The Woodland Trust at 50: How a car nut with a yellow Ferrari helped save Britain’s trees

The Woodland Trust at 50: How a car nut with a yellow Ferrari helped save Britain’s trees

The Woodland Belief was arrange as a nature conservation charity, particularly involved with bushes. Clive Aslet visits his South Devon birthplace 50 years in the past and remembers its farsighted and selfless founder, Ken Wooden.

Leaf litter and pine needles type a deep, elastic mattress on the forest ground. Fallen branches and the stays of tree stumps, rotting within the floor, are as smooth as sponges. Few discover their solution to this mossy pocket of historic woodland on the sting of Dartmoor in Devon. The bushes are multi-stemmed, hole, crooked in form, their branches inexperienced and woolly with lichens.

Corridor Plantation on the Corridor Farm property, David Rickwood, web site supervisor for the Woodland Belief, advised me, has all of the traits of a temperate or Atlantic rainforest, a habitat fashioned by the fixed presence of moisture – on this case , coming from the ocean — and delicate temperatures: “It’s dwelling to a rarer ecosystem than the Amazon rainforest, though much less clearly threatened. »

A beech tree, formed like an octopus, crashed to the bottom, felled by the fungus of the plate-like assist which weakened its trunk. A limb nonetheless sprouts, for it clings stubbornly to life. It’s a unusual panorama, scalloped with the furry grey strands of Articulated usnea, much like the Spanish moss that hangs from stay oak bushes within the southern states of America (thought to resemble the beard of the Conquistadores), however which in Devon is understood, much less romantically, as string of sausages. No less than a dozen of Britain’s 17 species of bats stay right here, diving into the crevices of senescent bushes. Rotten Wooden is a Vacation Inn for invertebrates.

A redwood at Balmacaan Woods, Loch Ness. Credit score: Paul Glendell / Woodland Belief

Within the Center Ages, this space had 4 farms, the patterns of which might nonetheless be seen. The title “Plantation” suggests a more moderen origin and possibly dates from the time of the Napoleonic Wars, judging by the dry stone wall that surrounds the wooden, though early nineteenth century plantations might have coated pre-existing woods .

A pile of stones is believed to be the stays of a Georgian nation home that after belonged to Elizabeth Chudleigh, the bigamist Duchess of Kingston. My go to, nonetheless, is to recollect one other proprietor: Ken Watkins, universally often called KW, who based the Woodland Belief 50 years in the past in 1972.

Born in Bromley, Kent, KW had lived in Devon because the Nineteen Twenties. First an agricultural apprentice, he and his brother later purchased neighboring farms in Harford, slightly below the moor, which they labored collectively, earlier than founding Western Farm Equipment, a tractor gross sales enterprise. With World Battle II and the following intensification of agriculture, the enterprise did nicely; KW may indulge his love of racing vehicles.

Ken Watkins, founding father of the Woodland Belief. Credit score: Woodland Belief

However this shy and modest man, though cussed, was additionally aware of the harm that the appliance of business methods to agriculture inflicted on the countryside within the midst of which he lived. When the Devon Wildlife (then Naturalists) Belief was based in 1962, he served as Honorary Secretary. Nonetheless, the deal with estuaries and open land meant that, based on KW, his colleagues weren’t digging deep sufficient to purchase sufficient of the small woods, copses and copses that characterised the British panorama. Some had been uprooted, others had been replanted with fast-growing conifers. Driving a yellow Ferrari, KW noticed appropriate candidates for acquisition. When he and his brother offered their enterprise and went out of enterprise, he was in a position to create a company devoted to his beloved woods.

Half a century later, the Woodland Belief is taking care of over 1,000 woodlands throughout Britain, restoring depleted woodland habitats, campaigning for the woodlands to be protected (it at present has a petition on its web site for stronger authorized safety of previous bushes) and vegetation greater than 50 million bushes. Nonetheless, from a coverage of shopping for timber to guard them, the charity has discovered that sympathetic house owners underneath administration agreements can obtain outcomes on a bigger scale, by making certain that priceless funds go additional than shopping for alone would.

Credit score: Ben Lee / Woodland Belief

Historic bushes – outlined as over 400 years previous within the case of oaks – are a selected object of affection. With its comparatively sedentary historical past, Britain has numerous these arboreal, gouty, fats, hole, stag-headed Methuselahs; on the Continent, wandering armies discovered their hole trunks simple to fell for firewood. The belief has mapped these outstanding and susceptible life varieties wherever they’re discovered within the UK.

Nonetheless, not like Britain’s giant variety of historic bushes, the state of our tree cowl is deplorable by continental requirements: simply 13% of the landmass, in comparison with 33% in Germany. Nonetheless, the information will not be all unhealthy. In response to the Woodland Belief survey The State of UK Woods and Timber 2021, which was the primary such report, the quantity of forest in Britain is about double what it was 100 years in the past. One downside is that a lot of the new bushes should not native and the threats have multiplied – consider the excessive temperatures and drought this summer season, to not point out the tsunami of imported illness.

The woods are dwelling to all kinds of wildlife. Credit score: Woodland Belief

Irreplaceable historic forests have suffered notably, so the Woodland Belief is campaigning for them to be protected against growth and different threats, comparable to HS2. As soon as destroyed, the traditional forest can’t be recreated elsewhere, because of the complicated biodiversity that has constructed up over centuries. Fortuitously, nonetheless, it’s doable that previous woods which have been planted with unsuitable industrial species may be introduced again to a thriving state, with delicate administration.

At Corridor Plantation, Mr. Rickwood bends right down to seize the highest of a hemlock seedling, which is definitely pulled from the mulch in the midst of which it’s rising. Hemlock is especially unwelcome within the woods, being a vector of Phytophthora pluvialis, a type of phytophthora much more devastating than that which assaults larch. This seedling is a toddler of evergreens planted right here after World Battle II, as a part of the trouble to satisfy the nation’s strategic timber wants. Now conifers are seen as a conservation catastrophe that might crowd out native species.

A hedgehog within the woods of Sussex. Credit score: Alamy

It’s important to take them down, but it surely’s not as simple as you may suppose. Cleansing them would launch a myriad of seeds, able to germinate within the new obtainable mild. They’re subsequently felled in small teams and, as it’s not possible to drive a contemporary tractor over the previous bridge over the River Eden, which a warning proclaims to be 7 ft huge, a transportable sawmill is ready as much as mill the trunks. .

It is a additional acquire for conservation: the ensuing planks are used to plug drainage ditches dug within the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies to transform bogs to extra worthwhile makes use of – a futile train that was, furthermore, detrimental. to the setting, destroys uncommon habitat and releases carbon into the ambiance; the rewet bathroom varieties a carbon sink.

Fisher’s Corridor, a backyard constructing and folly in Hackfall Woods close to Masham in North Yorkshire. Credit score: Alamy

Half an hour’s drive south of Corridor Plantation are the 5 timber blocks that make up the Avon Valley Woods, close to Modbury in South Devon. Amongst them is Bedlime Wooden, the primary plot to be bought by the belief. Troublesome to entry, it’s left to itself, as KW wished, for the good thing about its fauna in addition to vegetation and bushes. The opposite woods had been laid out by the belief and related by paths, an method appreciated throughout confinement. The bushes are famend for his or her lengthy lifespan and won’t attain maturity for many years, so the Woodland Belief is nothing however continuity. In a altering world, it is a celebration of hope.

Woodland Belief membership prices from £4 per thirty days. To affix or vote in your favourite tree, go to

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