‘Every tree counts’ – says the United Nations, and I couldn’t agree more!

By Robina Ballard-Davis ǀ Fundraising Officer, Forest of Marston Vale

On 21st March we celebrate the annual International Day of Forests – a day to focus on the importance of forests around the world. This year’s theme is ‘Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’ – words that resonate with me as we all try to recover from the difficulties of the past year.

I consider myself very lucky that I live not only within the Forest of Marston Vale, but also pretty much on the doorstep of one of its many woodlands. Being able to take my permitted exercise within the Millennium Country Park, often with my two teens, has helped keep us sane and I feel for those who haven’t had the benefit of open space and nature to enjoy. We’ve heard similar stories from people around the Forest, telling us how thankful they are for the community woodlands the Charity provides, and we’ve featured some of them in our #MyFavouriteForest series.

On the other hand it’s also been the worst year ever for vandalism and other antisocial behaviour around our woodlands: bird hides damaged, a gate wrecked, even a ranger threatened! Most noticeable of all has been the amount of litter and fly tipping – discarded and left for our small team of rangers to pick up.

Now there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, as we’re on the path to the easing of restrictions, we’re looking towards restoring the Forest of Marston Vale and getting all our activities back up and running.

Not that we haven’t been working hard throughout the pandemic – our awesome rangers have been ‘business as usual’. This month in the Millennium Country Park they’ve refilled the sand martin bank, re-floated the term raft, cleared willow from an island in the Pillinge, pumped water onto the meadows to encourage breeding lapwing, surveyed and made safe trees in the Forest School area, replaced windows in one of the hides and repaired other damage and installed drainage for a path on the Callow Mounds. This is in addition to the regular, general safety checks across all our other woodland sites and the maintenance and improvement works that are needed on them, such as hedge planting at Gateway Woods and culvert repairs in Rectory Wood. That’s what’s needed to keep our existing woodlands safe for the public and to manage the various habitats to provide safe havens for our resident wildlife.

Then there’s new woodland creation – tree planting! It’s our core purpose and what we love doing, and COVID hasn’t stopped us... although it has made it a lot harder! We usually plant with help from the local community, our core volunteers and corporate supporters, but this year we’ve had to employ contractors to help us get the 17,000 or so trees planted. It’s the start of a new woodland adjacent to Houghton House on the Houghton Conquest/Ampthill border and we’ll be back planting there again in 2022 and 2023 as it’s a huge site.

Photo of saplings in a field

The Forest of Marston Vale is an afforestation project – creating new woodland in a 61 square mile area – aiming to have woodland covering 30% of the area to maintain a healthy balance between development and green space. We’re a relatively small charity, planting trees to make a difference in our corner of the world, but in doing so we’re contributing to the global picture.

The climate crisis hasn’t gone away. The pandemic is a real and current threat, which has affected us all, but the climate crisis is just as menacing. Without action, it will be just as devastating. We can all make a difference – recycle more, waste less, switch off lights and plant trees….

So help us - a community forest charity - and mark the International Day of Forests on 21st March by sponsoring a tree. You’ll be helping us recover some of the losses from the past year and enabling us to keep the Forest growing.