The Heart of England Forest We're planting tomorrow's great native woodland one tree at a time. A new broadleaf forest across south Warwickshire and Worcestershire that's for everyone to enjoy. Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:21:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Forest Warden Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:17:25 +0000 The post Forest Warden appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


Meet the forest guardians: volunteer warden Craig Hunt

I’ve been working in the forest since April – but walking through it for much longer! As I already walked the newly planted fields with my collie, and had the time and energy to contribute to the good work going on, it seemed logical to volunteer.

I’m called a forest warden. I have recently retired from my job as Project Manager for Lloyd’s Bank – and was happy to swap ‘managing’ for ‘doing’!

I have no previous experience of forestry, but who doesn’t admire a mature oak tree…?

An average day involves talking to visitors as they walk through the forest – often for the first time – and making them aware of the story of the project. I also clear entrance gates and signs of overgrowth, pick up litter, cut off trees that have fallen to the ground, and report issues into Stephen (Coffey, head forester).

The first thing I learned working with Stephen is that nothing can be (or needs to be) rushed – quite a refreshing change from my last job! I am also learning about the different tree species. Again, slowly.

The main benefit of planting a new forest is the timely replacement of the depleted number of native trees – with more native trees and not quick-growing pines. Also the shared enjoyment of the changing landscape over the years, as saplings take on different shapes and colours. Then there’s the benefits to wildlife, and finally the feeling that something good is happening to our often abused planet.

I often have to convince myself that within my 100 acre area I’m not actually lost… I just don’t always know where I am!

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Outdoor pursuits Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:57:45 +0000 The post Outdoor pursuits appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


Like anything else in the natural world, trees are happiest and healthiest in an environment that suits them. Over thousands of years, each species adapts to the soil type and weather conditions of its local environment, and it’s this balance that then ensures a woodland can grow and thrive.

P5120666The technical term is ‘local provenance’ – and saplings grown from local provenance seed are more likely to survive because they are in their natural habitat. But there are other benefits of staying native.

Reducing the number of imported trees helps prevent the spread of disease. And it reduces road miles, so it cuts out transport costs and reduces pollution.


That’s why planting the Heart of England Forest with native broadleaf trees, and growing them in our own nursery, is the best way of ensuring a continual supply of saplings.

The great news is that our nursery is thriving thanks to the hard work of a team of amazing volunteers. At the moment, about 20% of the new saplings we plant in the forest come from our nursery. It’s a great start, but we’d like to increase that to 100% over the next two years.

_61O7092This summer, the team have been busy weeding, fertilising and watering our saplings in preparation for lifting them in the winter planting season. They’ve also been keeping a close watch over the seed beds to protect them from hungry wildlife, and checking for damage from both squirrels and mildew.

Next on the list of jobs is seed collection. The team will be out in the forest collecting acorns for planting in the nursery next spring. Other seeds like birch, hornbeam, alder, cherry and wild service are currently being brought in.

But, with more hands on deck, who knows how many species will be collected from the forest itself in coming years, and nurtured on-site in our ever-growing nursery.


Volunteer with us

If you’d like to volunteer to help out in our nursery, email us today at No forestry experience is necessary, just wellies and a good waterproof coat…!

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A welcome invasion Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:32:21 +0000 The post A welcome invasion appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


Over the past few months, some very exciting new residents have been spotted in the Heart of England Forest. The Silver-washed Fritillary, Holly Blue, White-letter Hairstreak and the male Purple Emperor butterflies have all been seen for the first time – a clear sign that the woodlands are continuing to attract more than just human interest!

From an environmental point of view, butterflies are a key indicator of biodiversity. If they’re making their home here, chances are the local environment is healthy and stable.

Butterflies are beautiful creatures, which struggle to keep up with any changes in their habitat. So much of their natural countryside habitat has been destroyed over recent years – and our weather patterns have become less predictable – resulting in three-quarters of British butterfly species being in decline.

This means the sightings at the forest are great news for conservationists. Mike Slater, from the Butterfly Conservation, is following the butterflies’ progress closely.

‘At the moment all four species can be found around Spernal Wood,’ he explains, ‘which means they must have colonised from Oversley Wood, a few kilometres way. The really exciting news is that this could mean they are breeding all over the Spernal area.

