2018 has been a big year for trees and woods. We’ve faced some challenges, but we’ve had plenty to celebrate too, including the announcement of a new Northern Forest, and a big change in England’s planning legislation. Your support in these achievements has been vital. Whether you’ve joined a campaign, planted a tree, donated to an appeal or volunteered your time, you have made a difference and we’re so grateful for your support.
You can watch our animation and enjoy some of this year’s biggest stories. As the 2018 adventure draws to a close, here are some of the highlights.
January: Northern Forest to breathe new life into nature
Announced at the beginning of the year, an astonishing 50 million trees will be planted from Liverpool to Hull to create a new Northern Forest.
We’re working with The Mersey Forest, City of Trees, White Rose Forest, HEYwoods and the Community Forest Trust on this ambitious endeavour, which has received an amazing £5.7m kickstart from Defra.
The project spans the North of England, where woodland cover is only 7.6%, much lower than the England average of 10%. 13 million people already live here and lots more development is planned, which presents a challenge. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to improve the environment.
The vision is a new Northern Forest that will transform the lives of people and wildlife and become a legacy for future generations. We want to see habitats thrive, planting rates soar, trees and woodland valued and appreciated by all, and ancient woodland better protected.
February and March: viewers tune into Loch Arkaig’s ospreycam
In icy February temperatures and blustery winds, we set about preparing the 2018 ospreycam in Loch Arkaig. At the top of a 70ft Scots pine tree, last year’s osprey nest was checked over and tidied up and the camera secured and connected in readiness for the new osprey season.
In March, the camera was switched on and viewers tuned in around the world. We were all delighted to see last year’s pair, Louis and Aila return - they successfully raised their first chick on the nest in 2017. We all watched with bated breath as they laid three more eggs this spring. But tragedy struck when, a few weeks later, a pine marten crept into the nest in the middle of the night and stole the eggs. It was too late in the season for Louis and Aila to try again, so we’ve all got our fingers crossed for their return in 2019.
See the behind the scenes story of how the ospreycam was set up. The camera is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Thanks to our generous members, we’ve built two new nest platforms in the area and we have plans for others to give more of these beautiful birds a helping hand. Thank you for making that possible.
April: boosting planting numbers
Through many events and projects, you’ve planted hundreds of thousands of trees across the UK this year. 74,000 of them were in support of The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC), a network of global forest conservation initiatives to mark Her Majesty's lifetime of service to the Commonwealth.
50,000 trees were claimed in a giveaway made possible by a partnership between the Woodland Trust, Sainsbury’s and ITV. Supporting the landmark documentary, The Queen's Green Planet, thousands of applicants claimed the first batch of trees in a record 15 minutes! More than 500 MPs planted trees in their constituencies thanks to the initiative too.
Another 24,000 trees were given away to Londoners later this year to help make their city greener, cleaner and more beautiful. In partnership with the Mayor of London, Sainsbury’s and in support of the QCC, the campaign encouraged people to join London’s biggest ever planting weekend on 1 and 2 December.
May: the Green Tree Schools Award is ten years old
We celebrated two fantastic milestones for the Green Tree Schools Award this year. 2018 marked the tenth anniversary of the project, and the 10,000th school signed up this year! That’s thousands of children learning about and being inspired by our trees, woods and wildlife. It’s amazing to see so many schools involved.
We also introduced the Green Tree Schools Award mascot, Keith the Leaf, who met lots of lovely visitors at events throughout the year.
June: volunteers shine as fire devastates Smithills
We faced one of our largest ever incidents this summer. The Winter Hill fire engulfed a third of our largest estate in England and part of the new Northern Forest, Smithills. The fire ignited on 28 June and quickly spread – burning across our land for 41 devastating days. Precious wildlife was wiped out, 9km of fence incinerated, 2000 new saplings destroyed and countless other trees and habitats damaged.
We worked closely with emergency services to tackle the blaze and were overwhelmed by the local volunteers who stepped in to help too. They went above and beyond to stop the blaze spreading further by monitoring road closures and joining fire watches.
