Over 130 children from four schools in Andover have been getting hands-on experience of forestry management thanks to a partnership between Andover Trees United and Englefield Estate.
One secondary and three primary schools from the Hampshire town came to Englefield Estate to meet the trees and learn about sustainable forestry management.
This ongoing work, run by Andover Trees United, first saw the children visit different woodland in Andover in April and June of this year. They visited the Englefield Estate this autumn to see trees in a different season and to meet an ash that will be felled in February.
Becky McGugan, Andover Trees United’s Education Officer, explained: “Our charity’s aim is to inspire a love of the natural world and to help children understand the importance of woodland spaces and sustainable forestry management by connecting them to the native trees and flowers in their local area.
“There is a perception amongst many children that cutting down any trees is bad, and of course deforestation is unacceptable. However, this is very different from sustainable forestry which can provide numerous benefits to the biodiversity of the flora in a woodland, as well as providing an important natural resource.
“The trees have been grown for this purpose, as a crop, they just have a much longer growing time than other crops. This is an important lesson that we want all the children to take away with them.”
Over four dates in September, groups of students met the ash tree (a species which is of particular cultural significance for Andover), identified other types of tree growing in the area, learned how you can both calculate and estimate tree measurements, as well as discovering the diversity of life on the forest floor.
They will be able to compare their findings with actual measurements of the felled tree when they return in the winter. This visit has also given the students a greater emotional connection to and understanding of the tree as a living thing.
Rich Edwards, Forestry Manager for the Englefield Estate, said: “We work hard to ensure that 3,500 acres of woodland in our care will thrive in the years ahead. Part of this work is teaching the next generation of woodland visitors, foresters and farmers about sustainable forestry management.
“We’re proud to be supporting Andover Trees’ work to nurture an understanding and passion of the natural world in local children and we are looking forward to having everyone back in February.”
In February, all 130 students will return to Englefield woodland to see the tree felled and then learn about its onward journey: for building, furniture and fuel, among many other uses.
There will also be an exhibition of some of the works made from the tree in the summer of 2020 as part of ‘Ash Tree Stream’, a sister project led by environmental artist James Aldridge. All artefacts made from the Ash tree’s timber will form part of a major celebration in 2021/22 of the work of Andover Trees United and 10 years of community woodland creation.
Becky added: “From planting their own tree in Harmony Woods, right through to seeing parts of a tree used for different purposes, this project allows children to see first-hand the full lifecycle. By visiting in different seasons to see the changes in the woodland, as well as experiencing a tree being felled, the children are able to appreciate the importance of trees within ecosystems.
“At Andover Trees United, we encourage the use of the natural world as an outdoor classroom. For example, in this visit, as well as learning about the woodland itself, the children have applied their maths and science skills, practised problem solving and investigated in meaningful and practical ways.”
The Englefield Estate manages 14,000 acres of mainly rural land and property in West Berkshire and Hampshire. To find out more about forestry at the Englefield Estate, visit www.englefieldestate.co.uk/the-estate/forestry.
Andover Trees United runs a series of projects that promote a love of nature and an understanding of forestry and woodland. Their long-term project, which began in 2012, is the creation of Harmony Woods, a 12-acre section of Andover woodland within Hampshire’s Diamond Wood.
The wood is added to annually by children and young people from all the schools in Andover and many of the surrounding villages, who come to plant their trees during the last two weeks in November. They are supported by the local community, who also plant their own trees and undertake the routine management and care of the wood.
To find out more about Andover Trees United and to support the charity, visit andovertrees.org.uk.