The Woodland Trust — Alec Oliver — 1st June 2015.

The ‘Woodland Trust’ is an organ­isa­tion, which if it did not already exist, would have to be inven­ted. It was foun­ded in 1972 by a retired farmer and agri­cul­tural machinery dealer by the name of Kenneth Watkins, in Devon. By 1977 he had acquired 22 woods. The pur­pose of the Trust is to sym­path­et­ic­ally manage woods  so that they sup­port the diverse eco­sys­tems found with dif­fer­ent spe­cies of trees. It also inter­venes where neces­sary to pre­vent indi­vidu­als and com­pan­ies from des­troy­ing wood­land areas, thus pro­tect­ing plant life and the nat­ural hab­itat of birds and anim­als which rely on them.

Fifteen years ago, Bradfield Parish Council were con­cerned about some ancient wood­land near Deepcar, called Bitholmes Wood.  It was being mis­used by men illeg­ally graz­ing stock and involved in felling trees.  The Woodland Trust sur­veyed the site and enabled rehab­il­it­a­tion to be effected.  A job well done.

Our speaker provided back­ground inform­a­tion regard­ing prob­lems being exper­i­enced loc­ally.  These included ash tree die back and other dis­eases caused by rising tem­per­at­ures, human inter­fer­ence and mis­man­age­ment. Many of the dis­eases have come across from Europe and Alec explained that by study­ing what is hap­pen­ing in Europe now, in rela­tion to any par­tic­u­lar dis­ease, can tell us what is going to happen in this coun­try, so that we will know how to deal with the prob­lems. This approach is like being better informed with hind­sight. Alec explained that we now know that new ash trees appear to be immune from ash tree die back and so new ash trees are being planted in wood­lands suf­fer­ing from the prob­lem. This enables all the fungi etc., asso­ci­ated to regions around ash trees to be main­tained.

In the late 1940s after the second world war it was decided that we would be suf­fer­ing from a short­age of timber, espe­cially in the build­ing industry and so woods were planted con­sist­ing mainly of Norwegian Pine, a fast grow­ing tree which would meet our con­struc­tional needs, but these woods are devoid of the anim­als, birds and plant life which make up our nat­ural woods. As things have turned out there hasn’t been a short­age because of the devel­op­ment of plastics in industry, so these woods are being sys­tem­at­ic­ally felled and the trees replaced by tra­di­tional British trees.

Timber sales have increased around the world, caus­ing trans­fer­ence of for­eign dis­eases not known here pre­vi­ously.  Modern agri­cul­tural prac­tices have also played a part, res­ult­ing in stresses in all living organ­isms, pro­du­cing par­tial or even com­plete extinc­tion of some spe­cies.

Mr Oliver had a vast sub­ject to cover and very little time to do it but did his best to do so, coping with many ques­tions from our mem­bers.