Smithills’ road to recovery will be a long one, but we’re committed to the estate’s restoration and long term care – especially as Smithills is part of the new Northern Forest. We’re enormously grateful to everyone who helped this summer, and those that continue to contribute in different ways to the future of this special site.
July: celebrating greater protection for ancient woods and trees
One of our biggest successes in 2018 has to be the revised National Planning Policy Framework.
Thousands of you joined our campaign to improve protection for ancient woods and trees and we were thrilled when the Government published the revised policy in July.
It places the protection of ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees in England on a par with the best of our built heritage for the first time.
This is a huge step forward for the protection of our natural heritage - something that we’ve campaigned on for nearly two decades. We couldn't have done it without you.
August: our volunteers chart wacky weather’s effect on nature
Weather wreaked havoc with the seasons this year. You helped us record how flora and fauna fared in a fluctuating climate using Nature’s Calendar, a project that tracks the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife across the UK.
Signs of an early spring were put on hold when the Beast from the East hit the UK in February. Nature’s Calendar records surged when the snow and ice subsided. You reported 4,750 spring events in April - far more than the 3,227 recorded in all of January to March. Then through the summer heatwave and into August, you told us about berries ripening early, and conkers suffering due to drought.
Met Office research suggests that the growing season is extending by up to a month. This is corroborated by Nature’s Calendar data - budburst is happening earlier and leaf fall later.
With spring appearing earlier and earlier, now is the time to look out for unusual activity – in the past we’ve had frog spawn in November and snowdrops in December. Become citizen scientists and share your sightings with Nature’s Calendar.
September: you voted for your favourite Tree of the Year
Our Tree of the Year competition ran for its fifth year in 2018. The contest aims to showcase the UK’s best trees to encourage interest in their value and protection. Thousands of you nominated and voted for your favourite trees and we were delighted when BBC’s The One Show announced the four national winners on live television in October:
Northern Ireland: The Giant Sequoia, Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down
Voting then opened again letting you nominate an overall winner as the UK’s entry for European Tree of the Year, which will run in February 2019.
The winner was England’s Nellie’s Tree in Aberford, Leeds. Nearly 100 years ago, the beech tree was grafted from three saplings to form an ‘N’ by Vic Stead. The amazing tree was borne of love – Vic would make a daily walk to the next village to see his girlfriend Nellie. The pair later married and the tree stands as testament to Vic’s beloved.
October: HS2 destruction set to deepen
A less positive side of 2018 has been the continued battle with HS2. It’s by far the biggest individual threat case we’re dealing with – the high speed route currently threatens 108 ancient woods with damage or complete destruction.
We’ve been campaigning throughout the year and in October, we encouraged you to speak out against phase 2b of the project. Your response has been overwhelming. More than 26,000 names and comments have been shared with HS2 Ltd so far. That’s the most ever for a woods under threat campaign! What an outstanding effort - thank you all.
Commemorating the First World War centenary
Also in November, we marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War with several memorable events at our Centenary Woods.
We started creating these special woods in 2014 as a living legacy to all those affected by the conflict – there’s one in each of the UK’s four nations. Since then we’ve planted more than 3-million native trees, with support from our lead partner Sainsbury's and other supporters.
These Centenary Woods will continue to grow and evolve over the coming years, giving people a peaceful place to remember and give thanks for the sacrifices of the First World War.
Marking the first ever Tree Charter Day
On 24 November, we celebrated the first ever Tree Charter Day! This special day highlights the relationship between people and trees, the different roles trees and woods play in all our lives and how we lean on each other.
On the last Saturday of November from now on Tree Charter Day will unite families, communities, schools, organisations and governments, as set out in the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
Thousands of you joined in this year, coming along to walks, talks, parties and activities across the UK, and holding your own events too. We’re excited to see Tree Charter Day grow in the future.
December: looking back on 2018
With the end of the year approaching, we look back with pride at all we’ve achieved together in 2018. A huge thank you to everyone that has supported us, including our 250,000 members and our fantastic corporate partners - we couldn’t do any of this work without you.
We’re excited to see what 2019 brings, and to work with even more of you to make a difference for our woods, trees and wildlife. In the meantime, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Keep on standing up for trees - together, we can make a difference.