Heart of England Forest volunteer Tony Naylor and Tane Mahuta – ‘Lord of the Forest’

Girth 13.77m (45.2ft)

Trunk height 17.68m (58.0ft)

Total height 51.2m (168ft)


One consequence of working in the Heart of England Forest is an enduring fasc58.0ftination with trees! When Heart of England Forest volunteer Tony Naylor found himself 11,000 miles away from England’s green and pleasant woodlands in beautiful New Zealand, he visited a reserve which protects some of the oldest and largest trees in the world. Here is his story……



“Earlier this year my wife, Julie, and I travelled to New Zealand to spend time with one of our sons, who lives there. While most of the trip was spent in the city and suburbs of Auckland on the North Island, we also visited the Waipoua Kauri Forest Reserve, which is under the protection of the New Zealand Department of Conservation. The forest contains giant kauri trees, a type of pine that once grew all over the North Island, which rank alongside the sequoias of California as some of the largest trees in existence.”

An endangered species

Tony discovered that the original Maori settlers used the kauri timber for boat building, carving and house building, while the gum was used as a fire starter or for chewing. The arrival of European settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries saw the mass destruction of these magnificent forests – sailors used the wood in shipbuilding while other settlers used the sawn timber for buildings and the gum for varnishes. Kauri are now restricted mainly to the Waipoua Forest Reserve, which was established in 1952, although before this they were largely saved from logging operations due to the remoteness of the reserve. The trees are shrouded in Maori myth, and estimates of their ages show them to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old!

‘A breathtaking sight’

The Waipoua Forest Reserve is home to a number of other trees and there is a diverse understory of flora and fauna. There is however a serious and, currently, enduring threat from kauri dieback which means that access to the forest is restricted and controlled. Kauri dieback is a fungus-like disease that infects Kauri roots and leads to the tree dying. There are cleaning stations on all major tracks to remove soil and vegetation from footwear by way of scrubbing then disinfecting to ensure that no bacteria are inadvertently transported into the forest. Access to the foot of the trees is also restricted and many of the walkways are on raised decking which protects the kauri roots.

The vast scale of the trees had a profound effect on Tony. “Walking through a tract of the forest, in an ancient world of towering trees, from medium-sized kauris to mixed podocarps and giant tree ferns, to get to the viewing platforms that surround the trees and protect their roots, was a fantastic experience. The sheer bulk of these giants is breathtaking – I looked on in awe and wonder”, he says.


Te Matua Ngahere – ‘Father of the Forest’

Girth 16.41m (53.8ft)

Trunk height 10.21m (33.5ft)

Total height 29.9m (98ft)

This tree suffered severe damage in July 2007 when storm winds took out the central leader and several branches.



Volunteers – an invaluable worldwide asset

As one of our dedicated band of volunteers, it was only natural that Tony would be keen to find out a little more about how similar recruits are involved in the conservation of this haven for threatened native trees. His enquiries show that, wherever in the world you go, the work of volunteers is invaluable in ensuring the continued success of such projects. He continues:

“A Department of Conservation ranger told me that there is an active and thriving volunteer community appropriate for people who have a range of fitness levels although, generally speaking, no special skills are required. Work mainly involves site maintenance and painting, fencing, weeding and planting, including on beaches. There are even trips available to nearby islands, for up to ten days at a time, to carry out weeding and planting work – available for the very fit (or foolhardy!). There is a monthly educational component, too, which could be a talk or guided walk. I asked him about funding and he said it mainly came from central government, but other partners include the very significant Maori conservation groups, councils, community groups and businesses.”

Clearly inspired by his experience in the forests of New Zealand, Tony concludes “the wonderful woodlands that we are creating in the Heart of England Forest are different from the wild, steep and spectacular forest of Waipoua, but ours are just as special with a beauty that grows and spreads year on year. We spend a great deal of time creating our Forest, at Waipoua they spend a great deal of time protecting and maintaining theirs. Perhaps in generations to come our volunteers will be doing just that too!”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Heart of England Forest then email: volunteer@hoef.co.uk. We would love to hear from you.

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