‘With the planting of Salix caprea (goat willow) in the Heart of England Forest, we could end up with one of the biggest populations of Purple Emperor in the country. We’re now checking a few more of our woods because they are likely to be elsewhere, but they are devils to find!’

More butterflies is great news for the forest – as they’re integral in spreading pollen on their wings, fertilising plants and trees. So all in all it’s a huge and happy welcome to the latest forest supporters.






Holly Blue

Easy to spot in early spring as it appears long before other blues, it also flies higher in trees than other grassland blues. Its wings are bright blue on top, while the underside is pale blue with small black spots.

Silver-washed Fritillary

A large, fast-flying orange and black butterfly with pointed wings and silver streaks on the underside of its wings. You can spot it in sunny glades and rides, but it breeds in the shady woodlands.

White-letter Hairstreak

Difficult to spot as it enjoys flying around the tops of trees (particularly elms) this small butterfly has brown underwings with a white W-shaped streak and small, orange tails.

Purple Emperor

A stunning butterfly that flies high in the tree tops – the male has large, dark wings with a purple sheen. The Purple Emperor has been in steady decline over the past century and is now found almost exclusively in woodland in southern England, so a new population in the Heart of England Forest is an exciting discovery.

Spot butterflies in the forest

If you’d like to have a go at spotting butterflies in the forest, visit for detailed descriptions and photos of our four latest residents and other species you could come across.

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The ancient art of coppicing Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:39:20 +0000 The post The ancient art of coppicing appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


Whether it’s an ancient woodland or your own back garden, coppicing will bring light, variety and encourage a wonderful mix of wildlife.

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Coppicing is an ancient woodland management process. It started back in Neolithic times as a way of gathering a regular, sustainable wood harvest. By cutting back suitable trees near ground level, you encourage re-growth each year, which means the trees can live for potentially hundreds of years.

These days, it’s really more about keeping a forest well managed.

Woodlands are coppiced in winter to ensure a good variety of height and a less dense canopy cover. With more light making it down to the forest floor, other tree species and wildflowers can thrive, and the overall effect is a more interesting, diverse environment for wildlife and insects.

In your own garden, coppicing trees and shrubs also brings more light to beds and borders, allowing new plants to take hold. Then, when the spring comes, bluebells primroses and anemones will flood the garden with colour as if from nowhere!

It’s so easy to do. Over the winter months, cut back any broadleaved trees or dense shrubs to within 10-15cm of the stump – by the following year you’ll have a mass of new shoots, often reaching over a metre high.

Within the Heart of England Forest, hazel coppicing is an annual event. Alne Wood and Haydon Way Wood both get regular attention from the teams, and Alne Wood was specifically chosen for our dormouse re-introduction project because of its coppiced habitat and abundance of suitable food.

It’s thought that the decline in coppicing over past decades could be a significant factor in the scarcity of dormice in the UK. Certainly, the elusive dormouse prefers woodland with an unshaded understorey, a nice diversity of tree species and a good variety of heights for nesting. Bramble and honeysuckle are also good for attracting dormice – and there are many other woodland creatures that thrive in a well-managed wood.

And as for all the wood that’s harvested, nothing goes to waste here… the coppiced branches can be used across the forest for things like traditional fencing. The young shoots of coppiced hazel are very supple, making them perfect for weaving.

Take a trip to the forest to see how this ancient art has helped our woodlands evolve.

For more information about how to coppice successfully in your own outdoor space, click here

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A powerful partnership Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:17:29 +0000 The post A powerful partnership appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


Butterflies, beetles, bugs… and electricity pylons?
IMG_0662Haydon Way Wood is an area of the Heart of England Forest with some very specific ground rules. It sits under major electricity power lines, operated by the National Grid, so there are strict height limits for planting schemes.

This might sound like a fundamental problem when you’re planning a new forest full of huge broadleaf native trees. But thanks to our an innovative partnership with the power company, it’s lead to a creative solution that’s hugely benefiting the resident wildlife.

The National Grid has sponsored the planting of 1,000 new trees in the woodland; species that won’t grow too high, and will help the area support a glorious natural wildflower meadow.

According to David Bliss, the forest’s estate manager and a trustee, the National Grid has ‘thought big and got it. This type of project has never been done in England, so we need companies like National Grid on board.’

