Archive for July, 2011

International Dendrology Society trip – day fourteen: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Raef Johnson was awarded a bursary to join a two week trip to Georgia with the International Dendrology Society. Dendrology is the study of the natural history of trees and woody plants. The society aims to bring together dendrologists from around the world to promote the study and enjoyment of trees and to conserve rare and endangered plant species.

Georgia, day 14

The final day of the tour sees us back where we started in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Our last destination is Tbilisi Botanic Gardens. Officially established as a botanical garden in 1845 but possibly a garden since 1625.

Tbilisi botanical gardens

Tbilisi botanical gardens

The botanical garden is the best location for aesthetics I have ever seen in a garden. Sitting on a hillside above the old town, it has views of the whole city, while also using the natural rocky outcrops and exciting flowing river to great landscape effect.

The plantings in the botanical garden have a native dominance but more exotic gems such as the huge Firmiana simplex by the entrance can be regularly found.

After the morning visit, I returned to the garden with two very knowledgable tour participants to study herbarium specimens and an extremely enjoyable end to my tour it was!

Studying herbarium samples.

Studying herbarium samples.

International Dendrology Society trip – days twelve and thirteen: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Georgia, day 12

A morning walk up to Bagrati Cathedral provided great views over the former Georgian capital of Kutaisi. It was the happy accident of finding St George’s church however that was most memorable. Not only was the church itself interesting, but behind it we happened across an old Zelkova carpinifolia of with a girth of over 5 metres. Although half filled with cement it had a healthy crown and was estimated to be over 500 years old.

Immediately next to this was a Tilia begonifolia of a similar age but with an impressive spreading crown similar to that of an open grown oak.

Georgia, day 13

This was an incredibly long day of travelling from west to east, from two previous Georgian capitals, Kutaisi and Mtskheta then on to the current capital Tbilisi. It was an almost completely tree-less day apart from those viewed at speed from the vehicles window. So I’ll post some extra photos taken from our 2300 km journey…

A typical scene of home neighboured by Walnut, providing shade, food and insect repellent.

A typical scene of home neighboured by Walnut, providing shade, food and insect repellent.

An alpine meadow in the Bakuriani region.

An alpine meadow in the Bakuriani region.

Flowering trees are used across the country to support bee-keeping.

Flowering trees are used across the country to support bee-keeping.

There’s more to forestry than just trees! By Nathalie Goodsir, work experience student.

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Having to find a week’s work experience at the end of my first year of Sixth Form was a daunting thought, especially with no definite idea of my future career in mind.

So when dad suggested to me that I should come and see what goes on at the Forestry Commission in Bristol (and promised me it wasn’t all cutting down trees!) I thought it would be a good idea.

I was a little nervous on Thursday, my first day, thoughts of either a big scary office block, with David Brent style boss, or walking in and being handed an axe and told to get on with it were floating in my mind. However after a few minutes of being there I knew I had nothing to worry about.

My first two days were spent with the communications team, having never seen how a team like this works it was interesting to learn what they really do. After two days of writing press releases, ‘weekly buzz’ enewsletter entries and sorting out press cuttings, I was definitely ready for the weekend, but knew that by Sunday evening, I would be looking forward to going back on Monday morning.

The next part of my work experience was spent looking at the Forestry Commission as a whole. Monday was spent with the executive office in the morning, talking to them about their roles, and then my afternoon was spent with Kellie in the policy and programmes team, working on the intranet and hopefully being helpful!

Next stop – helping Sian in marketing to source t-shirts and sort out car parking tickets for the Discovery Pass. I really enjoyed seeing everything that went on in the marketing team and how it’s linked to the rest of the FC.

I also went downstairs and chatted to the people in grants and regulations. Having my dad work there, you’d think I’d know what they did, however even after the team’s explanation and his, it’s clear that it’s far too technical and complicated for my brain to cope with (but interesting nevertheless).

On Wednesday I had a break from my schedule in the national office and took a trip to Westonbirt Arboretum, which is managed by the Forestry Commission, to work with Katrina and the marketing team. I arrived in time to attend the monthly staff meeting, at which there was a talk by wildlife ranger at the Forest of Dean. Then it was back to the little marketing office to see more of what they got up to. I spent the morning looking through some facts and figures Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) survey and typing up the findings. Then it was time for lunch, and it would have been rude not to appreciate the beautiful surroundings so I got an expert tour of the site by Katrina, which was very much appreciated. It was then an afternoon of looking more at what she and her team did and quickly my day was over.

It was a really good experience to see the organisation I’ve been working with for the past week in a completely different way.

Then, before I knew it, it was Thursday and my last day. Some work with finance and the design team was on the agenda and I think I’ve now seen almost every department that works in that office and each one has appealed to me in different ways.

