The Importance of Woodland – Past, Present & Future – Gerald Price – 31st July 2017

The Woodland Trust was formed in 1972 as a char­it­able trust. They now own 1,200 woods cov­er­ing approx­im­ately 75 sqare miles through­out the British Isles, and also work with landown­ers who own their own woods.

With around 300 employ­ees, 300,000 mem­bers and many volun­teers, they are fin­anced equally by legacies, mem­ber­ship, grants, full-time fun­draisers and spon­sors such as Sainsburys, WH Smith and IKEA.

Woodlands are defined as trees, hedges, park­land with trees in them, and any other clusters, copses or clumps of trees. Twelve and a half per cent of the land­scape in Britain is wood­land, and the aim is to reach 25 per cent. Notably, London has 20 per cent wood­land and there are 50 woods within 10 miles of Sheffield.

Trees live the longest of all living things and are the tallest. They are between 20 and 25 per cent carbon, so absorb CO2 from the atmo­sphere and emit O2, as well as provid­ing an essen­tial biod­i­verse hab­itat for 50 per cent of all wild life.

In the canopy of trees, for safety, there are rap­tors, but­ter­flies such as purple emperor and hair­streaks, bats and other creatures. Lower down there are garden birds, other but­ter­flies and mam­mals, while on the ground are mam­mals and flora. In the ground, fungi have a sym­bi­otic arrange­ment with the roots of trees. The roots also hold the soil, aid water per­col­a­tion and take up water, help­ing to pre­vent flooding.

Past ancient wood­lands tend to be where plough­ing was dif­fi­cult, so biod­iversity in the wood­land has had time to develop and there­fore con­tains the rarer spe­cies of flora & fauna.

Ancient wood­lands of native spe­cies have been cop­piced for hun­dreds of years, for char­coal, which was needed in steel­mak­ing. They have also been cop­piced for white coal (wood dried, then charred), which was needed for lead smelt­ing, as it burns at a lower tem­per­at­ure. The cop­picing was rotated in a wood and over­seen by a wood ward, who was an import­ant man.

Present object­ives of the Woodland Trust are:

1. Protection — Promoting tree man­age­ment and trying to link up ancient bits, when think­ing of buying. This cre­ates cor­ridors for mammals.

2. Restoration – For example, repla­cing pine woods (which were planted after WW1 by the newly formed Forestry Commission to provide wood for com­mer­cial use, and are dark and unat­tract­ive to the flora and fauna) with woods of oak and native spe­cies, which are light, airy and more biod­i­verse, attract­ing flora & fauna.

3. Creation – Planting new trees by donat­ing young sap­lings to com­munit­ies, and work­ing with the com­munit­ies to plant on any bits of public land that cannot be used for any­thing else.

4. Control of pests and dis­eases – There are 19 threats at present, includ­ing dis­eased chest­nut trees and ash die-back. It is likely we will lose all our ash trees which is the second most pop­u­lous tree.

Future object­ives are described in the Woodland Trust’s new ‘Charter for Trees, Woods & People’ which will be launched on 7th November 2017, which is the 800th anniversary of the ‘Charter of the Forest’ in 1217 (around the time of the Magna Carta) which recog­nised that the peas­ants had rights over the woods too.

Some 70,000 sig­na­tures of sup­port for the new charter have been col­lec­ted to date, and 100,000 is the target.

The 10 object­ives are:

1. Thriving hab­it­ats for diverse species
2. Planting for the future
3. Celebrating the cul­tural impact of trees
4. Thriving forestry sector that deliv­ers for the UK
5. Better pro­tec­tion for import­ant trees & woods (TPOs)
6. Enhancing new devel­op­ments with trees
7. Understanding and using the nat­ural health bene­fits of trees
8. Access to trees for every­one, with paths
9. Addressing threats to trees and woods through good management
10. Strengthening land­scapes with woods and trees

The Woodland Trust are doing essen­tial and very valu­able work to main­tain and improve our wood­lands an d envir­on­ment for the bene­fit of all.

Gerald gave us an excel­lent present­a­tion, and encour­aged us to sup­port the Woodland Trust and get involved. For fur­ther inform­a­tion see www.woodlandtrust.org.uk