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Celebrating our volunteer stars

Our annual celebration event was held on 2 December at Belton Woods Hotel in Grantham. A drinks reception was followed by lunch for 120 people, including nominated volunteers and their guests. Hosted by the BBC’s Adam Shaw, our chair of trustees Baroness Barbara Young presented the awards and delivered a key note speech revealing some of the plans ahead for volunteering at the Woodland Trust in 2018.

The winners from the 2017 Volunteer Awards (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
The winners from the 2017 Volunteer Awards (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Acorn Award winner, Andrew Steele (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Acorn Award winner, Andrew Steele (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Acorn Award

This award is for volunteers who inspire other volunteers

Winner - Andrew Steele

Andrew walks round a fixed route at Heartwood, taking about 90 minutes, every week from April to the end of September and identifies and counts every butterfly he sees. He has been doing this since 2010, so this is his eighth year and he now has a fantastic record of our butterflies at Heartwood Forest and how the numbers have increased. He has identified 27 species, and shown that in the first six years butterfly numbers increased three-fold (a small decrease in 2016 was a nationwide effect of the wet weather). He also takes superb photos of the butterflies, birds and other insects and these have been used in the wildlife zone at Heartwood Forest Summer Festival. 

His results have been included in two publications in the Herts Naturalist, the annual publication of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society. I would be surprised if there is any better, hard evidence of the benefits that the Woodland Trust brings to the English countryside. Andrew also runs regular – and very popular – guided walks at Heartwood. His knowledge of his subjects is vast, and he is a huge inspiration to all those of us who have met him or joined him on one of his walks. His hard work, dedication, talent and effort are an inspiration to us all.

Bluebell award winner, David Griffith  (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Bluebell award winner, David Griffith (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Bluebell Award

This award is for those individual volunteers who stand out by working in our woodlands.

Winner - David Griffith

David truly is a woodland guardian. David helps us protect woods and trees as a recorder for the Ancient Tree Inventory and through his main role as an Observatree volunteer.

David has been volunteering as a tree health surveyor since the Observatree project started in spring 2014 and surveys woods and trees for signs of pests and disease. Over the past six months, David has been a man on a mission to fill in some of the blank squares on the Chalara map in West Wales where the disease hasn’t yet been reported. David has identified ash trees infected with ash dieback in over 30 new 10km grid squares, completed more than 70 Tree Alert reports and logged nearly 400 volunteer hours. This really goes above and beyond what we expect from our surveyors, and this has been an inspiration to other volunteers within the network. In fact, David has offered to mentor another volunteer who is newer to the role and would like some on-the-ground support in carrying out tree health surveys.

David is well respected by the tree health teams at the Forestry Commission and Natural Resources, so much so that he is trusted to take samples of diseased materials during his initial surveys. This is not a common occurrence because members of the public are not usually encouraged to take samples. David is an exceptional citizen scientist, combining knowledge and enthusiasm to carry out his role in generating useful tree health data.

Nature's Calendar volunteers accept the Hawthorn Award (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Nature's Calendar volunteers accept the Hawthorn Award (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Hawthorn Award

This award celebrates a national network of volunteers that have made a significant contribution to the work of the Woodland Trust or one of our partner organisations

Winner - Nature’s Calendar network

Nature’s Calendar is the Trust’s first, and largest, citizen science network, which began in 2000. Around 4,500 volunteers record seasonal change e.g. the date oak trees first leaf in their area or when the swallows return each year.

The science of phenology was once the personal passion of Victorian naturalists. These historic records, together with those collected in the present day now provide crucial evidence of how wildlife is shifting its seasonal timings as a response to climate change.

We now have nearly 17 years’ worth of phenology data for 70 different species and events ranging from trees and shrubs to insects and birds and around 2.7 million records in our database. 

This information is highly valued by scientists around the world to show response of species to climate change. The data is regularly used by researchers to produce peer-reviewed papers. A recent success was our data being used in a paper to Nature, the world’s most prestigious scientific journal. The data is also used annually by DEFRA as part of its ‘biodiversity indicators’ report.

Nature’s Calendar attracts those who want to make ‘one off’ records but also our incredible expert recorders, some of whom have been sending us hundreds of records for over a decade and whose individual records now form powerful datasets in their own right.

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Hazel Award winner, Andy Black  (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Hazel Award winner, Andy Black (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Hazel Award

This award recognises the contribution of a new volunteer that has joined the organisation within the last 12 months and made a significant impact.

Winner - Andy Black

Andy Black was part of a residents’ association who got in touch with us in October 2016 because of concern about the management and maintenance of Eliburn, a local wood.

It was clear Andy had a passion for trees and a genuine interest in who the Woodland Trust is, locally and nationally. He was eager to add value and help out not just at Eliburn but in woods across Livingston. Livingston’s 13 woods regularly suffer littering, fly tipping and anti-social behaviour.

Andy is volunteer warden to 13 woods - no easy task at all. He is extremely dedicated and enthusiastic, spending 10-15 hours a week monitoring the woods.

Andy produces electronic reports on the condition of each individual woodland and reads weekly planning applications advertised in the local council area which helps to keep an eye on new development proposals.

Having only taken over the patch in January 2016, Andy’s support from a local perspective is key. As a volunteer he has impacted greatly on helping to achieve improved urban woodlands for the local people of Livingston.

