Volunteering

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 »

Clearing Himalayan Balsam

Two dates in July to help rid the Hreod Burna of this invasive species… see below or in our events section for more details.

Last year we did some clearance work along the section of the Hreod Burna that runs through HBUF to remove the Himalayan Balsam. It’s an invasive species that has taken up space usually occupied by native plants along the bank of the burna.

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust undertook similar clearance work along other parts of the brook.


Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan balsam was introduced as a garden plant in 1839, but soon escaped and became widely naturalised along riverbanks and ditches, especially close to towns. It is fast-growing and spreads quickly, invading wet habitat at the expense of other, native flowers. Its explosive seed pods aid its spread by sending the seeds into the river, causing further dispersal downstream.


Volunteers working with the Trust have recently started to survey Himalayan Balsam along the length of the Hreod Burna Corridor and have confirmed that the work they undertook last year has resulted in a reduction in Balsam. We’ve been out to some of the areas we cleared last year and there is a lot less now than there was back then.

Their survey also indicates that it may be possible to really make a difference along the corridor, and they are hoping to join forces to make sure it is removed along the entire length of the Burna.

HBUF will be organising two sessions where we hope to be joined by other volunteers working with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to clear the Balsam from our section of the Burna.

Our events section has details of sessions on Sunday 17th July and Saturday 30th July. If you prefer you can checkout our Facebook page where we’ll also publish details of both events.

To be kept up to date on upcoming events and other news, why not subscribe to our mailing list?

Clearing Himalayan Balsam Read More »

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 »

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: www.hbuf.org

Miyawaki Magic Read More »

Meet our volunteers – Gaby & Juanjo

Gaby and Juanjo have been regulars at our volunteer sessions since 2020. They have tried their hands at most of the things we get up to, from coppicing to tree planting.

Photo of Juanjo and Gaby planting a tree in the Miyawaki mini-forest. The sapling sits in its pot waiting for Juanjo to dig the hole, while Gaby supervises.
Juanjo & Gaby helping to plant the Miyawaki Forest in 2022

My husband and I walk daily in this lovely forest and are grateful to all volunteers who look after it. Today we spent a very pleasant afternoon with nature-loving people working together for present and future generations.

Planting a tree is one of the most rewarding things one can do. It is a thrilling experience placing the small tree carefully in its place whilst imagining what it will look like in the future when it reaches its full splendour. Today, we planted many trees and this feeling multiplied.

Gaby
Photo of Gaby, spade in hand, standing posing for the camera.
Gaby
Close-up photo of Juanjo putting the finishing touches to a newly planted tree, patting down the soil with his hand.
Juanjo

I walk in the Hreod Burna Urban Forest and The Venny every day, and I feel privileged to have such wonderful spaces so close to where I live.

Volunteering now and then to plant trees, coppicing or just picking litter up while I walk, is my way of giving a bit back for that privilege.

Juanjo

Juanjo has also used his camera skills to document some of our activities. If you’re part of our Facebook group, you might have seen his video fly-through of the Burna during a session spent battling the invading Himalayan Balsam or his montage of one of our coppicing sessions.

Meet our volunteers – Gaby & Juanjo Read More »

Volunteer Stories – Kate

Kate returned to help us with the Miyawaki Forest after previously coming out in 2019 to help with the planting of the Cricklade Field. She’s busy with all sorts of projects in the local community around Swindon so it was great to be able to welcome her back to HBUF.

A picture of Kate standing out in the new Miyawaki Forest area, stopping to pose for a photo while digging a hole for her tree to go in

Two enjoyable hours spent in the fresh air and sunshine.

There’s something very satisfying about planting trees. My friend said she likes to imagine who last dug this soil when it was allotments. We thought it most certainly would have been used to grow vegetables during the war years.

To the sound of birdsong and quiet conversation, I imagined what this mini forest will look like long after I’ve gone. Who will harvest it’s fruit or rest in it’s shade?

Yes, a very rewarding couple of hours with the added bonus of a little bit of physical exercise, and great company.

Kate

Our volunteers always go away with a smile on their faces. Why not come along and join in? We have regular sessions on the third Sunday of every month.

If you’d like to round up members of your community, hobby or interest group, or colleagues from work, then we’re happy to arrange one-off sessions for you to do something together as a team.

