Hreod Burna Urban Forest

"So current and future children might scamper Along avenues of crab apple and rowan." – Tony Hillier


Welcome to the new website for Hreod Burna Urban Forest (HBUF). This is the home for all the information, updates and events from HBUF.

We will continue to add to this website, and hope that any changes will meet your approval.

Should you have any questions or ideas for what you wish to see on this site then please head to our contact page and fill in the form available.

Thank you


Our Sparrowhawks

For some years now, I’ve been noticing a particular call in the woods during spring.  You should be quite surprised at this, because I am notoriously unobservant and can rarely spot anything unusual or interesting.  Then, this spring, I came across what I took to be a bird of prey with a pigeon not far from the weir bridge; this was just beside the trees we planted in January close to Pinehurst Road. 

I did a bit of research on the internet (how on earth did we manage to find stuff out before this amazing invention?) and had a listen to the birds on  My dog got a bit mystified as I worked my way through the recordings of black kite, red kite, kestrel, merlin, buzzard, peregrine falcon and more.  Well, enough of the waffle, it transpired that it was the call of the sparrowhawk I was hearing.  Steve (Thompson) posted the information on our Facebook page a little while ago.

Then, suddenly, there were no more calls.  What had just happened?  Had we let the cat out of the bag and vandals had done away with our beautiful birds of prey?  On my daily walk, I noticed a car-sticker calling for action to protect songbirds and racing pigeons – horror of horrors!

Then Google let me down.  I could find articles about the effect of birds of prey on local songbird populations (not significant apparently, so the car-sticker person should worry less) and lots of other information, like for example, that the female is larger than the male, so the latter is able to manoeuvre much better than his missus, but no information about seasonal calls.

Eventually, I emailed the British Trust for Ornithology.  The reply was at the same time comforting as well as perturbing:

“In short, you are right about Sparrowhawks only being vocal during the breeding season. The male will call to the female when he brings food in. He doesn’t approach the nest as he might become food himself – males are much smaller than females – the food is handed over away from the nest to much calling by the female. Once the young get bigger they too will call for food. Once the young leave the nest they will perch close by for a week or two and call for food but once they become independent the wood will fall silent until next year. Outside of the breeding season Sparrowhawks are largely silent.”

So, there you have it.  Our sparrowhawks are safe at HBUF, though the male is rather less safe than the female.

Today (Wednesday)’s News

Well, not really news of course, just a few lines of airy persiflage.

When I was walking the dog yesterday, benefiting from the delightful sunshine, I was a bit taken aback to see an elderly (i.e. older than me, and I can remember the days when you could claim a ?fiver if you spotted the chap with the relevant newspaper at the seaside and tapped him on the shoulder, while showing him the same newspaper – maybe a bit convoluted, but those in the know will remember) couple, he with a pair of loppers in his hand and she standing beside him with a carrier bag. I asked what they were doing, and she replied that they were cutting away the brambles as these were “… choking the poor young trees”. I asked them to stop, as the brambles, on the contrary, protect the young trees, which have grown very well in their thorny embrace, and are, furthermore, happy not to have to compete with grass. I don’t think they believed me, though, as he didn’t stop. But maybe he was just a bit hard of hearing (I wouldn’t like to suggest he found it hard to change his opinion).

The anemones beside the stream are looking very pretty, and so is the blossom on the trees beside the walk there.

Well, I did manage to put the last lot of minutes (March 2020) on to the Minutes of Meetings page – no thanks to, who keep changing the way things are done. Improvements, no doubt, but just as annoying as Microsoft is whenever they bring out a new version of Word. All of a sudden, after you’d learnt how to format something in a certain way, there they go, improving everything, and you can’t find it again.

All for now.

What next then?

Our lives have altered so much since I last wrote here.

The days are getting longer, the camellia outside my front window at home is in bloom (and looks wonderful), this last week has been sunny and bright, and the mud in HBUF is just about starting to dry up (but better not tempt fate there).

We are all now waiting to get through these difficult times. I am so grateful to be able to take a daily walk with my dog through HBUF.

Little did we know at our last monthly meeting on 9th March that there could be no more meetings for a while. I shall be posting those minutes on this website as soon as I have remembered how to do it …

Ecology Report

4th March 2020

Till the Parish (Central Swindon North Parish Council) have completed their ecology report on HBUF land, we aren’t able to plant anything within our leased property.

