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Community Woodland Trust – One Key Aim

21st January 2024 @ 6:06am – by Charles Bradley
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If you look at our original Trust deed, you will find that our purpose is

"To conserve, restore and re-establishing native trees, plants and all types of wildlife by provision of a Community Woodland area in Tarvin for the benefit of the public at large and with the view to improving the quality of life."

To achieve that involves us in owning, maintaining and developing that area of land that is Tarvin Community Woodland and is known as "Grogan's Walk" or the "Woodland Walk". The land is occupied by a great many varieties of trees, bushes, wild flowers, grasses, ferns, mosses, etc, not to mention all the animals and birds that visit it or call it home. So, the woodland that we call "ours" is not just an area of featureless earth; it is crammed full of a huge variety of living things – on top of which we must add all of the people (and their dogs) that pass through each week. A lot of our "management" is concerned with trying to ensure that people and canines are able happily to use the woodland without any detriment to all the other trees, plants and creatures that it contains.

Why should all the people who use the woodland respect the needs of things like the plants and creatures that might be considered as, at best, irrelevances? Many people DO have that appreciation of the natural world around them, but some do not. The Trustees can exhort folk to care for the flora and fauna of our woodland, but mere exhortation isn't going to achieve a great deal – and we certainly cannot order people to do certain things and not others, because Trustees have no right to order anyone to do anything. Our only hope is to try to get them to appreciate the value of all the different living things in the woodland. As I said, many people do have that appreciation but, for the ones who haven't, we must do our best to educate them. The Trust has always taken its' educational responsibilities very seriously and considers the woodland to be a means by which all of its' users can be informed about our native fauna and flora – and will come to have a greater appreciation of its range and importance. It is also true that knowing a bit more about the things you see while on a walk will make that walk a good deal more interesting.

We have been attempting to do this in a variety of ways:-

1. We have a large number of tree identifier posts, situated next to good examples of many of our different trees. Together with a picture, they give pointers as to how the tree can be identified, so that folk who read them and take notice will soon be able to tell the difference between oak trees and ash trees (easy), birches and alders (a bit harder) and Norway Maples and Field Maples (trickier). These identifier posts tend to stay in position permanently.

2. There are also a great many information boards that are moved around and change as different trees, bushes and wildflowers come into season, or when there is evidence of the activity of one of the birds or animals that live in the woodland. These boards are transferred regularly (with appropriate change of sheet displayed), so that they do not become "just a part of the scenery" that may get ignored.

3. The three large notice boards in each of the three sections of the woodland have displays of photographs of the flowers and other things of interest which can be seen at present, and which should be looked out for. Obviously, these are changed whenever the things being shown in the photos cease to be visible.

4. There are two Information Boards (provided by the George Heath Foundation) – one at Broomheath Lane and the other at Hockenhull Lane – which briefly set out the history of the woodland and outline the plans for its future development.

5. Bug Hotels have been built (and are occasionally maintained) by Tarvin Cubs. These provide a regular topic of conversation (as well as safe refuge for a great many mini-beasts.)

6. We publish monthly articles on the woodland and the activities of the Trust in the Parish Magazine, 'Grapevine'.

7. At irregular intervals, we also publish articles on the trees, shrubs, wild flowers, birds and animals in the woodland on 'TarvinOnLine'.

8. Trustees work with the staff of Tarvin School to encourage an understanding and appreciation of the importance of the natural environment as exemplified by the Woodland. Our thought is that, if we are able to influence young people, they will carry their acquired understanding with them into adulthood. We do this in two ways:-

a. The children of Key Stage 1 go out into the woodland with their teachers and the Trustees four times a year, so that they can see how the woodland changes as the year moves through the four seasons. From this, we hope to develop an appreciation of how the plants (and the animals that feed on them) cope with the alteration in temperatures and light levels that occur as each year proceeds through all of its seasons.

b. The Trust has set up the "Jim Grogan Countryside and Wildlife Award", in memory of our founder. This award is presented annually to the pupil of Tarvin Primary School who is considered by the teachers of the school to have the greatest breadth of knowledge and the best understanding of the animals and plants that make up the immediate environment of Tarvin School and Tarvin Village. Our hope is that the children will be encouraged to develop an appreciation of the extent and importance of all of the living things, both animal and plant, with which they share their homes, school, village, countryside and woodland.

Attempting to influence people and their behaviour is a very uncertain process and we have little certainty that our tactics are proving effective, especially since a general perception is that Tarvin is largely populated by considerate and responsible people. However, we keep a record of all of the complaints and grumbles that we receive each year and we are able to take some encouragement from the fact that, in 2023, there were only 4 complaints and that they do not involve the relationship between the users of the woodland and the plants and animals for which the woodland is home. Instead, they concern the relationships of the users of the woodland with each other. They involved someone cycling recklessly through the woodland, the problems produced by inconsiderate parking at the Broomheath Lane gateway, owners of 'aggressive' dogs exercising insufficient control over them and someone walking several dogs having to endure personal abuse from some other woodland users. All of these are events that we could wish had not happened, but they are concerned with people and their relationships with each other (and their dogs), not the respect which is due to nature and the environment (which is our concern).

So, are our attempts at informing and educating the woodland users paying off? We cannot know, but we do hope so. We are also encouraged by the reports that we receive from the inspectors who visit our woodland for the 'Green Flag Award' all of which endorse our belief that, in what we are trying to do, we are going in the right direction. Little bit by little bit, we'll keep trying. And, as the schoolboy joke says,

"How do you eat an elephant?"
"One bit at a time".

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