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.