We should be able to find out soon when this report will be taking place.


We plan to plant more trees this weekend on Sunday 1st March – meet at the car park on the Pinehurst Road end of HBUF. 

But please keep looking at our Facebook page as the weather is so unsettled.

We have had some truly stalwart people tree-planting both last weekend and the weekend before.

HUUUUUGE apologies for so few posts during this month of February; we have been bogged down in more ways than one but hope to see proper light at the end of the tunnel soon.

Tree Planting Feb 2020 postponed

Our plans have been scuppered by the weather forecast for next weekend, Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th February. What can I say – it’s the best laid schemes of mice and men ganging aft aglay once more.

Keep watching this space and the HBUF Facebook page for further updates.

News in brief

  • No HBUF meeting on Monday 10th February.
  • Next HBUF meeting on Monday 9th March.
  • The parish has given permission for the trees to stay on Cricklade Field (apart from some that were too close to the gas pipe).
  • Work party on Saturday 8th February, Cricklade Field to move those trees and to re-stake those that need it.
  • Another work party on Saturday and Sunday, 15th and 16th  February, to plant on the parish land behind the football changing rooms.

Current Furore

This is the letter I sent to the Swindon Advertiser on 11th January 2020. It is a response to the articles of 4th and 10th January, which you may have read about.

They haven’t yet published my letter, so here it is in full:

11th January 2020

Mr Pete Gavan, Editor

Swindon Advertiser

Dear Sir

Re: Hreod Burna Urban Forest

With reference to the articles of 4th and 10th January wherein Josie Lewis, a Wroughton resident, outlines her opposition to the planting of trees in Gorse Hill and Pinehurst: as a fellow Trustee of HBUF, I am disturbed and dismayed by this person’s attacks on our group.  HBUF is a charitable trust that, as our name suggests, exists to promote wildlife, woodland and the planting of trees in an urban area, for the benefit of the local community. 

As a matter of record, at the last full Parish Council meeting 18th December 2019, it was agreed that the trees planted on the Cricklade Field should remain. 

This person has been fiercely against any trees on the Cricklade Field from the very beginning, and has changed her arguments each time they were shown to be incorrect.  These arguments have ranged from ‘open space’ being legally different from ‘public open space’ to the suggestion that HBUF would be breaking our lease if we planted trees in certain areas of our land. 

She says that public open space is “by definition […] a sports ground or playing field”.  This is not the case, as there is no statutory definition of this phrase.  Note, however:-

Section 20 of the Open Spaces Act 1906 states that the “expression `open space’ means any land, whether inclosed or not, on which there are no buildings or of which not more than one-twentieth part is covered with buildings, and the whole of the remainder of which is laid out as a garden or is used for purposes of recreation, or lies waste and unoccupied.”

Memorandum by The Open Spaces Society (TCP 19)

Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs – Memoranda April 1999

In both 4th and 10th January articles your explanation of the link between Swindon Borough Council, the Central Swindon North Parish Council and HBUF is unsatisfactory.  HBUF does not run the area on behalf of the Parish.  There is a lease; it existed between SBC and HBUF; it now exists between the Parish and HBUF.

The minutes of our meetings are on public record and may be read on our website  These will support all of the information I refer to in this letter.  They show where opposing opinions have been voiced, as well as proposals and decisions made on a democratic basis.

I am most concerned, in these worrying times of climate crisis, that this person has seen fit to denigrate all that we are attempting to do.

Mary Farragher

Secretary, HBUF With endorsement by fellow Trustees Kate Henery, Treasurer, and Sue Gwinnell, Vice Chair


This Saturday, 18th January 2020, we will be putting in the under-storey plants (i.e. holly, hazel) in the woodland of HBUF.

Meet at 10.00 in the car park beside Pinehurst Road (this is at the other end of the cycle path from the Cricklade Field). We have some spades, but it would be useful if you could bring some. Furthermore, protect your feet from the mud and the wet – wellies or walking boots de rigueur.

Huge apologies to everyone about not communicating with you for so long – mixture of hoo-ha, illness, seasonal stuff preventing us. Will up-date everyone as soon as possible.

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