The land underneath the pylons has restrictions beyond tree planting – it’s land that can’t be used for farming either because of the hazards created by the overhead power cables. So the opportunity to turn this area of the forest into a traditional hay meadow, rich in wildflowers and wildlife, is a happy compromise.

DSC_0115 1And they also provide a safe home for butterflies, beetles and other insects. Wildflower meadows literally buzz with bugs attracted to the bright colours and tempting scents. Butterflies such as skippers and fritillaries, bumblebees feeding on nectar and gathering pollen, dragonflies and damselflies and day-flying burnet moths are a common sight.

If you’ve got a few spare hours wildflower meadows are a great place to do some serious bug hunting – the perfect summer holiday entertainment for the kids!

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Outdoor investments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:30:12 +0000 The post Outdoor investments appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


The Phoenix Group have been benefitting from our corporate sponsorship  and corporate social responsibility programmes – almost as much as the forest has!

DSC_9530 1Volunteers play a vital role in helping your forest grow, and corporate sponsorships are a great way of getting the support of local companies – and offering their staff invaluable ‘team-building’ time in the great outdoors.

In December 2013, an exciting new partnership was set up between the Heart of England Forest and Phoenix Group Holdings, one of the UK’s largest life assurance fund consolidators and a member of the FTSE 250 index. Initially, staff sponsored the planting of 1,000 saplings to create a new wood within the forest called The Phoenix Way, close to their Wythall offices.

Lots of willing volunteers spent several days in wellies and raincoats working with our teams to plant the saplings. It was a great experience, lots of hard work, and the wood will be open for everyone to enjoy in the very near future.

DSC_9549 1New woodland planted, Phoenix staff then moved on in November 2014 to Bannam’s Wood, where they protected the hazel with wire fencing to prevent resident deer eating the re-growth. The wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the volunteers also cleared pathways and helped Head Forester Stephen Coffey with some coppicing.

Then, earlier this year, the teams were back in their Phoenix Way woodland to replace lost trees and start work on the planting of their new woodland – with an additional 500 saplings. The woodland is a long-term and ongoing project, and the relationship between the Phoenix staff and their forest is a really inspiring one.

The Tax department were the latest Phoenix volunteers to enjoy some precious time off in the forest – they joined Stephen for more coppice stool protection in spring. One staff member wrote about their time out on the company blog:

‘The whole team thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to give something back. It was lovely to be out in the fresh air getting lost in your thoughts, stress-free for the morning with plenty of opportunity for socialising and team-building with colleagues.’

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It’s here! The Summer Forest Photography Competition is now open! Thu, 09 Jul 2015 14:11:08 +0000 Get your cameras out and start snapping forest photos b […]

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Get your cameras out and start snapping forest photos because the HoEF is hosting a free photography competition!

Here’s How It Works
•  The competition is absolutely free
•  The theme is “light”
•  Photos from any forest are welcome
•  You may submit up to 3 photos
•  All photos should have a fun, vibrant captions

How to Enter
•  Mail your photos to with the subject line “summer photography competition 2015”
•  OR send them to our Facebook page @theHeartofEnglandForest
•  The deadline for all submissions is August 31st 2015, any photos sent after this time will not be considered.

The Prize
If you win, your photos will be featured on our webpage and you will receive a Tree Dedication to whomever you choose; you can even dedicate it to yourself as a reward!

Good luck and happy snapping,

The HoEF Team

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Open Day at the Garden of Heroes and Villains Thu, 09 Jul 2015 13:58:32 +0000 An Open Day at the Garden of Heroes & Villains On S […]

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An Open Day at the Garden of Heroes & Villains

On Saturday, 1st August come and visit the Garden of Heroes & Villains, a private garden in Dorsington near Stratford-upon-Avon. It features a unique collection of over 50 life-sized bronze sculptures, created by some of the world’s finest portrait sculptors. The garden was comissioned by the late Felix Dennis, founder of The Heart of England Forest.

Join us for a day of art, wildlife and outdoor adventure; the event runs from 10am until 5pm

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Come face-to-face with Winston Churchill

cross the finish line with Roger Bannister

take front row for The Beatles,

join Lawrence of Arabia at full charge on camel-back

or take a trip with the Owl & the Pussycat

and see the pig with the ring in the end of his nose!


