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

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