The Hreod Burna Urban Forest charity was set up to promote the provision of woodlands as a public amenity, for the benefit of the people of Gorse Hill, Pinehurst and the surrounding area. This is our online home for the latest news, information and events.

WELCOME Read More »

Become an HBUF trustee

We’re looking for some new trustees… could that be you?

What you can expect…

The Trustees typically meet once a month. As well as being responsible for the running of the charity, we also act as the management committee for the forest. We set the long-term goals and plan the day-to-day activities.

Each month, we review whatever has happened since the last meeting. That includes any progress on ongoing projects plus our volunteer days and other one-off activities. We also plan for whatever events are coming up, deciding what activities need to be prioritised and making sure we have everything in place to make them a success.

As Trustees we have a responsibility to ensure that we run the charity in accordance with the rules set out by the Charity Commission and our own Constitution. On a practical level that means proper management of our accounts and equipment, sorting out things like insurance & grant applications and engaging with other organisations, like the Parish council and volunteer groups.

You can find out more about how the charity is governed and the responsibilities of a trustee in our Constitution and our Trustees Job Description and Code of Conduct

Who we’re looking for

The trustees each take on the tasks and responsibilities that fit in with their own skills and experience, and that they have the time and commitment to deliver. Each of us has our own strengths and something different to offer. Maybe you know about trees & plants, could run our social media, organise volunteers, or do some fundraising.

Applying to become a trustee

Trustees will be elected at the AGM on 19th September. The list of candidates, with a short statement from each of them, will be sent out to members in advance of the meeting. If you would like to be considered, please email contact@hbuf.org with your name and a couple of paragraphs about your background/experience and why you would like to become a trustee. Close of applications is 5pm on Friday 1st September. If you’d like to find out more before applying, then please get in touch and we can have a chat.

Our current trustees

HBUF may have between three and eight trustees. We have seven at the moment:

  • Andy Bentley – Chair
  • Mary Farragher – Secretary
  • Kate Henery – Treasurer
  • Steve Thompson
  • Sue Gwinnell
  • John Ballman
  • Flora Wilkins

Become an HBUF trustee Read More »

The Big Help Out at HBUF

On Monday the 8th May we’ll be taking part in the Big Help Out, King Charles’ initiative to encourage more people to volunteer in their local communities.

On the day, volunteers will be given a tour of the site, to learn a little about our history and the type of tasks our volunteers get to do throughout the year.

That will be followed by a chance to get hands-on, building some ‘dead hedging’ to protect some of the local wildlife, and improving the habitat for some of our smaller residents.

It’s a great opportunity to get involved if you haven’t been out with us before, or to reconnect if you haven’t visited for a while.

To find out more, and to register, checkout our events page.

The Big Help Out at HBUF Read More »

Sunflowers 2023

HBUF is all about providing a green space in the Swindon suburbs where people can get closer to nature. We were all moved by what was happening in Ukraine. We are not a political organisation, but we are all for bringing the community together for the good of all, and our sense of community doesn’t stop at the edge of Gorse Hill or Pinehurst.

In the summer of 2022, local people came together at HBUF to plant sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. After planting their own seeds at home, people brought their young plants to create a display in our new Miyawaki forest area.

Group of about a dozen volunteers planting sunflowers on a bright sunny day. They are in a fenced-off area with young fruit trees. In the background is a wildflower meadow and forest.
Some of the volunteers in 2022

The event was a huge success. Not only did we bring together a large group of people for our own small act of solidarity, the sunflowers provided us with a glorious show of colour through the summer months.

We have spoken to so many people about how much they loved the sunflowers and, with the war still going on, we are doing it again this year.

If you would like to take part then grab your seeds and get planting. We will be coming together in the first week of June to plant them. If you’d like some seeds then get in touch, we have lots! If you spot Andy out and about he’s probably got some in his pocket for you…

Below, you can see some of our flowers from last year. Alongside the regular sunflowers that we are all familiar with we planted some heritage varieties, so there are some striking and unusual flowers in there, from Teddy Bears to Velvet Queens!

Here at Hreod Burna Urban Forest we may not be able to do any campaigning, but we can bring the community together in a small act of solidarity. And we’re really bloody good at planting things.

Sunflowers 2023 Read More »

When you can’t see the wood for the, er, brambles…

Our latest volunteer session was dedicated to clearing some of the brambles that dominate large parts of HBUF. In themselves they do provide some decent habitat, but left along they do tend to take over. By managing them, with controlled cuts done in rotation across different parts of the site, we hope to give other plants and wildlife a bit more of a look-in.

