high points, any reasons for optimism? Joe: Well, wild garlic’s obviously doing really well in this particular wood! But there will be some species that do, really, there will be some species of butterfly that you know do really successfully with the increased amount of light. But one of the best success stories, the best things you can do to feel positive about it is to go back out into those fields, plant the trees, the next generation, so that if some of these woodlands do suffer for whatever reason then we've got far more woodland habitat. We need to increase our woodland cover from about 13% to 20% fast and then if we get 20% – we've got the shrubs, we've got the tree species, got the rewilding areas – to be able to provide those homes for the species that aren't doing so well. That's the key I think is to plant the next generation, get there quickly. Our woodlands have a fantastic history and have been managed over time. This is just the next phase in the management to basically keep an eye and ensure our guardianship secures for that next generation in the next 50-100 years. Adam: Well I'm going to leave Joe to smelling his wild garlic, because TV presenter and journalist Alice Beer, who I used to work with, I know lives not that far from this woodland. Now I know she's out and about today so I'm going to call her on her mobile to discuss what the countryside around here means to her and her family. Okay, so just Alice first of all we should explain a bit about our history, so everybody… Alice: Oh must we tell everybody? Do you think we should? Adam: I think we should share a little bit. I used to open letters on Watchdog which was a massive massive programme at the time and I can't, do you remember how many people watched it? I can't Alice: Well I don't know I'd come to watchdog from That's Life and That's Life, which was before you were born Adam I’m sure, had 15 million viewers in its heyday and I think Watchdog was around 7 million viewers, which now is completely unheard of, but then you know it was just 7 million people watching it and more importantly 7 million people putting pen to paper. No emails, pen to paper, and thank God Adam Shaw was in the post room! Adam: Yes I was opening the 7 million letters with one or two other people and Alice was much more senior, so we would come to pass those stories onto Alice and of course, you are now, what’s your official title? Alice: I suppose I'm actually probably daytime television presenter but I'm far too much of a snob to say that! I kind of dip in and out of various things trying to still help the little guy or pass on information. Adam: You have a regular spot on a very big programme, This Morning? Alice: Well, This Morning, yes, it’s every day, it's now two and a half hours, they keep extending it! I am waiting for it to bump up against the Six O'Clock News soon! But This Morning it was, “can you do a piece on brisk walking and the health benefits”, as a result of some survey that came out, so here I am for the second time today brisk walking and broadcasting at the same time which is fantastic! Adam: Very good! Don’t trip over! You’ve got a couple of dogs with you haven't you as well? Alice: I have, I’ve got Stanley who's my five-year-old schnoodle and his girlfriend Tilly and there are times when they become quite amorous in the long grass but I'm going to try and keep it clean for your sake! Adam: I knew you when we used to work in Shepherd’s Bush in London, but you are now a country girl aren't you? Alice: Yeah, wellies welded to my feet! I grew up in suburbia and in North London suburbia and the countryside wasn't really important to me, but my parents took me out, took me and my sister out walking quite a lot. There was always “shall we do the walk through the woods”, “should we do the walk through the bluebell woods” which is slightly longer or “should we go up and round” which involved the hill. So, there was always a consciousness of walking in the countryside as a pleasant thing to do, but as we've got older, the countryside has become more important to me and we have been doing that thing, my partner and I have been doing that thing where we're trying to move out of London and we've settled on this beautiful village, beautiful functional village not far from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, which is where I am now, walking alongside the River Avon. So not too far from Avoncliff and the same body of water sort of flowing past me which is rather nice. Adam: How lovely. I know, I've seen you on This Morning as you’re talking about wellbeing, and in terms of actually, with your consumer journalist hat on talking about the gadgets you could buy to help with wellbeing and having lights I think that show, sort of, natural light. I mean, how important do you feel it's been for you and your family during these rather difficult times to have access to nature and the outside? Alice: It’s been everything to me. Everything. I've got teenage girls in fact it’s their birthday today, their 