2017 was truly a bumper year for the Heart of England Forest, borne out by the recently compiled annual Impact Report. Gauging the progress towards achieving its mission to plant 30,000 acres of connected native woodland in the central Midlands, the report shows we continue to take giant forward strides.
More trees, more impact
Following on from what was already a great year in 2016, 2017 superseded the previous one in many ways, but perhaps the most extraordinary figure was the one behind the primary reason the charity exists – to plant trees. While 2016 saw over 160,000 trees planted over 158 acres, 2017 topped that total by some margin, with 210,000 trees planted over 342 acres – the equivalent of 227 football pitches! This remarkable achievement, a joint effort between staff, volunteers and our corporate partners, means that since its inception to the end of 2017, the Heart of England Forest has boosted native tree growth in the UK by an amazing 1,655,385 trees across 3,575 acres – and the work continues apace.
Among the 27 native tree and shrub species planted were English and sessile oak, field maple, hazel, lime, hornbeam and birch. and the outstanding year of planting means that the Heart of England Forest is now 12% of the way towards its 30,000 acre target.
Wonderful for wildlife
The foundations laid for wildlife have continued to pay dividends. In 2016, we protected 600 acres of mature and ancient woodland, coppiced hazel to encourage dormice in Alne Wood, installed new barn owl boxes and saw a giant leap in the number of chicks produced by our birds of prey. In 2017 the figures continued on an upward trajectory, with 92 chicks being recorded, well up on the figure of 62 in the previous year.
With the Heart of England Forest appointing a dedicated Biodiversity Manager (Sophie Leszczynska) in 2017, our wildlife has another advocate championing their cause. Achievements included the designation of Coughton Park as a Local Wildlife Site and the training up of 20 volunteers to undertake wildlife surveys, allowing us to continuously monitor the health of the myriad of species in the Forest.
Butterfly survey training
A growing attraction
Awareness of the Heart of England Forest is growing both locally and nationally, with an increasing army of social media users helping to spread the word, while a feature on the BBC’s ever popular Countryfile series was a huge boost. As the Forest gains more widespread recognition, more and more people are discovering its delights. Visitor numbers continued to rise in 2017, with 4,462 people attending organised walks and events, 19 formal groups and corporate partners using the Forest, while our wonderful volunteers notched up a staggering 6,731 hours on a variety of tasks throughout the Forest!
Corporate volunteers planting trees at Sheriffs Lench
An eye on the future
Education and skill-sharing continues to play an important role in the Forest as we look to the future. In all, 432 people were engaged in educational activities and 210 enthusiastic children attended a schools planting day. A forestry internship programme was also launched, allowing participants to learn practical forestry skills and management while also bringing their own fresh ideas to the team.
A firm footing
With three new trustees having been recruited in 2017, confidence in the future is high at the Heart of England Forest. CEO Beth Brook is delighted with the progress made, saying, “With a team of dedicated and hardworking staff and volunteers, and the support of our Friends of the Forest and corporate sponsors, we have seen great strides being made to achieve our vision of creating England’s largest new native broadleaf forest. The opportunities for people and wildlife in the Forest continue to grow as the Forest expands and provides a place for all of us to enjoy the natural world.”