One animal we hope to encourage in other parts of the site, nearer the brook, will be harvest mice. A recent survey by volunteers from Wiltshire Wildlife revealed some likely nests. Clearing some of the brambles and promoting some long grass will hopefully provide them with some better habitat.

And never fear, we will always have plenty of brambles for your blackberry picking needs, as some patches will be managed in rotation, being cut back every four years or so, while others will be left as-is and only trimmed back to keep the paths clear.

Below are some before and after shots. We’ve revealed some of the trees that were planted in the early days of HBUF. The brambles have done a good job of keeping them safe, but they’re big enough to look after themselves now!

Photo of trees poking up above a thick mat of brambles
Silver birch and fir trees revealed in patch where brambles have been cut down

Thanks to the folk who turned out to lend a hand. It’s a tough job persuading those brambles to clear off. Some of them were huge, and after so many years they’ve woven themselves in and out and up and down so each one takes many cuts before it can finally be removed.

Volunteers lined up in front of the area being cleared of brambles.
Our volunteers for the bramble clearing… Sue, Simon, Barry, Andy, Trevor, Bob and (behind the camera) Ian.

When you can’t see the wood for the, er, brambles… Read More »

Fresh Discoveries at HBUF

We got good news recently from Neil Pullen and our friends from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, who paid a couple of visits to HBUF.

Harvest mouse sat on a twig
Harvest Mouse. Photo by Hecke – CC BY-SA 3.0

They picked a good time for it and enjoyed the surroundings and early signs of spring emerging. Neil was pleased to see the newly planted trees developing, despite some of the problems we have had.

Neil and his team spent some time searching for harvest mouse nests, as part of the Mammals Society’s National Nest search, and found two potential nests.

We can’t be 100% certain, as they had both deteriorated due to the affects of the weather this winter. But they both showed signs of woven grass nests with the weave extending and wrapping around supporting vegetation, which is typical of such nests.

The harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) weighs in at just 5-8 grams. They have golden-russet fur, a pale tummy and a semi-prehensile tail to help them cling on to the grass where they build their nests. You can find some great info on the harvest mouse on the BBC Wildlife site.

One recommendation arising from the visit was to manage the brambles that have started to dominate parts of the site, which would be beneficial for a range of plant and animal species. As luck would have it we’re already embarking on such a scheme and our next volunteer session will be tackling some of the brambles in the Ballman Field.

Brown Hairstreak butterfly. Photo by Hectonichus – Own work, CC0
Brown Hairstreak egg.
Photo by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

More good news followed from their second visit. Following the discovery of a population of Brown Hairstreak butterfly at Seven Fields local nature reserve, Neil reports discovery of their eggs at HBUF.

Neil said “The work that has been undertaken at HBUF has left the blackthorn in a perfect state for Brown Hairstreak. Great news that this butterfly seems to be spreading into the heart of Swindon”.

It’s nice to know that our efforts are paying off. All this made possible by all of our wonderful volunteers. To keep up to date with what we are up to, and for news of our volunteer sessions and a chance to get involved, why not subscribe to our mailing list?

Fresh Discoveries at HBUF Read More »

Our Volunteer Day in February has moved!

Our monthly session to look after the forest, originally scheduled for the 18th, has had to be postponed by a week, and will now be taking place on the 25th February from 1pm to 4pm. Feel free to join us when you can, for as long as you like.

We will be cutting back a section of the blackberry bushes that dominate the Ballman field. It will be the start of a four-year cycle, tackling one section of the arear each year to vary the habitat and introduce new life to the area.

It will also reveal the trees that were originally planted in the area, giving us the change to see them in all their glory and showing off some of the different species that have been planted.

Gloves are a must and thick trousers recommended to keep thorns at bay. Sturdy secateurs or loppers would be handy, though we do have some you can use if you don’t have your own.

We’ll meet at the top of the picnic field to kit up before heading out. If you plan to join us later then you’ll find us next to the Celtic Tree Circle.

Our Volunteer Day in February has moved! Read More »

Dead Hedge 2.0

For the first volunteer day of 2023 we revisited the dead-hedge that we put in to protect some of our wildlife and gave it a bit of an upgrade.

Sadly, the original had suffered from being battered by stray footballs from the pitch next to it, and from unwanted human attention.

The new one, we hope, is a bit sturdier. Aside from the heavier posts and beams that are part of it we’ve also planted some willow cuttings taken from one of our trees. The hope is that these will take root and become a living part of the hedge that we can train to provide an even sturdier natural barrier. Not exactly a Whomping Willow but enough to fend off poor shots on goal!

We can’t help with football skills, but hopefully the new fence will withstand the off-target balls.

