At last – spring has sprung! And this year it feels more special than ever because 2022 marks our 50th anniversary. To celebrate, Broadleaf takes you back to a Devon kitchen table in 1972, where our founder Kenneth Watkins first made plans to rescue local woods earmarked for the axe. Elsewhere in the issue, we pay homage to Britain’s most iconic woodland bloom – the delicate, beloved bluebell – and hail the muddy-booted heroes of our Big Climate Fightback campaign. You’ll even find a panda in our pages! Why? Read on…

How we've grown from tiny acorn to mighty oak

When retired farm machinery dealer Kenneth Watkins saw precious ancient woods in his South Devon neighbourhood being sold off and chopped down, he felt helpless – at first. Then he rolled up his sleeves. Our lead feature tells how:

  • he dipped into his own pocket to buy the first woods he saved – but soon discovered hundreds of like-minded nature-lovers willing to donate
  • he rescued raptors and nursed them back to health, had a ‘pet’ badger who visited his home, and drove a Ferrari dubbed the Yellow Peril
  • right from the start, his vision was a national one: he strove to champion the rights of woods and trees in all four corners of the UK

Explore our first woods

Follow Kenneth’s footsteps with our bespoke readers’ walk this spring, as we lead you on a tour of the very first woods his fledgling Trust acquired in Devon’s Avon Valley. Discover:

  • Aveton Wood, where non-native conifers are being gradually thinned to allow birch and oak to bounce back. Dormice are in residence, too.
  • Watkins Wood, once 200 acres of arable land, now filled with thriving young trees alive with birdsong. It’s named after you-know-who, of course!
  • Centry Wood, one of the 250 ‘Woods on Your Doorstep’ we planted with communities to mark the millennium, and complete with a community orchard. Yum!

Beloved bluebells

Surely the best thing about spring is that fragrant sea of blue that spills softly across the woodland floor each April. But tread carefully, because…

  • folklore tells how fairies hang their spells on bluebells: disturb them and you could become ‘pixy-led’ – lost and wandering for hours.
  • woodland visitors who stray from the path can inadvertently crush the leaves of these delicate blooms – essentially starving them to death.
  • bluebell bulb paste was used to starch the collars of Elizabethan ruffs, but it’s illegal to trade in wild bulbs now. Fines can reach £5,000 for each!

Also in this issue

There are lots more lively happenings in our spry spring edition. Find out:

  • which Scottish wood has been identified as a red squirrel hotspot, and meet the volunteers harvesting invasive bamboo to feed the pandas of Edinburgh Zoo.
  • where saplings are budding for this year’s Big Climate Fightback, from mass plantings at Romford’s Hainault Forest to the Worcester woman who’s bedded in a whole wood.
  • why TV’s restoration man George Clarke loves working with sustainable timber and how treehouses take him straight back to his free-range Sunderland boyhood.

All this and more in the spring edition of Broadleaf, free to members of the Woodland Trust.

Broadleaf is our quarterly magazine exclusive to Trust members. Its inspirational writing and stunning photography tell the inside story of how we, our members, volunteers and partners stand up for trees. To receive your regular copy and exciting welcome gift, become a member now.

Juvenile wood warbler on branch

Become a member

There's no better way to support us than by becoming a member. Together we can keep living history safe, plant the trees we all need, and keep woods open for everyone to enjoy.

Protect what you love

Explore more