The Observatree volunteer training roadshow went ahead as usual this year with eleven training events in total in England, Scotland and Wales. Our volunteers came from far and wide to attend them, with one individual even flying in from Northern Ireland to join us! We had a great turn-out this year with a combination of new and existing volunteers, so a big ‘thank you’ to all of you who were able to attend.

The training venues were mainly National Trust properties as in previous years, but this year we were also hosted by Risley Moss Wildlife Trust in the North West of England and Scottish Natural Heritage in Scotland. Once again, we could enjoy the beautiful surroundings of these properties whilst studying tree pests and diseases.

The South East training day at Scotney Castle often throws up interesting issues; one year we had heavy snow, last year a car drove through the wall of the café and this year we had a film crew, who were making a series of films about the different activities of the Forestry Commission. It was great that they selected an Observatree training day to be a subject of one of these films and it shows how they value and view our work. The crew spent the day with us interviewing and filming various aspects and activities of the training sessions inside and out. We will provide a link to the film from the Observatree website when it becomes available.

The rain won't put us off!

The weather was fairly kind to us this year but we did have thunder and lightning and torrential rain in the North West and also in Wales and Scotland which made the outside activities on those days rather challenging. However, our volunteers are a hardy bunch and the bad weather did not deter them in any way.

We saw some interesting pests and diseases in the field this year such as the oriental chestnut gall wasp, Dothistroma needle blight, acute oak decline, Dutch elm disease, numerous bleeding trees and many examples of ash dieback.

We came across a number of interesting fruiting bodies and were also able to see trees heavily infested with ermine moths.

We also heard accounts from some of the site managers and rangers of how they manage their trees for pest and disease control and about the biosecurity measures they have on their sites, all of which was very interesting.

Our trainers for these events were from Forest Research (South and North), Forestry Commission, Natural Resources Wales, The Animal and Plant Health Agency, FERA Science, Scottish Natural Heritage, Woodland Trust and National Trust. We are grateful to every one of them for their help and contributions. The volunteers always enjoy having staff from a range of different organisations as it allows them to see pest and disease issues from different perspectives.

As in previous years, a range of topics was covered during each training day including conifer tree ID, pests and diseases in theory and in the field, biosecurity, an outside survey activity as well as a session on how to take effective symptoms photos. The training days also gave us the opportunity to feedback to our volunteers on where and how their efforts have contributed to the bigger picture in the world of tree pests and diseases, and also enabled us to answer any questions that the volunteers had. All the resources (presentations etc.) from the day will be available to volunteers in due course.

Our lead volunteers were a great help this year and their assistance on the training days was very much appreciated, and likewise it was great to see so many existing volunteers pairing up with new recruits and sharing their knowledge, experiences and expertise with them.

We had great feedback from the volunteers again this year and although it was a lot of hard work and travelling for Charlotte and me, we both enjoyed the training days enormously.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the success of the training days this year. It was a lot of fun!