Since it started in 2010, MOREwoods has seen the creation of more than 1,500 hectares of woodland and the planting of more than two million trees across the UK.
When Chris and Maria Musgrove decided to plant 1,000 saplings on four acres of land they purchased in Truro in 2013, friends thought they were mad. But now their fledgling woodland has been crowned the best in the UK by the Woodland Trust.
We ran a competition for anyone who had created woodland under our MOREwoods initiative and invited BBC Countryfile Diaries presenter, Paul Martin to join our Chief Executive, Beccy Speight and myself to decide the winner.
Together, we selected the Musgroves after hearing how they had come together as a family to create a lasting legacy, shunning more conventional methods of land use.
"Friends said we could rent the land out for grazing or apply for planning permission to develop it but what we have created far outweighs anything financial. We have a legacy to pass on to our children because they are our future and we need to educate them to preserve our natural environment.
"Our wood has become much more to our family than we ever thought it would. Its management has produced unexpected 'family time' allowing us and our daughters to develop a strong bond with nature. Just four years on and a wide range of wildlife has moved in and we’ve got two environmental warriors in the making.”
Paul Martin, who planted more than 500 trees on his Wiltshire smallholding after signing up to the MOREwoods scheme himself, said:
“The family really embraced the idea of creating woodland that would benefit future generations and it’s brought them together. It’s a wonderful thing. If they can do it on this small scale, anyone can.
“We need to nurture that next generation and encourage a love of nature because the next generation of trees won’t survive otherwise, and we can’t survive without trees. What the Musgroves have done is beautiful and we were delighted to proclaim their wood our winner.”
The family will receive a bench for their wood and a family photoshoot.
Ian’s Wood was planted last November at the family farm in West Haddon, Northamptonshire, after Ian died unexpectedly in September, aged 51.
Paul Martin, whose own tree-planting has featured on the seasonal Countryfile spin-off, said:
“Angela’s is a beautiful human story. The wood is her balm. We loved the fact that the thought of a woodland was a real inspiration to her to carry on, and that it brought family and community together.”
Angela, who will receive a wooden plaque, said:
“After Ian died, keeping busy was my only salvation so I decided that I would carry on with the grant and ordered the 700 trees and plant them as a lasting tribute. It was quite a daunting task for me and my three children, but I couldn’t believe it when all our friends and family and local young farmers offered to help – I was so touched.
“Ian’s parents were there to make teas and provide food and by 1pm the task was done – it looked fantastic and Ian would have been so chuffed.
“So despite going to hell and back over the last few months we have managed to bring a group of people together of all ages to plant a lasting tribute to Ian – one that will not only add to the countryside but one which will enhance and bring an even wider diversity of flora and fauna to the area.
Paul Martin said:
“We felt Robin’s entry really captured his passion for what he has created, and felt his scheme totally embraced the ethos of MOREwoods.”
Robin, who will also receive a wooden plaque, said:
"Just over three years ago, I could hold an entire forest in my hands. The Woodland Trust had sent me bundles of brown twigs, tiny and flimsy looking. In a couple of weeks, the uniform green sheep pasture was studded with hundreds of plastic tubes. I could already see the woodland. Each cylinder was replaced in my mind with a fully grown tree.
“Weeks went by and the twigs did nothing until one day a minute speck of green started to peek out from under the bark. Tiny, fresh, jewel like leaves started bursting out from what I'd begun to assume were just dead sticks that myself, family and friends had spent countless hours putting in the ground."
Who supports MOREwoods?
MOREwoods is supported by Dorset Cereals. As well as helping to create woodland across the UK, bringing huge benefits to people and wildlife, the company has also planted 1,000 trees close to its headquarters in Poundbury, Dorset, with 100 of its staff.
Commercial gas supplier CNG also supports the MOREwoods project. It has funded trees on the land of a North Yorkshire landowner which commemorated the lives of those who lived and served in the First World War from the area. CNG also funds the Woodland Trust’s ancient woodland restoration.
Check back next week, when Paul Martin will be guest blogging about his experience as a MOREwoods awards judge.