Overall I’ve had a fantastic week, I haven’t met one person who hasn’t been helpful or friendly and I would definitely encourage anyone else thinking of coming to the Forestry Commission to do so. The variety within the organisation ranges wider than I ever would have imagined and I’d like to thank everyone that’s made me week so helpful, especially Becci Turner for organising my whole week, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

International Dendrology Society trip – days ten and eleven: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Raef Johnson was awarded a bursary to join a two week trip to Georgia with the International Dendrology Society. Dendrology is the study of the natural history of trees and woody plants. The society aims to bring together dendrologists from around the world to promote the study and enjoyment of trees and to conserve rare and endangered plant species.

Georgia, day 10:

Another long drive today, going north up the coast from Batumi then inland to the Imereti region. We had an afternoon stop at another Zelkova carpinifolia forest, but this forest was of a much greater age this time and it was welcomed for the trees’ exfoliating bark and cooling shade.

Nearby is a forest of the local Quercus imeretina, an oak similar to, or possibly a sub-species of, Quercus robur but differing in its stalkless leaf.

Quercus imeretina leaf

Quercus imeretina leaf

Georgia, day 11:

Today we travelled north out of the city of Kutaisi into the mixed forests of the Racha region. We can see the snowy peaks of Mount Elbrus and its neighbours, all over 5000m; the highest mountains of the Caucasus and the highest in Europe.

The Racha province and its mixed forest

The Racha province and its mixed forest

We are becoming much more familiar with the native flora now and discovering less that is new to us. However, we do explore a dense forest of Fagus orientalis (Oriental beech) interspersed with the occasional Abies nordmanniana (Nordmann fir) and ground cover of Vaccinium arctostaphyllos (Caucasian whortleberry).

Young Abies nordmanniana, Fagus orientalis and Rhododendron luteum in the Racha region.

Young Abies nordmanniana, Fagus orientalis and Rhododendron luteum in the Racha region.

International Dendrology Society trip – days eight and nine: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Raef Johnson was awarded a bursary to join a two week trip to Georgia with the International Dendrology Society. Dendrology is the study of the natural history of trees and woody plants. The society aims to bring together dendrologists from around the world to promote the study and enjoyment of trees and to conserve rare and endangered plant species.

Georgia, day 8

A morning walk along the cliffs above Batumi heeds little new native plants, but plenty of exotics such as Juglans manschurica, citrus and tea (Camelia sinensis). These were all planted by the Soviets for feeding the country, but are now left to nature.

The afternoon was spent further up the coast at Batumi Botanical Garden, it is 112 hectares of one of the finest growing climates in the world.

4500mm of rain falls a year here and winter temperatures average at around 7 degrees, this means that fresh cut grass can be over waist height in one week! All species of trees in the botanical garden are towering tall and magnolias flower in January due to the climate.

Georgia, day 9

Mtirala National Park

Mtirala National Park

The waterproofs were unpacked for the first time today as we headed into the lush cloud covered mountains in Mtirala National Park – rain is a cert. Little new to us is found in the park, except for the beautiful flowering Rhododendron ungernii, triumphantly found by the intrepid rhododendron experts of the group, Peter Cox and Peter Hutchinson.

A week’s worth of invaluable experience, by Harriet Stride, year 10 work placement student.

Monday, July 18th, 2011

I chose to come to Westonbirt Arboretum as I hoped I would experience a wide range of jobs and gain a better knowledge of the wide world of work. My time here has certainly lived up to this, as I have been helping to fell dead trees, herding 4 and 5 year olds on their teddy bears’ picnic activity and learning about the enormous amount of effort and detail that goes into the extensive databases of the collection here. My experience really couldn’t have been much more varied!  

I began on Monday with several extremely commited members of the learning team on a years 3 and 4 school visit about trees’ role in climate change. Although I was only watching and listening I felt exhausted by the end of the day, giving me much respect for everyone who does this almost on a day to day basis! I finished the day helping out with a health and safety check on the outdoor play facilities.

On Tuesday I was with the tree team for the majority of the day. I assisted with felling a couple of dead trees and feeding them into a loud, grinding wood chipping machine! It was definitely something far from what I am usually able to do and was quite exciting until we found ourselves looking for rather elusive trees in the rain.

I was later able to talk though the incredible databases held of the entire Westonbirt collection with Sally Day. She showed me some of the original hand-drawn maps made of the arboretum on which someone had marked each tree on by hand as a dot with a unique number. It is outstanding the detail the maps and databases go into and the organisation of it. It is clear that the running of Westonbirt wouldn’t be nearly as efficient without them. 

I had a good time on Wednesday morning with visitor services, driving around Silk Wood in their truck. We were clearing out bins, and I listened to their interesting and funny anecdotes of their past experiences at the arboretum was very entertaining. We found a lovely dog that had run away from its owner, a regular visitor to Westonbirt, so we took some time trying to find him and were relieved to finally reunite them. Judy, the dog, went straight on her lead!