Special Event: The Shard Garden–A Field of Felix’s Poetry

We are very excited to announce that the Open Day will include the official opening of the “Shard Garden – A Field of Felix’s Poetry.”

This was Felix’s final commission, consisting of 44 large stone shards. Each shard is embedded in the ground and inscribed with his poetry. It is truly a remarkable concept and great creative gesture.


Throughout The Day

Take a delightful woodland walk, enjoy the extensive garden, experience the sculptures, learn from a series of short talks, stroll around Dorsington Arboretum and visit the Founders Rock. Refreshments will be served from the Welshman’s Barn.

HOEF Falconer-25

For The Kids

At the Heart of England Forest, we know the importance of family time; for our younger guests we will be holding a Children’s Adventure Quiz. There is also an exciting Yew Hedge Maze—see what… or who is waiting in the middle!

As a special treat, Hawkwise Falconry will also be joining us. They will be putting on a display with their majestic birds of prey. In the afternoon, your kids can also choose to participate in an Owl workshop, learning all there is to know about these fascinating birds.

It will be fun day for the whole family—even dogs are welcome (but please help us keep the park clean by bringing your own poo bags).



Tickets are £6 per adult and children get in free of charge. There will also be free parking.

If you are a Friend of the Heart of England Forest bring along your Supporter Magazine and get a reduced ticket price of just £4

All profits will go to the Heart of England forest who will use the funds to replant a huge native woodland in the heart of England, creating a wilderness for everyone to enjoy.


Directions to The Garden Of Heroes & Villains Open Day

The Welshman’s Barn, Fox Covert Lane, Dorsington, Nr Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 8AR

Postcode for Sat Nav users: CV37 8AR (not exact, but close enough to follow signs to the Open Day)

***Please note that the river bridge at Bidford-on-Avon will be closed and a diversion is in place to the Welford-on-Avon crossing.


From Stratford-upon-Avon:

Take the B439 towards Evesham until you can turn left to Welford-on-Avon where you cross the river bridge and continue through the village until just after the maypole take a right turn signed to Dorsington. At the top of the hill is a right turn to Dorsington but its such a narrow road we suggest you continue straight ahead for another mile to the next left turn to Dorsington. From here you will see signs to the Open Day.


From Evesham / Bidford-on-Avon:

Take the A46 towards Stratford until you can take a roundabout exit to Bidford-on-Avon. As the river bridge will be closed, follow the diversion and take the B439 towards Stratford taking the right turn to Welford-on-Avon and continue through the village until just after the maypole, take a right turn signed to Dorsington. At the top of the hill is a right turn to Dorsington but its such a narrow road we suggest you continue straight ahead for another mile to the next left turn to Dorsington. From here you will see signs to the Open Day.


From Further Afield:

M40: Exit at Junction 15 and follow signs to Stratford-upon-Avon then follow directions above

M42: Exit at Junction 3 and travel towards Evesham until you can take a roundabout exit to Bidford-on-Avon (after Alcester) then follow directions above

M5(N): Exit at Junction 9 and travel to Evesham then follow the directions above

M5(S): Exit at Junction 6 and take the A44 towards Evesham until you reach the A46 and signs to Bidford-on-Avon, then follow directions above


Join Us!

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Wild about the Wild Service Tree Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:51:22 +0000 The post Wild about the Wild Service Tree appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


wild service trees photo

Do you recognise this cream-coloured flower? It’s one you may have seen blooming on trees around this time of year…

Which trees? The HoEF tree experts are here to help you.

This delightful bud belongs to torminalis torminalis, also known as the Wild Service Tree or Chequers. Here at the Heart of England Forest, this tree is highly valued because of its scarcity in England; it is often confined to ancient woodland. The population of the Wild Service Tree has fluctuated over the years because it was frequently over-harvested for its use as timber.

Origins and population

The origins of the Wild Service Tree are hotly debated, but the first records of the Wild Service Tree seem to come from 1260, where two trees were referenced in a dictionary; they were being taken from Havering Park in Essex, to the Tower of London where they were to be made into crossbows for the King. The Wild Service Tree can still be found in this area.


The first few trees recorded had very interesting histories… In 1862 one of the only Wild Service Trees known of was burned down by a mad poacher.  In memory of this tree, an arborculturist, Robert Woodward raised another on the same spot where it was burned down in 1916. Keep an eye out for our report on the fascinating history of the Wild Service Tree… we may be posting about it soon!