Juniper Award winner, Suzie Harvey  (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Juniper Award winner, Suzie Harvey (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Juniper Award

This award recognises those volunteers that provide their voice or time to protect or raise awareness of woods and trees.

Winner - Suzie Harvey

Suzie originally signed up in November 2016 as a social media story gathering volunteer for the Tree Charter. She has been the most active of these volunteers.

She set up a Twitter account, Tree Stories @SaveUKTrees and has posted several times a week. Her tweets have helped raise awareness of the campaign and connect people and trees using the power of social media. This resulted in many people adding their tree stories to the website.

When we finished gathering stories at the end of February 2017, Suzie moved role to become a Charter social media champion, helping us to collect signatures of support for the 10 Principles of the Tree Charter. She regularly shares blogs online and within her networks, which is helping us to achieve our signature gathering aims. Whereas other social media volunteers have dropped off because of the nature of the role, Suzie has been a constant source of ideas and action. We couldn't ask for a more efficient and willing volunteer.

Not only is she doing all of this work for the Tree Charter, she has also signed up to become a super campaigner.

Suzie’s dedication to fitting her volunteering roles around a full time job with a family demonstrates a real commitment to helping us connect people with woods and trees.

Oak Award winner, Hilary Hinks  (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Oak Award winner, Hilary Hinks (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Oak Award

This award recognises the volunteer roles within the office and home environments and the value they contribute.

Winner - Hilary Hinks

Hilary has been an outstanding volunteer for the Ancient Woodland Restoration project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Hilary has worn many guises, from report writing for landowners, to attending and presenting at two project conferences and at the Woodland Trust staff conference. Hilary’s heritage research for ancient woodland owners in the Weald area has been exemplary: she has uncovered numerous fascinating stories about the woodlands and the shipbuilding industry within the Weald.

Without Hilary, stories of woodsmen and women would have been lost forever, their tales of local life unheard and the importance of woodlands to their way of life unrecognised. She has been a fabulous example of how research and an enquiring mind can really bring a subject to life.

The Sapling Award being accepted on Charlotte's behalf  (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
The Sapling Award being accepted on Charlotte's behalf (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Sapling Award

This award is for a pupil at a school who has shown an outstanding contribution to engaging their school and wider school community with woods and trees.

Winner - Charlotte O'Donnell

Charlotte attends Percy Main Primary School in North Shields, Tyne and Wear. She has continually demonstrated her natural ability to bond with nature and during her time in Year 2 has provided lots of examples and experiences of how she uses the natural learning environment to develop her own knowledge and understanding of woodlands and their ecosystems. Charlotte often spends playtimes and lunchtimes using Nature Detectives resources with her friends.

She is also a member of the schools newly formed team of news reporters who are at present working on the first edition of their Nature newspaper. Charlotte and her dad spend time together in the garden at home and this shared time has also inspired her knowledge of the rich biodiversity of woodland plants.

Charlotte was instrumental in the school finally being awarded the Woodland Trust’s platinum Green Tree Schools Award.

Her passion to support woodland continues to grow and we could not think of any child more deserving of the Sapling Award.

The Willow Award

This award is for woodland groups which have achieved exceptional results through working together or in partnership with other groups.

Winner - Bishop's Knoll Wood volunteers

Bishop’s Knoll Wood has a remarkable and interesting history with First World War connections. The Bishop’s Knoll Wood volunteers have done a tremendous amount of work connecting local people and beyond to the wood and its history.

They were successful in raising funds from Australia to install an impressive plaque commemorating the part the area played in supporting the war’s casualties. The plaque was unveiled by the High Sheriff of Bristol in 2016.

Work parties are regular and have done an extensive amount of work to reveal the beauty and history of the wood and make it accessible for the local community.

Guided walks and community talks along with regular press articles and newsletters, have further raised the wood’s profile and helped people discover its history.

The Bishop's Knoll Wood volunteers won the Willow Award (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
The Bishop's Knoll Wood volunteers won the Willow Award (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Chairman's Award winner, Brian Palmer (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Chairman's Award winner, Brian Palmer (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Chairman’s Award

Winner - Brian Palmer

Brian Palmer has been volunteering for many years and commits a huge amount of time through various roles. Brian is a speaker on the ancient woodland project, a seed collection champion, a member of the Wales Advisory Group, an event helper and a water sampler at Cwm Mynach, regularly following a complex protocol as part of a long term monitoring project. Brian gives measured and valuable feedback and is an asset to our Wales Advisory Group. He has a fantastic ability to join up his various roles to deliver more and recently turned his seed collection efforts into a volunteer work party that brought together third party groups and other volunteers from across Wales. Brian has even raised woodland issues with his MP and also facilitated a meeting with him at our newest site in the region, which has led to us making many useful contacts locally.

Volunteer manager winner, Louise Taylor (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)
Volunteer manager winner, Louise Taylor (Photo: Judith Parry/WTML)

Volunteer manager

Winner – Louise Taylor

Nominated by volunteer Sue Quick

Louise’s commitment to the job is impressive, which is particularly difficult as she has to cover the whole of the UK where we have promised to provide seeds. She has continually encouraged and supported her team, going out with equipment and writing informative newsletters to keep volunteers on track. She shows a great sense of commitment to her work and enjoys sharing her sense of humour about how things are going. 

She is knowledgeable about tree species and timing of seed production and has encouraged the team to expand by recruiting and training new volunteers in various areas. Louise gives this role a sense of personal commitment. She feels like a long-time friend even though I’ve only met her once. 

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