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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Our Sunflowers are in…

HBUF is all about providing a green space in the Swindon suburbs where people can get closer to nature. We are not a political organisation. But we are all about community. We are all about coming together for the good of all.

When we come here to plant trees or mow the grass or keep the brambles under control we’re not doing it just for us, but for everyone who comes to visit, hundreds, maybe thousands of people, most of them complete strangers out to walk their dogs or take their kids on an adventure.

But our sense of community doesn’t stop at the edge of Gorse Hill or Pinehurst.

On Saturday 28th May, 2022, local people came together to plant sunflowers that they had been growing at home. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine.

We’ve all been moved by what is happening in Ukraine. We’ve seen the outpouring of support for its people right across the UK. Here in Swindon some people have opened their homes while others like Kate, one of our volunteers, have made them welcome by collecting donations of clothes and other essentials.

small sunflower plants, freshly planted, some supported by bamboo canes
A close up of some of our new arrivals

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. So when I found out that the sunflower was the national flower of Ukraine this seemed like the obvious thing for us to do.

We couldn’t do any of this without our lovely volunteers, who came together with their sunflowers to create our display. We planted between 150-200 plants. There’s a mix of heritage varieties in there, in a range of colours, shapes and sizes, from Teddy Bears to Velvet Queens, so should be quite a show!

We’ll keep you updated as the sunflowers (we hope!) grow and flower, but feel free to come and admire them in person!

Our Sunflowers are in… Read More »

How to Grow Sunflowers

First, get your seeds!

You can get a packet of sunflower seeds from your local garden centre or some supermarkets or online.

There are lots of different varieties. HBUF has a mix of heritage varieties that we’ll be trying, a mix of different shapes and colours (who knew, not all sunflowers are yellow?!)

Sunflower Seeds

Pot them up

Fill a pot with peat-free compost to within 2cm of the top and water well. If you don’t have a flower pot then you can always use another container, so long as you don’t mind getting it dirty.

Place 1 or 2 seeds well apart in the pot but not too near the edge, press gently in and cover with 1cm compost. If you can stick a clear plastic bag over the top, it will be like a mini greenhouse.

If you’re doing this at home with your family, why not use a label or a lolly stick to record the name of the person who planted it?

Find a good spot

Place the pot in a warm light place, out of direct sunlight. This could be a windowsill or any other bright spot. Keep the compost slightly moist, don’t let it dry out!

You should see a shoot within a week or two. If you put a cover over your pot you can take it off now. Rotate the pot once a day to stop the seedlings bending over.

Bring them to HBUF to be a part of our sunflower garden!

A couple of weeks before you’re going to plant your sunflowers out, it’s best to harden them off (get them used to being outdoors). Start taking the pots outside during the day and bringing them back inside at night.

Lookout for the dates and times for our planting-out sessions. You’ll find them here on or on our Facebook page when the dates are finalised (subject to the weather).

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Miyawaki Magic

We had a fantastic turnout for our volunteer session in March! We started off tree planting in our Miyawaki mini-forest, before moving over to give the Tiverton Field a bit of a spring clean.

Below are the happy, smiling, faces of everyone who managed to get in on the tree planting, we had another half a dozen who didn’t make it into the group shot. We put in our 60-something trees and bushes in the first hour of the session, many hands really does make light work. It was great to have some representatives from the local Scouts group joining us this month.

A group shot of 12 people smiling for the camera.
Planting trees puts a smile on your face 🙂

During this session we were planting cherries, plums, currants and gooseberries. These add to the apples, pears, hazel and sweet chestnut that were put in already. And yes, that is what the sky usually looks like when we are working at HBUF 🙂

Photo of a group of 9 people out in the field planting on a sunny day.
The team in action

After the planting…

Our snazzy new vests let people know who we are and what we’re up to. They’re also a safety feature if we have people out with the tractor or other potentially hazardous activities like the coppicing.

So if you see Andy out doing some work in the woods you can tell that he’s not just some random bloke, he’s a random bloke in a hi-viz HBUF vest 🙂

We may need to order some in smaller sizes for some of our helpers though…

A young boy in an oversize hi-viz vest that comes down to meet the top of his welly boots. His mum is helping him to dig a hole for their tree to go in.
Hayden modelling our HBUF hi-viz

With so many willing hands the planting was finished in record time and we were able to tackle some other important work. Fly-tipping has been a problem over on the Tiverton field and a lot of rubbish had built up since we mowed and cleared it last year. The group took away several barrow loads of household waste.

We are also hugely grateful to the unsung people who litter-pick around HBUF throughout the week. Many people just take a bag around with them as they walk their dogs or go for a stroll. It’s a sad truth that a small number of selfish people leave so much detritus behind them, but heartening to have so many community-minded folk who help to keep the area nice for all of us.

a group of people out in a field collecting rubbish.
Litter picking on the Tiverton field

As ever, if you’d like to keep up to date with what we are up to, you can subscribe to our mailing list to get updates once a month, or you can check us out on Facebook.

Note that you can save some typing with our new Web address:

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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.

It’s a lot of work, so we need your help!

Mowing the meadow 2020
Some of last year’s helpers…

If you can spare an hour or two to help us rake up and remove up the cuttings you’ll be doing great things for our little forest and the many visitors who come to enjoy it.

We’ll be working in the wildflower meadow (of course 🙂 ) from 10am on Sunday 29th August. All ages welcome.

Why not bring a picnic, or at least a little something for a well-earned break at half-time.


It’s time to mow the meadow! Read More »

HBUF Volunteers

At the end of last year we started our work parties, getting together once a month to tackle all the major jobs that needed doing. It worked brilliantly, with new areas cleared and trees & wildflowers planted.

We did have some volunteers that were unable to join us on the chosen weekend, and others who are keen to do more. So now that spring has well and truly sprung we’ve decided to meet every Sunday. So if you want to pop in every week or once in a blue moon, you can now pick a day that suits you, and we’d love to see you.

There’s plenty to do, so we’ll be meeting every week as the weather allows to maintain the existing planting and prepare and plant new areas.

Lots of jobs, from litter-picking and refurbishing the covers on our younger trees through to a bit of clearance work.

If you have any questions you can email Andy at “contact (at)” or get in touch on our Facebook page –

We meet every Sunday at 10am by the container in the picnic field.

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April Powers

Your superpower? Creating a wildlife oasis in the centre of Gorse Hill and Pinehurst for generations to enjoy.

We’ve got a lot to do again this month, with a wide range of jobs that we need your help with across the site. Please join us on our usual outing on the 3rd Sunday of every month between 10 and 12, next event on 25th of April.

Photo of purple and white fritillaries in the grass of the wildflower meadow
Fritillaries in the wildflower meadow

While you’re there, be sure to visit the wildflower meadow, where the fritillaries that we planted last year have started to come up!

As well as the familiar clearance and planting jobs that need doing we have unwanted visitors to evict! The Himalayan Balsam growing along the banks of the stream is an invasive species that’s crowding out native plants and has to go.

Checkout the event for more details of exactly what we’ll be up to and where to meet.

April Powers Read More »

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