The day before we set out we heard that a tree that had fallen and blocked the path that leads into the woods from the Cricklade field. Andy was very happy to get the chance to try out his new electric chainsaw. We also took out the top trunk of the big fallen willow across the brook, which had started to rot and might have posed a safety hazard if it came down while anyone was playing on it.

Dead Hedge 2.0 Read More »

2022 Report from the Chair of Trustees

It was my pleasure this year to deliver the Chair’s report to our AGM. This was the first time I’ve done it since taking over as Chair from Steve Thompson, one of the charity’s founders.

Andy Bentley, Chair of Trustees

The report covers the edited highlights from the year gone by.

We followed it (after tea and cake of course) with a discussion about what we have planned for the year ahead and of the suggestions that people had about what they’d like to see us doing, of which more will follow.

We have had another fabulous year, with some significant new additions to the site and increased participation from members of the local community.

Miyawaki Forest
With support from the Parish Council, we added our Miyawaki tiny forest of fruit next to the existing orchard. Councillors paid for the fencing and some of their trees from their allowances. It’s already seen its first crop this year and we look forward to next year’s harvest with great anticipation.

Celtic Circle
The idea for the Celtic Circle had been floating around for quite a while so it was great to make a start on that. As some of you will know it’s based on the old Celtic tree calendar, with each of the 13 lunar months represented by a different tree. I was very happy to find out that my birthday falls in the month of the mighty oak, much better than my zodiac sign of Cancer the crab.  All the big trees are in. Next, we have to finish it off with the vine, ivy, and reed that will complete the circle. Oh, to be around in 20- or 30-years’ time to see it in it’s full glory!

The one-off event we had to plant sunflowers as a small show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine was a great success. For weeks now we’ve had a great display of colour in among our Miyawaki forest trees and the flowers keep coming. It will be interesting to see if any of them have self-seeded for next year.

Volunteer Days
Our volunteer days have proved popular, attracting new people along throughout the year and allowing us to do all the wonderful things we do.

The local Scout troop has paid us a couple of visits, helping to plant our fruit trees in the Miyawaki Forest and growing sunflowers to be part of our display.

In July, children from Swindon Academy school came along to help us with various jobs around the site. They did a spot of pruning, had great fun rebuilding the dead-hedging around the badger setts, and shifted about a ton of woodchips.

I met a lady while walking the dog who mentioned that her granddaughter had been one of the kids who came to help that day, and who had gone home to tell her family what a great time she’d had.

By getting more children involved we hope to develop a connection between them and the forest. We want them to love it as much as we do. And maybe in years to come, some of those kids will be here in our place.

Individual Volunteers
We also owe a great debt of thanks to all those people that can’t necessarily make it to our volunteer sessions, but who help when they can, particularly with litter picking. People out walking their dogs or making a special effort to go out and help. If it wasn’t for them the forest would soon get buried under a mountain of other people’s rubbish, or we’d be picking litter every month instead of planting trees or looking after the meadow, the paths and so on.

Plans for the future
Over the next twelve months we aim to carry on with some of the things we have started this year.
The Celtic Circle needs to be completed and we’ll be giving some TLC to the plants in the Miyawaki Forest. Some of you may have noticed that we’ve cleared a new area to the north of the Miyawaki Forest where some more trees will be going in.

We hope to have more collaborations with the Scouts, local schools and other groups so we can carry on cultivating relationships between young people and the forest.

One thing we tried this year was to hold some of our sessions on different days and times, so that people who can’t make the regular Sunday morning slot get the chance to become more involved. That’s been really successful, so expect more of it this year.

More than that, we’d love to hear what ideas you have…

Andy Bentley

2022 Report from the Chair of Trustees Read More »

A bit of wood work

The original fence around the pond had been showing its age and finally succumbed to vandals earlier this year.

Some of the volunteers at our October session finished off replacing the rails and added new posts for a bit of extra support.

And just in time… a week later the area they were working in was under water as heavy rain cause the burna to flood.

Hopefully it’ll be another ten years before we have to replace them again!

A bit of wood work Read More »

It’s time to mow the meadow

Each year we give the wildflower a bit of a trim. This keeps the grass in check and helps the wild flowers to thrive.

The grass has been cut. Now we need to rake up and remove up the cuttings and put them to good use elsewhere. This year we’ll be using them to mulch the new trees in our Miyawaki Forest and Celtic Circle.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s good fun. Our volunteers are a fabulous group of people.

We’ll be working in the wildflower meadow from 10am until about 12. All ages welcome (there’s a job for everyone).

It’s time to mow the meadow Read More »

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