The Wild Service Trees at the Heart of England Forest

Although the Wild Service Tree is rare here in England, Miles Barnes, a Wild Service Tree enthusiast, has reported that the Heart of England Forest is home to some of the most beautiful specimens in Europe—even over Normandy where the Wild Service Tree is quite common.

Why are our specimens so especially strong and well-formed?

We have a running theory at the Heart of England Forest; we suspect that there was a great decrease in the population of larger, mature trees about many decades ago. This would have given understorey-type trees its single condition for growth: space. Space allows the perfect environment for

  • root development, absorbing more water and nutrients
  • crown development, meaning the leaves (crowns) will be able to absorb more sunlight for photosynthesis.

These circumstances would have allowed the understorey trees to flourish. As such, our Field Maples, Holly, Wild Pear and Wild Service Trees are quite beautiful and in tip top shape!

Uses of The Wild Service Tree

The torminalis torminalis is definitely a tree to look out for, partially because of its beautiful buds and partially because it produces an edible fruit that tastes a lot like dates. The fruit must first rot a little bit to be edible. Although the fruit is highly astringent and can leave your mouth feeling dry, it is excellent in pies; see the recipe here

The berry’s astringency makes the fruit’s juices extremely versatile in its uses; it can be used on your skin or to treat a sore throat. With its versatile uses for timber, medicine and food, the Wild Service is definitely a tree to keep your eye on—it’s a hot commodity.


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The planting season is over, finally! Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:52:50 +0000 The post The planting season is over, finally! appeared first on The Heart of England Forest.


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Head forester Stephen Coffey reports on progress.

Wow, what a long planting season we’ve had. We started in the last week of November and finished in the third week of April – which meant we could plant over 140,000 trees and create a further 314 acres of new native broadleaved woodland.

That makes it one of our best years ever, beaten only by the record 325 acres planted in 2011.

Alongside our dedicated planting gangs, our volunteer planters made a significant contribution this year, and it was great to see some familiar faces on our corporate sponsor days from the likes of Dennis Publishing Ltd and Phoenix Group.

As well as new woodland creation, we have to look after our mature woodlands. To complement the hazel coppicing undertaken over the winter, we planted over 1,000 hazel saplings to thicken up the coppice areas. And, as part of our continued efforts to convert conifer plantations back to native broadleaves, we also replanted a clear fell (an area that had previously been cleared of trees) with over 2,000 native broadleaves.

As I write this, the newly planted saplings are all flourishing, and so far it looks as if it will be a good take. And, as you might expect, we’re already planning the next 300 acres for the coming planting season – and hoping we can get past the 325 marker… with your support I am sure we will!

Every day’s a school day… learn the life cycle of a woodland!


The fertilised embryo of a tree: it has a hard case for protection, but is still very vulnerable to animals and the elements light, warmth and moisture are crucial for germination once it’s been dispersed by wind, water, animals and people. First, the seed will grow a root to seek moisture and nutrients and then it will develop a shoot which will grow towards the light.


The first stage of growth is the most vulnerable stage, with threats from hungry animals and insects, and fire, flood and drought. The shoot hardens, changes colour and develops protective bark. It develops branches and leaves to absorb light. The roots stay mainly in upper soil to absorb most water and nutrients although one root will carry on down looking for anchorage as the seedling grows taller.


Either naturally set or newly planted trees generally over 50cm tall, and up to 5cm diameter. The trunk thickens and branches develop. A sapling is not mature enough to reproduce, and is vulnerable to the same threats as a seedling.


The woodland is more established and the tree canopies broaden and start to fill any available space – and compete with each other for sunlight. This means light at the forest floor is restricted, and natural thinning starts as less hardy saplings fail or are suppressed.


Each tree will grow as much as its environment permits. A tree is said to be mature once it can produce seed, so flowers develop, fruit forms and reproduction begins.

A mature woodland is one that has reached its full potential and is full of big tress that tower over us.


Trees well past maturity are said to be senescent and in decline. This is an important part of the life cycle of the forest, as the death of one tree will mean more light to the forest floor to germinate tree seeds that will eventually fill the available space in the woodland.

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