Each year England's Community Forests host a national conference to discuss the progress community forestry is making, identify issues and develop opportunities. Our 2017 conference will be held at the Birmingham Midland Institute on Thursday 23rd March.
We have lots to discuss: the loss of urban trees, addressing the need to reduce flood risk, health inequalities and adapt to climate change. Leaving Europe means that we are likely to have a very different system for forestry support: what might that look like? Our conference in 2017 focuses on how we can shape future policy for community forestry.
We have great speakers and the workshop will be lively as usual - maybe more so this year!
Once again, we are delighted that our conference chair will be Sir Harry Studholme, Forestry Commission Chairman.
Places are limited so please book early.Tickets are available at a cost of just under £25 (inc fees and VAT).
For further information and to book to attend please use this Eventbrite link. There is a small charge to help cover the costs of the event:
Colliers Moss North is a 55 hectare former colliery spoil tip that forms part of the wider network of green space known as Bold Forest Park. The site has an extensive network of paths, but many of these have become overgrown and therefore uninviting for visitors to the site. Work has been ongoing to open up these paths to encourage greater use of the site by local people.
Carl Smethurst from The Mersey Forest who is project managing the site said:
"Most of the vegetation that had to be removed was small trees such as willow, birch and alder that have naturally colonised the tip. Clearing these was an ideal job for volunteers with hand tools and has made a real improvement to the footpath in just one day. We are really grateful for the generosity of TEP for their time and effort – without volunteer input we just couldn't achieve what we want to on the site".
Principal Landscape Architect Volunteer Leader, Tracy Snell explains
"As a company TEP have implemented a CSR policy which aims to promote volunteering by staff for local community benefit, both related to what we do and for the community in general. In the past we have worked very closely with The Mersey Forest on various projects and we were delighted to be able to contribute to this community project in our local area. We had a great day, it was nice to get out of the office and contribute to such a worthy community project."
Funding from the WREN FCC Biodiversity Action Fund was used to buy tools and equipment for volunteer work on Colliers Moss, as part of a programme of improvements for wildlife and people.
Results from the first year of the programme show that participants have seen a marked improvement in both their mental wellbeing and their daily levels of physical activity. On average, participants saw an 8 point increase on the widely-recognised 'WEMWBS*' mental wellbeing scale – that's a significant positive change. Levels of moderate physical activity – for example washing windows, or bicycling/swimming at a regular pace – increased by a whopping 164%, with walking up 48% and vigorous activity up 8%.
Nature4Health is a three year project funded by The Big Lottery's Reaching
Communities Programme to tackle health inequalities in targeted communities across The Mersey Forest. The programme provides five different evidence-based activities, from group walking to mindfulness, all taking place in a green, therapeutic environment. Sessions are targeted at both adults and children and designed to be welcoming to complete beginners.
We've worked with 13 local partners across six local authorities to support 286 participants in year one of Nature4Health.
Paul Nolan, Director, The Mersey Forest, said:
"The first year results from Nature4Health are fantastic and underline the huge role that activities in green spaces can play in boosting health and wellbeing. Behind these results are some inspirational stories of how people's lives have changed for the better. We're aiming to work with the health sector to ensure more people can get access to this kind of natural health service in the future."
An influential publication from local environment partnership The Mersey Forest has been awarded the UNESCO UK Man and the Biosphere Urban Forum Award for Excellence.
The Mersey Forest Plan is our long term strategic vision for growing and developing local woodlands and green infrastructure, helping to make Merseyside and north Cheshire a beautiful place to live, work and play. Thanks to The Mersey Forest 9 million trees have been planted in the area since 1991, transforming many derelict industrial landscapes.
The award was given by a forum of specialists involved with the environment and nature conservation in urban areas. It praises the document for its design, for its emphasis on people and organisations working together, and for how it explains the benefits to the community.
Richard Scott, Chair of the UNESCO UK Man and the Biosphere Urban Forum, gave the award to the Mersey Forest Steering Group, made up of representatives of local authorities in the area.
Richard Scott commented:
"The plan is an excellent example of a regional document aimed at local communities. It's well put together, well designed and a pleasure to read and look at"
Paul Nolan, Director, The Mersey Forest, said:
"We're overjoyed to receive this unexpected accolade for The Mersey Forest Plan. Our plan sets out a clear vision for a greener Merseyside and north Cheshire, and it's one that's inspired many local people and organisations. We hope this award will inspire more people to get involved and help make the plan into reality."
The forum also praised the Plan for how it has been adopted as a material consideration in local planning and supports the development control process. It's also recognised as a good example of how local authorities can work together to improve the landscapes and environments that cross boundaries.
The Plan includes a section that explains where new trees and woodlands may be planted across Merseyside and north Cheshire and sets out targets for tree coverage.
Fungi don't possess chlorophyll so unlike green plants they can't produce their own food. Instead they secrete enzymes which liquify their food source and in the process cause rot and decay. In woodlands they feed mainly on leaves and wood but that is not all. And some of what is going on is really unpleasant!
It's not easy to find but occasionally you can come across a small orange club fungus with a pitted surface up to 5cm high (above). If you were to carefully dig down under the fungus you would find it is attached to the pupa or larva of a butterfly or moth.
The insect has been attacked by the fungus which mummifies it, keeping it alive long enough to feed on its body. Once the fungus has built up sufficient energy it bursts out of the insect's body to produce the club which will generate more spores. The Scarlet Caterpillar Fungus is like something out of science fiction except it's for real and living somewhere near you!
Around the base of old and rotting tree stumps you may come across groups of black and contorted small stumpy fungi (above and top). These are Dead Man's Fingers. It's as if rotting hands are trying to escape from the soil where they have been buried.
Perhaps nearby you'll find a collection of mournful Weeping Widows (above). These are toadstools with dark brown gills. Black watery droplets collect on the gills like tears.
Dead wood and twigs are usually good hunting grounds for fungi. Some of these are jelly like with lots of folds and contortions bursting out of the wood. A bright yellow one is the Yellow Brain Fungus and a darker black species is Black Witches Butter (both above).
Sometimes people report strange pale green-blue glowing lights in the woods. A cold, supernatural fire - thought to be ghosts or faeries, and often called 'foxfire'. In reality it's down to a phenomenon where some fungi glow in the dark.
The most frequent reports of glowing wood relate to honey fungus. It seems that the fungal light results when a chemical rich in phosphorus combines with oxygen in the presence of an enzyme.
The kingdom of the fungi contains all sorts of fascinating things. Take a wander through your local woodland and check them out - if you dare...