On my last day I spent an hour talking to Sophie Nash about architecture and new landscaping designs that will hopefully be realised at Westonbirt in the future. I am interested in going down an architectural based career path and so I found looking at the plans and different designs quite inspiring. I now really appreciate how much care goes into every individual feature of the designs for a new welcome building and the parking arrangements which involve even small things such as guttering and stair regulations that are rarely even noticed. 

I spent the rest of the morning in the Plant Centre helping out with day to day tasks that are necessary to keep the shop as nice as it is. Finally, I spent the last few hours with the marketing team. I was talked through all of the promotional material and was able to proof read the current draft of the programme for this year’s Treefest which looks fantastic! 

As is probably clear from the amount I have written here, I have had a busy week at Westonbirt and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I would certainly recommend coming here for work experience, even if you are not set on having a career specifically in subjects here because the experience I have been given has been brilliant.  Thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome here!

International Dendrology Society trip – day seven: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Friday, July 15th, 2011
A monestry on our travels through Bakuriani

A monestry on our travels through Bakuriani

It was another day of travelling today. We moved from Bakuriani to Batumi, Georgia’s second largest city which is situated on the humid Black Sea coast.

Although a large city, the road to Batumi is mostly a winding stone track through the lesser Caucasus mountains, climbing to and falling from the mountain pass at 2025 metres. So whilst the journey was long and very tricky for our drivers, it did afford us stops to see two of Georgia’s finest native trees.

Ostrya carpinifolia (Hop hornbeam) and at the higher elevations, the mighty Abies nordmanniana (Nordman fir). The Ostrya was festooned with its super pannicles of bract covered seed, while the Abies dominated a dense mixed forest.

The latter was also found further up in pure, spacious stands of spreading specimens well above 80ft in height.

International Dendrology Society trip – days five and six: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Georgia, day five

Today has almost entirely constituted of driving across the middle of the country to Babaneuri, high in central Georgia. So nothing to note except the cool mountain air and the exciting sight of conifers in the landscape, mainly Picea orientalis and Pinus sosnowskyi.

Picea orientlais and Pinus sosnowskyi

Picea orientlais and Pinus sosnowskyi

Georgia, day six

A brilliantly sunny day – we couldn’t have spent it at a better spot! We are high (2000-2500 metres a.s.l) in the lesser Caucasus and marvelling at the effect altitude and temperature has on the flora of these mountainous regions.

Carpinus betulus in the Caucasus mountains

Carpinus betulus in the Caucasus mountains

Alpine meadows here are awash with flowers blowing in the wind, grazed by Azeri farmers who encamp in the mountains during the snowless summer months.

Below this we found low growing Rhododendron caucasicum and stunted Betula litwinowii, adding more species on descent until it became a rich mixed forest consisting of many of the species already mentioned as well as the stunning Acer trautvetteri.

International Dendrology Society trip – day four: by Raef Johnson, Tree Team member

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Raef Johnson was awarded a bursary to join a two week trip to Georgia with the International Dendrology Society. Dendrology is the study of the natural history of trees and woody plants. The society aims to bring together dendrologists from around the world to promote the study and enjoyment of trees and to conserve rare and endangered plant species.

Babaneuri Nature Reserve

Babaneuri Nature Reserve

Babaneuri Nature Reserve on the Russian and Azerbaijan borders is our goal for today.

The roads on the way have begun to blend increasingly into farm yards and we are regularly slowed by anything from donkeys, dogs, horses, goats, cows or herded turkeys.

We make it through however to be greeted by a fantastic forest of pure Zelkova carpinifolia (Caucasian elm) and lower down the same valley through a spiny grove of Gleditisia we find Pterocarya fraxinifolia (Caucasian wingnut) in a typically marshy mosquito infested site.

Green Inspiration by Sophie Nash, Westonbirt Project Support Officer

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I recently visited the Greenbuild Expo in Manchester which showcased sustainable energy ideas and technology. Sadly I missed the opening talk by Bill Dunster, the architect behind BedZed due to train issues, but I did manage to talk to lots of different suppliers and attend other useful seminars.

Currently we plan to heat the new Welcome Building using an Air Source Heat Pump which will heat underfloor heating in the toilets and the new interpretation room. This basically works like an air conditioning unit on reverse. I also attended seminars on rainwater harvesting and designing buildings using Glulam (strips of timber glues together to form curves, like the front of the Welcome Building.)

I am now going to follow up discussions regarding rainwater harvesting, sewage treatment and woodfuel to find out if they are suitable for the Welcome Building. I also hope to hear soon from a company who produce floor slabs which power schools and shopping centres to see if we can utilise the 300,000 visitors we have each year as a power source!