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 »

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 »

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.


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.

Volunteer Stories: Chris & Lizzie Read More »

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 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 »

We’re back..

We’re restarting our work parties this month with some more tree-planting.

We will be doing this in a covid-safe way by avoiding meeting as one big group. To help us plan this please register for the event so we know who’s coming.

We will be doing some new planting to replace trees that have been damaged or removed and giving a bit of TLC to our younger saplings. Depending on numbers we may also be doing a bit of litter-picking in some areas.

The planting will be happening on 21st February.

If you’d like us to keep you up to date with the latest events and goings-on at HBUF, why not subscribe to our mailing list? We’ll send you a maximum of one or two emails a month with event details and other news.

We’re back.. Read More »

Cancellation notice for Jan 17th Work Party

Work Party Suspended

Sorry folks…

The trustees and have agreed to cancel January’s session, and we will review when we can start up again on an ongoing basis.

Even before the lockdown, when we were at Tier 4, it seemed wrong to go ahead. With the national lockdown now in place our decision seems even more justified.

Technically there might have been a way we could work within the restrictions, but we would prefer to act in the spirit of the measures being taken, rather than trying to work to the limits of what we can get away with.

Thankfully, Hreod Burna Urban Forest remains a fantastic place for people to come for their daily exercise. An oasis in the middle of Gorse Hill and Pinehurst.

We’ll be back up and running normally just as soon as we can. In the meantime we are looking at ways that you or your family group might be able to ‘adopt’ an area to look after on an individual basis, without the need for us to all meet up. For instance, maybe you could adopt an area of planting and keep the saplings staked and protected. We’ll be exploring the practicalities of that over the coming week.

If you’re not already, please do consider subscribing to our mailing list to be the first to hear of our plans as they unfold.

Work Party Suspended Read More »

Up to Our Armpits in Mud

On a cold, greyish, misty-moisty morning, a group of fifteen people came together to work. While twelve chose slipping about in the afore-mentioned mud, trying their hands at coppicing, the rest adjourned to the wildflower meadow to finish this year’s planting. 

Coppicing is, basically, clearing parts of the woodland in order to create space for the remaining trees to grow into large trees, thus being able to fulfil their potential.  There is, paradoxically, a certain amount of cutting trees to the ground that goes on initially, accompanied by tidying away of undergrowth and brush.  These trees will not die, however, but will make new growth from the stump.

This took place last Sunday, 6th December 2020, in the adjoining area to that which was begun last year.  The plan is then to plant under-storey trees in the areas that have been cleared, for example holly, yew, hazel – sometime soon in the new year, we hope.   There will still need to be some clearing up of undergrowth to take place at our first work party of 2021 in January. 

While this was taking place in one area, in the wildflower meadow a smaller group of three people finished planting up the fritillaries; the First-Sunday work party in November had planted just over half of the thousand bulbs, together with five hundred wildflower plug plants, comprising field geranium, birds foot trefoil, ox eye daisy, red campion, meadow buttercup, cowslip, common toadflax, field scabious and rough hawkbit (hope I’ve left nothing out).  So, next spring, we are hoping for a burgeoning forth of an amazing nature! 

Juanjo also managed to capture the day on film

So, all our gratitude goes to our stalwart band of workers, including newcomers Gabby, Juanjo (photographer) and Ian, and then Jason (tree surgeon), his two daughters, Dave, Jake, Kate H, Kate R, Sue, Carol, Bob, Steve and Mary.

Some of our merry band:

Up to Our Armpits in Mud Read More »

Let’s get to work…

So that it can reach its full potential as a haven for wildlife and people alike in the urban landscape of Swindon, the Hreod Burna Urban Forest needs a lot of work.

Following on from the huge success of our efforts to mow the wildflower meadow in September, we have plans to take on a series of vital jobs in other parts of HBUF.

Just some of our wildflower volunteers

Over the coming months we have volunteers from various groups coming in for one-off events and we’re launching a regular get-together once a month to tackle a long list of jobs that the trustees have identified:

  • Strimming, clearing of brambles and cutting back in some areas to allow new planting and maintain previously planted areas.
  • Creating a grove of birch trees around the trees rescued from the Moonrakers roadworks.
  • Preparation and planting of our Celtic tree circle.
  • Strimming and clearance of existing paths and cutting back trees/undergrowth in preparation for laying of new paths.
  • Coppicing – this was started last autumn and needs to be maintained.
  • Planting of trees & under-storey shrubs (e.g. box, yew, holly).
  • Planting of 1,000 fritillaries and wildflower plug plants in the wildflower meadow.
  • Clearance of the Himalayan balsam growing along the brook – it’s an invasive species.

Our regular work parties will be on the first Sunday of every month, starting on the 1st of November.

The events will be covid-safe. We have plenty of jobs spread across the site to allow small groups to work at distance within government guidelines.

We’ll post more details of the particular works planned each month closer to the date, and what particular skills & equipment (gloves, tools, etc.) might be required. If you can join us every month, or just for an hour or two every now and again, your efforts will be greatly appreciated (not just by us but by everyone that gets such joy from the forest both today and for years to come).

You can check back here or on Facebook for news of upcoming events. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe to our mailing list for advanced warning of events and other updates from HBUF.

Let’s get to work… Read More »

The Great British Mow-Off

Last Sunday, 13th September 2020, at 10.00am, a large group of people met at our wildflower meadow to help with the annual mow and rake.

Photo of the wildflower meadow before the mowing. Grass and wildflowers up to 3 feet high.

So, how many people does it take to mow and rake a meadow?  I counted twenty; and they were perfectly splendid specimens of humanity who had given up their Sunday morning to engage in some pretty vigorous exercise.  One of them, pressed into service by his girlfriend’s mother, was seized upon straight away to mantle (if there’s a ‘dismantle’, there has to be a ‘mantle’, right?) a new rake before using it to do some raking.  Bob started on another, but had to stop as he lost a nut and bolt.  Can’t get the staff.  The girlfriend, by the way, had stayed in bed. 

There was a certain amount of standing around to begin with, since an assumption had been made that the mowing would have already taken place during the week.  That assumption is all tied in with an inference about mowers – just because something is mechanical doesn’t mean that it is just a walk in the park.  At some point soon, we will be getting a tractor and then, perhaps, we can talk about walks in parks, but for now, take it as read that mowing with a scythe-mower is a strenuous work-out.

However, this standing around was a brilliant opportunity to engage with new people, to see old friends, chat over how and why everyone had come, put faces to names, marvel over what a little jewel Hreod Burna Urban Forest is, and express surprise that so many people who live in the area do not know of its existence.

Andy took the first shift with our scythe-mower and he alternated with our press-ganged boyfriend over the course of the morning.  Since I have very little muscle, I did a bit of raking to show willing till my little muscle gave up, and everyone else did a lot of energetic raking.  Then I remembered the important job of taking photographs.  I hope you will be able to spot yourself in one of them.  Unfortunately, Andy won’t be able to spot himself as I missed him out (sorry, Andy, one day your turn will come and you will achieve stardom).

Photo of wildflower after the mowing. Large area of rough cut grass.

All of this airy persiflage goes to express our huge thanks to everyone who came and worked so hard.  We are particularly thankful because of all the setbacks everyone has had this year so far.

Checkout our volunteers in action…

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”1″ display=”basic_slideshow” pauseonhover=”0″ arrows=”1″]

P.S.  During the course of the morning, Jason’s daughters found beetles, frogs, toads, crickets, grasshoppers, and even a mouse.  Several of us were gifted, furthermore, with visits from dragonflies.

The Great British Mow-Off Read More »

Scroll to Top