Past Events and Activities

AGM and talk by Rachel Glover from the AONB

7.15pm on 11th October 2023  at the Methodist Church Hall

As part of their ongoing programme of meetings and talks, the Church Stretton Tree Group October meeting will include a talk on ancient woodlands in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Rachel Glover, Natural Environment Officer for the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership team will be speaking to the group about a project currently running in the area, focusing on the identification and restoration of these woodlands. 

Ancient woodlands are some of the most valuable natural assets and home to many vulnerable and threatened species. The Strettons have several such woodlands on the doorstep, such as Helmeth Hill and Gough’s Coppice. 

Ancient Semi-Natural woodland sites cover almost 5% of the AONB designated area, including 23 sites that are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). 

Project work is currently underway to work closely with woodland owners to provide advice and guidance about the long-term management of these woodland sites, to ensure their longevity as wildlife rich habitats, alongside a sustainable source of hardwood timber in some cases. 

The evening talk will include information on the project background; the importance of these woodland sites; possible restoration measures and approaches and wider updates on the work of the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership. 

Tree Identification and Body Language of Trees

Terry Merchant met 19 of us at Rectory Field and began by getting us to look carefully at the holm oak at the enterance. As he told us what he could see had happened to this magnificent tree over the many years of it's life it started to rain. A few people decided to leave us but most stayed hoping it would be a quick shower. Unfortunately the rain got heavier but we walked up the field to look at ash trees. The afternoon was cut a little short by the rain but we had all learnt a lot about how to look at trees carefully and try to work out what they can tell us.

Visit to Nant Valley Woodland

On 16th April 2023 the owners of this woodland showed a group of members round and told us of their plans for the area.  It was a fasinating visit and showed the hard work the owners have put in. We were also treated to tea and cake at the end of the walk round!

Nature in the Strettons launch

On 28th February 2023 the Mayor of Church Stretton, Andy Munroe, opened the Nature in the Strettons exhibition in the library. It was also the launch of Nature in the Strettons and their website:

Nature in the Strettons is a colaboration of the many different nature and wildlife groups in the area. We hope to work together to help people new to the area to find groups they are interested in. A blog will be developed to share news from the different groups and coordinate the timing of meetings to try and avoid clashes.

Tree and Hedge Planting in Rectory Field

In November 2022 and January 2023 members of the Tree Group and other volunteers planted some trees and a native hedge in the top part of Rectory Field

 An application was made to the Woodland Trust for the hedge plants and we received 315 whips, with canes and spiral guards, with a good range of species for the benefit of wildlife and year round colour including hawthorn, rowan, hazel, blackthorn, cherry, silver birch, dogwood, oak and dog rose. It was a challenging task working at the top of the field and clearing the site before we could plant, but the result is a credit to the hard work. It will be necessary to look after the young plants until they are established as the area has a lot of bramble and bracken. The hedge follows the boundary from the gate at top car park right up to the seat and the access to the wood. 

The hedge planting is complementary to an earlier hedge we planted in the lower part of Rectory Field. Although there are some failures many of the plants are getting established. 

At the top area of Rectory Field we have also planted three Scots Pine. A Field Maple, Hornbeam (lower down) and Alder Buckthorn (by the pond) have also been planted as well as two Oaks in the lower field, funded by the Tree Group.

Many thanks to all who helped this worthwhile project.

Tree Group AGM held on 26th October 2022

This was our first AGM and indoor meeting since the 2019 AGM. Our Chairman Hilary Hymas welcomed everyone and reminded us of the outdoor events we have been running. These have been well attended and enjoyable. A copy of the minutes for the meeting can be found here.

We welcomed Dougald Purce, Tree Officer and Woodland Amenity Officer for Shropshire Council who gave a talk on Trees, Carbon and Climate Change. During the Covid lockdown Dougald had looked at the value of tree planting as a solution to our carbon consumption. He did calculations that showed that we would need to plant four times the land area of the UK with trees to offset our total carbon emissions. So tree planting can help but is not a total answer. We need to use less carbon not continue to increase our emissions. A thought provoking talk.

There were some excellent tree books for sale which had been donated to the Tree Group by Lorna Dormor in memory of her husband, Ian Dormor. Ian was a founder member of the Tree Group and he did a lot of work mapping the trees in Rectory Wood to understand how the woodland had been changed and developed over the centuries. In past years he led some very popular walks round local woodlands for the Tree Group. Money raised will go to Tree Group funds.

Local amateur wildlife photographer, Terry Moore, set up a display of his wonderful photographs which were greatly admired.

