Woodlands are good for you, that is the verdict from UK organisations who are branching out nationwide with the message that our bodies and minds will benefit from walking in woodlands, just like our own May's Wood, currently basking in glorious autumn colours.
It's been three years since the first saplings were planted in May's Wood in Dorset by people who came along voluntarily to help Doctor Brian May realise his dream of creating a native woodland. On September 28th, 2013 hundred's gathered to listen enthusiastically as 'Dr Brian' shared his vision of a place where wildlife and humans could enjoy the peace and tranquillity that trees and meadows can provide. "It was truly one of the most memorable and different days of my life." Dr May said after he had mingled happily with the eager participants, mainly from the nearby villages of Bere Regis and Shitterton.
In our second year, we have successfully completed the final western phase of new woodland with the planting of over 30,000 trees.
This includes species such as ash and field maple woods and oak woods which are usually associated with fertile soils, forming a continuum from base-rich to more acid soils with the addition of Beech and Yew. This combination provides the potential to form mosaics with other types of woodland, particularly lowland
May’s Wood. Despite the fact that Britain is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, Dr Brian May’s Save Me Trust believe woodland is vitally important and a key feature in the British landscape. It provides valuable habitat for wildlife and a wide range of benefits to society, including contributing to the economy, education, recreation, health and well-being.
Overview of the 2013/14 Year. May’s Wood is a long term project to return the former agricultural land to native woodland that will provide for the people and wildlife of Bere Regis in Dorset. Over 72,000 trees and shrubs have been planted to date in an area of approximately 45 hectares.
Brian purchased some woodland in Bere Regis several years ago and has recently added to the original woodlands with another 160 acres of farmland that is currently being use for both cattle and arable farming. In September, this year (2013) the farmland will start to return to its ancient state and become once again a woodland. It will provide a corridor for wildlife and a recreational space to be enjoyed by all.
Over the next year, we will be planting 100,000 mixed trees which will not only provide a varying canopy height but will also provide a variation from dappled to dense shade. The woodlands will have over 60 acres of open area and with hazel coppice and other tree coppices that will provide homes for a multitude of wildlife.
We hope the new scheme will complement the existing area and will provide a wonderful space for all creatures including humans to enjoy. Part of the land has been retained by the Parish to be used for a village school and a nature reserve that will link to the newly named “May's Woods”
There are Special protection areas already within the vicinity and this woodland scheme will complement the existing areas.
Dr Brian May, Queen guitarist and founder of Save Me Trust will plant the first tree and mark the start of a Save Me Trust project to establish a new native woodland on a 157-acre site in Bere Regis, Dorset, next week (28th September 2013) during a community planting day. In total, more than 100,000 trees and shrubs will be planted over the next year in what is one of the largest new woodland planting schemes in the south of England this year.
Dr May’s woodland planting scheme aims to create a significant wildlife haven and enhanced ecological habitat on a site to the southern side of the village of Bere Regis which was previously agricultural land. The proposals include open, responsible pedestrian access and involve the gradual transformation of intensive agricultural land to a woodland and wildlife reserve
We had a great day in Bere Regis today, and that little village so colourfully named Shitterton, or, to the more coy visitors, Sitterton! It was a public meeting, to enable me to explain our plans to restore an ancient woodland in this area, and also to seek advice and comments from the local folks. It's a beautiful area, a wonderful place to bring up your children, and at the time I was contemplating purchasing, there was a threat of the surrounding area being built on to the tune of hundreds of houses. This was a horrific prospect for the villagers.
Having purchased the farmland in question, we then set about evolving a plan to return the whole site to its ancient glory as original British woodland. My hope that, under the advice of experts who have been working in this district for generations, is to evolve better ways of Husbandry of the woodland, more humane, with no Culling, no pesticides no herbicides, and of course no hunting for pleasure. This will be a safe place for all creatures, and an environment in which the local people can interact with animals in a way which will benefit everyone. Well, that's my hope anyway.
The reaction I got today was incredibly positive. The place was packed to overflow, and in fact we had to make two presentations instead of one. We got great comments, great ideas and a real feeling of a community moving forward in an exciting new project. I'm very excited myself. I think my favourite memory will be a tiny little girl in purple, who came up to me afterwards and said, "Thank you for doing what you're doing".
I hope we get this right. My feeling, and my hope, is that in 100 years time people will be sitting around in Bere Regis discussing this project and saying - "Our grandparents did the right thing for us!"
The only sour note of the whole day, was an article in the Daily Telegraph which was pitifully misinformed, mistakenly describing this project as a 'badger sanctuary' - with one of those quotes from NFU boss Peter Kendall saying that a rock star should not be interfering with Farmers' affairs. Mr Kendall is such a nice man that I'm sure he would not be slagging me off unless he's been misinformed. The project, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Badger Cull. And I should perhaps mention that we will not be bringing any animals in from other areas – that would be a very irresponsible thing to do, especially as this is a TB affected area. The purpose of this project is to provide care for the animals who already inhabit these parts, a corridor where they can enjoy life, and enrich the lives of the local people. For me it's also an opportunity to learn. More soon - and the plans will be on full view to the public.
Cheers - and my big thanks to all who attended the meeting today with such positive energy. Bri