Volunteer Stories – Kate Read More »

Our Mini Forest takes root

February saw plenty of volunteers in action as we planted our Celtic Circle and started work on the Miyawaki Mini Forest.

When finished, the tree circle will have one ‘tree’ for each of the 13 lunar months from the Celtic Tree Calendar. So far we have planted the largest (oak, birch, willow, etc,). By the time we are finished they will be joined by the other plants that make up the Celtic Tree Calendar, including ivy, a grape vine and rushes.

Photo shows five people spread across a grassy field, each planting a tree.
Our Celtic Tree Circle being planted – too big to get into one shot!

The Miyawaki forest is taking shape between the Wildflower Meadow and the Orchard. The volunteers (again!) had a wonderful day for it. Look at that sky!

Under a beautiful, bright blue sky.
Volunteers are spread out across a patch of broken ground, paused in their tree-planting to stop and look at the camera.
As always at HBUF, a glorious day to be out in the fresh air!
Ken putting the boot in

It was good to see a mix of new and old faces again.

Ken joined us from the local Scout group, and we hope to have the Scouts themselves along next time to plant some trees that they can watch grow over the years.

There are two things that all our volunteers say when they’ve spent the day with us. The first is how great it is to be out in the fresh air doing their bit for the environment and our local community. The second is how nice everyone else is, we do get a lovely bunch of volunteers at HBUF 🙂

Six volunteers lined up for a group shot for the camera, each leaning on their spades.
Our Miyawaki volunteers

Our regular session for volunteers takes place from 10am to 12pm on the third Sunday of every month. Everyone welcome!

Our Mini Forest takes root Read More »

Volunteer Stories: Chris & Lizzie

Chris and Lizzie joined us to plant our Celtic tree circle in February. Like a lot of people, Chris had been planning to come along for a while, but things just seemed to always get in the way.

Chris is the one with the holly

Finally the stars aligned…

Lizzie and I came along despite the drizzly weather as we wanted to get some fresh air and do something good for wildlife in Swindon! We had a lovely time digging holes and planting trees with the very friendly group – we’re looking forward to going back to see how the trees we planted are getting on.

Chris

Lizzie got the oak (everyone wants to plant an oak tree!)

The pair say they’re looking forward to coming back again to help out. Not least because it’s a great way to spend a morning, even when the weather isn’t on your side!

If you don’t want to miss out on your chance to get involved, you can subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll let you know what we’re up to each month.

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Why not be like Mike?

One of the volunteers who came out to plant our Celtic tree circle was Mike, who has been working locally as part of the Borough’s Livewell team.

We asked him to let us know why he’d decided to get involved with HBUF and pose for a quick photo 🙂

“I was thrilled to get my Birch rooted into the ground today even if it was bleak weather. A few years from now it will be interesting to see how the Celtic Circle is developing with the variety of trees likely to bring yet more biodiversity to the Urban Forest, beautiful visuals and some shade in the Summer months. 

For me, working in the Livewell Team in Swindon Borough Council, I am always passionate about what the community can generate by pulling together and relying on their shared knowledge to drive towards specific goals. The Hreod Burna Urban Forest is a great example of this, which adds value to nature, the community and provides a setting that can be cherished the many dog walkers of the locality.

Forgetting the professional angle, more than anything, it personally feels good to get together with others who are also keen to be active in investing in the local environment, at a time when it is easy to feel very powerless in the era of climate change and environmental degradation largely led by big, faceless corporations. Having a chuckle with the HBUF gang and contributing to the biodiversity of Pinehurst, will not change the world overnight, but it’s something.

On another note, it is good for fitness. My lats are still aching today!”

Mike
Mike the volunteer 🙂

We are always incredibly grateful to people like Mike, who choose to come and help us with the never ending list of work we need to do to look after our little bit of forest. Whether its with the tree planting and maintenance (those fallen trees don’t unblock the paths on their own!) or the less glamourous stuff like litter picking that makes HBUF such a wonderful place for the people of Gorse Hill and Pinehurst to enjoy.

If you’d like to get involved, why not sign up to our mailing list to get updates about what we’re up to, and advanced notice of volunteering opportunities, or join our Facebook Group to share your pictures and stories of your HBUF adventures?

Why not be like Mike? 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.

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.

HBUF Map

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

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