Visit to Downton Gorge National Nature Reserve June 2022

On a lovely summer morning we were led around Downton Gorge by Senior Reserve Manager, Simon Cooter, who had to raise his voice above singing blackcaps to tell us about this fasinating landscape.  The gorge was the site of a large iron works from the 1500s until the industry moved to Ironbride in the 1700s. The furnaces were fired by charcoal produced from coppiced oaks some of which are still standing. Richard Payne Knight inherited the land and built Downton Castle and was a founder of the Picturesque movement of landscape design. He wrote poetry about this including the phrase "With secret skill, and counterfeit neglect".

Simon told us of the challenges of managing the site as it is leased from the Downton Estate which runs pheasant shoots on the surrounding land. Deer are a problem for woodland regeneration. Some areas have been successfully fenced but it is difficult to keep muntjac out. Several interesting plants such as Herb Paris, Common Twayblade and Oak Fern were pointed out. Along the way we passed old oak trees and some very large limes that could have been coppiced or possibly planted in a clump to make spectacular specimens.

The walk took three and a half hours and was enjoyed by all the group.

Tree Group Visit to Cudwell Meadow and Brockhurst Wood on Saturday 30th April 2022.

A group of twenty people both members and non-members enjoyed a walk across Cudwell Meadow hearing about the different habitats in this wetland area which is now a wildlife site for the community. 

We then walked up through Brockhurst Wood where bluebells were in full flower.

Saturday 25th April 2020 - Bluebell Walk

This proposed event will not take place this year but we hope to repeat it in future years. Hopefully some of you will be able to venture into Helmeth Wood on your own to see the spectacular vistas of bluebells in late April and May.

Saturday 20th June 2020 at 2.00pm - Guided visit to Coppice Leasowes

If the current restrictions are lifted there will be an afternoon walk round the Coppice Leasowes Local Nature Reserve in the company of Janet Martin and Dr Ian Dormor who have been closely involved with the management of the site for many years. The site is owned by the Town Council. The walk will provide an opportunity to learn more about the features of the reserve and future management challenges and how you can get involved.

Wednesday 23rd October 2019 - AGM and Talk:

Andrew Allott on Woods and Trees of the Marches . 

 Andrew is a former Head of Biology at Shrewsbury School and the author of Marches, volume 118 in the New Naturalist series. He owns 24 acres of woodland at Hopesay, south of Church Stretton, which is managed to promote biodiversity and carbon capture. He is also a compulsive grower of trees from seed. 

This was an interesting talk and discussion. Andrew suggested that all areas of bracken and heather on our hills, were once oak woodland and we should be replanting these with woodland trees. So this would give us plenty of room to plant trees. Andrew is growing tree species from all over the world to make his woodland more resiliant to climate change and disease. An approach which we could also use.

Saturday 6th April 2019 -  Wetlands and Brockhurst  Walk review:

This was a great success with forty of us walking along the new boardwalk with Isobel and Mike Carter and then up the hill to the grounds of Brockhurst and the woodland on the slope to the west with Paul and Frances Eade.

 One email of thanks said  "I was most impressed by the level of planning you had done to be able to cope with forty people and the talks you gave.  The amount of information you gave between you was enormous. " 

Saturday 4th May 2019 - Bluebell Walk :  

This was an lovely afternoon walking round Helmeth Wood enjoying the bluebells and other plants. With the hot then cold weather of spring this year it was not certain when the bluebells would be at their best. In Helmeth Wood which is on a hill that has north, south, east and west facing slopes you can usually find a fine display of bluebells anytime in April and May.

Some Tree Group past events and activities

Since 2008 the Tree Group has organised a wide range of guided walks, meetings and other events to get more people involved and to share our passion for trees and the benefits they bring to our environment and our community. We have taken advantage of local, easily accessible woodland such as Rectory Wood and Helmeth Wood as well as visiting woodland further afield. We have had talks from visiting speakers with subjects such as veteran trees, tree pests and diseases, wood as a fuel, forest gardening, trees and wildlife, managing and restoring ancient woodland, hedge laying and tree protection and the law. Other community woodland groups have also been generous with their time and have come to give talks about their projects and have hosted visits from the Tree Group. We have had sessions on identifying trees, understanding the body language of trees and have had really informative guided walks and talks from staff from our local National Trust and from the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership. 

Some years ago the Tree Group organised a series of Family Events based in Rectory Wood and Field which involved planting tree seeds, storytelling, making dens and a camp fire, mini-beast hunting and tree identification to name just a few of the activities, generously funded by the Woodland Trust.

Other initiatives undertaken by the Tree Group have included tree and hedge planting and starting a tree survey to plot significant trees in our area.  This is an on-going project which is still developing.

Measuring the sweet chestnut tree in Rectory Field

Bluebell walk in Helmeth Wood 2018

Studying the Body Language of Trees in Rectory Field with Gareth Jones and Terry Merchant