2016 has been a remarkable year for the Heart of England Forest, with a number of standout moments that will define it for anyone who has supported or been involved in the project. The man charged with ensuring our ambitious tree planting programme stays on track is Head Forester Stephen Coffey. Here he recalls five moments that will linger long in his memory…
- “Without land we can’t plant trees, so the purchase of almost 800 acres in recent months will allow us to push ahead. The 340 acres at Coughton Fields Farm and 430 acres at Sheriff’s Lench offer two diverse landscapes and enormous possibilities for both expansion of the Heart of England Forest and conserving and encouraging wildlife.
- A major highlight for me has been working with our superb group of volunteers. For the first time they have taken full responsibility for both sowing and maintaining the saplings in our tree nursery and they have done us proud. Their professionalism and passion for the work has been a joy to see. I thank them all heartily.
- I’m looking forward to seeing the results of our collaboration with the Warwick Natural History Society to create a dedicated area near our Dorsington HQ where wildlife takes priority. We hope that this will, in turn, become an invaluable educational resource.
- We’ve seen a marked increase in public visits to the forest which has been incredibly gratifying and is thanks in no small part to the organisational abilities of our events team. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting the public on our guided woodland walks, and the wonderful open days at the Garden of Heroes and Villains have opened the door to an influx of new friends of the forest and volunteers. I can’t wait for more of the same next year!
- Inevitably there have been some setbacks, too. We have been powerless to arrest the inexorable march of Ash Dieback and the loss of the affected trees will just have to be something we will make up in due course. On a positive note, there will be a number of ash trees whose genetic constitution means that they will remain unaffected by the disease and we will look to propagate resistant trees from them in the future.”
So, 2016 has been a year where the highs have easily outweighed the lows and in which the Heart of England Forest has continued to grow apace. A vintage year indeed – roll on 2017!