19th birthday today, so for them probably it spells isolation for them because they didn't grow up in the countryside, or this this particular part of the countryside, so you know this means being away from their friends, but for myself and my husband it's been, it's been really important. For me to leave the house and walk in space because in London everything has felt very close and very claustrophobic and I’m mentally not good at that at all! So, I'm incredibly lucky to be able to breathe and give myself sort of mental and physical space away from other people. I was able to work from here, so I did sixty live broadcasts from, in effect, my back garden during lockdown. Adam: It’s really interesting that you talk about your girls sort of feeling a sense of isolation because they came from the city and now are in a very rural area. I often find that it's a curious thing to get one's head round because really the nature debate about sustainability and trying to be better for the world is often very strongly led by young people. Alice: Oh it's theirs, it's completely their campaign! But I'm not sure that they associate it with, I mean, I feel like I'm treading on dangerous territory speaking, you know, putting words into their mouths because they're both very eloquent, quite passionate girls. I feel that I'm not sure that they would stand out in a field and say “we must protect this”. Probably coming from the city, they feel more that they see stuff, they see things going into bins, they see landfill, smoke, pollution. So, they see the big preservation of our world from a city perspective, probably more than standing in a field and thinking “oh this must never have, you know, thousands of houses built on it”, which is what probably makes me panic as much as anything. Adam: Do you get a sense of a change in people's attitudes in the way they behave, I mean, I think people talk about the need for ecological sustainability. I see amongst my friends and family, I have to also be careful about what I’m saying, I see less actually willingness to change personal behaviour than a willingness to say it's important, but they don't do an awful lot. Do you see that real difference? Alice: I'm a huge hypocrite, but I am now suddenly, it was probably about six months ago I was putting something in the bin, and it sounds like a strange Greta Thunberg epiphany, but it slightly was. I was putting some plastic in the bin, and I was trying to clear out a room and I was thinking this is going nowhere! This can't be recycled. This has to go underneath the ground, and this is not going to break down. I had a sort of panic about the fact that well if I was doing this and everyone was doing this and though I sort of have had that epiphany and I am changing my behaviour, and nothing particular triggered that, apart from me clearing out a bedroom and realising I had too much stuff. You know, which is odd, but you know, in terms of the big picture in the world I think it's very hard to make individuals feel responsible when we see big companies not taking responsibility. It’s that sort of, well what difference is little me gonna make? And I’ve sort of had that, well I'm going to make a difference, so I will. I've had that moment and I think we have to all have that moment and I'm just about to fall into the River Avon, which could be interesting! I'm trying to encourage the dogs to have a drink. There you go guys, come on, look Tilly have a drink! Yeah well they’re sort of having a drink, but I'm the one that's most likely to go in here. Adam: Well look, Alice, I feel split because I quite like the sound effect of you going in to end this, it’d be a great end wouldn’t it! But on the other hand not a great way of re meeting after all these years. Look I will let you get on with your walk but thank you very much, thanks a lot. Alice: Thank you, thank you. Adam: Well, let's leave Alice Beer there and indeed all our friends at Avoncliff Woods. I do hope you enjoyed that and if you want to find a wood near you, you can go to the Woodland Trust website, woodlandtrust.org.uk/findawood and you can find a wood that's local to you. So that’s woodlandtrust.org.uk/findawood. I do recommend you do that. Until next time happy wandering! Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the Woodland Trust Woodland Walks. Join us next month when Adam will be taking another walk in the company of Woodland Trust staff, partners and volunteers. And don’t forget to subscribe to the series on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to us and do give us a review and a rating. Why not send us a recording of your favourite woodland walk to be included in a future podcast. Keep it to a maximum of 5 minutes and please tell us what makes your woodland walk special, or send us an email with details of your favourite walk and what makes it special to you. Send any audio files to podcast@woodlandtrust.org.uk and we look forward to hearing from you.


17 May 2022

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