I would like to say a huge thank you to all volunteers and trainers who attended the training days and helped make them successful and enjoyable for everyone present. 

We held 11 events across England, Wales, and Scotland from the end of May to the beginning of July. Approximately 75 volunteers attended and it was good to see a mix of existing and new volunteers. According to preliminary feedback, the majority were satisfied or very satisfied with their training experience.

Trainers came to support from across the partnership:

  • Forest Research (FR)
  • Forestry Commission England (FCE) and Scotland (FCS)
  • Natural Resources Wales (NRW)
  • The Woodland Trust (WT)
  • The National Trust (NT)
  • The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
  • FERA Science

This cross organisation working has been very positive as volunteers have benefitted from the range of different experiences and expertise that trainers were able to provide on training days.

We covered a range of activities during each event.

Volunteers enjoyed tree ID training, an update on seven of our priority pests and diseases and an afternoon site visit. This included; a biosecurity demonstration, learning about our site survey form and seeing unhealthy trees on the ground.

We saw a range of tree diseases and pests with volunteers this year. Examples include acute oak decline, oak processionary moth and the inevitable ash dieback. We also tried to point out other common problems trees face such as frost, drought, and squirrel damage so volunteers can understand these differences. It is always great when volunteers can see pests and diseases in context and learn from our experts, not so good for the trees though!

This year, with the training being delivered in summer, our morning workshop ‘bring on the broadleaves’ focused on tree identification of common summer broadleaves with a few tricky ones thrown in for our experts!

This seemed to be the most popular aspect of the day with many volunteers – providing a hands on activity that really put knowledge into practice. Tree identification is so important when spotting tree pests and diseases as you need to know the host species you are looking for.

As previously mentioned, we carried out training later in the year than we have done in the past and we were extremely lucky with the weather! There was beautiful sunshine at most of the events with the exception of a bit of drizzle at the Welsh event (which had stopped by the time we went outside). As in previous years, training venues were predominantly National Trust properties and it was a real pleasure to be in such fantastic surroundings.  Of course National Trust properties meant cake and scones aplenty which was an additional bonus for us!

It was great to meet so many volunteers as I had only spoken with the majority though a computer screen previously. It was great to see how confident existing volunteers are and how their skills and knowledge have been able to make a real difference to tree health early warning in the UK. I know it won’t be long before the new cohort are pros too!

Even though face to face training events have finished for this year, volunteers will still be able to receive training through free Observatree on-line training resources such as videos and downloadable material. We are also planning a number of webinars that will take place in the autumn to supplement learning. Thanks again to everyone who was involved in the training days. It was an enjoyable few weeks and I look forward to seeing many volunteers again next year!