New report sheds light on the importance of outdoor play.

New research carried out by the Forestry Commission Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University reveals the importance of outdoor play in line with the National Trust’s own Natural Childhood Inquiry. Education experts spent a year studying a group of 13 children from Meadowlane Primary School in Cardiff as part of a Forest School programme to assess how our woodlands can help their development.

“…Allowing children the freedom to explore a natural environment offers a wealth of opportunity to develop creative self-directed play.”

‘Forest’ Schools in Wales

The report outlines a reflective journey on a year long Forest School programme with a group of year four primary children in South East Wales. The Forest School approach has been popular within the Foundation Phase in Wales, however, there seems to have been less focus upon Forest School with Key Stage Two children, this belief was a catalyst for the project.

“…the children seemed to naturally seek to extend their individual boundaries and development.”

The conclusions from this report suggest that allowing children the freedom to explore a natural environment offers a wealth of opportunity to develop creative self-directed play. The report suggests that “all the children tended to take on challenges when they were ready for them.  When left to their own devices, the children seemed to naturally seek to extend their individual boundaries and development” (2012, p35).

“…children are often more involved, imaginative and excited in their learning experiences when they are making their own choices.”

The Forest School leaders aimed to strike a balance between establishing a certain amount of structure during this year-long Forest School programme, which made certain children feel more secure, and allowing sufficient time and encouragement for self-directed learning and play. The report suggests that this time of exploration was invaluable to the children’s experiences.  Observations by the Forest School leaders indicate that the children are often more involved, imaginative and excited in their learning experiences when they are making their own choices. Had the programme been more structured around adult-led activities, these valuable learning opportunities may not have occurred.

The report goes on to question the emphasis placed on self-esteem within a Forest School programme, especially over a short six or ten week programme. It suggests that measuring how self-efficacious children are at specific tasks would be a more accurate and manageable measure for Forest School leaders. It does not dispute the possible gains for self-esteem within a Forest School programme; however, “what it aims to do is open the debate and question the ways in which we measure success” (2012, p. 40).

“For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.”
Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods


As part of the National Trust’s response to the lack of connection between kids and nature we launched our 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾ campaign in May, with many more initiatives to follow. The issues of ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ are becoming increasingly understood thanks to research by the National Trust and other organisations.


‘Stop the spread’ – breaking new ground at Chelsea

A groundbreaking Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) will highlight how imported plant pests and diseases such as Chalara ash dieback, Oak Processionary Moth and Phytophthora ramorum, and invasive non-native species such as Floating Pennywort and Water Primrose, have huge potential to change how our landscape looks and severely impact our biodiversity and wildlife.

The National Trust is sponsoring the garden and is lending their support to its development.

The garden, by designer Jo Thompson, is entitled “Stop the Spread” and will present two distinct characters: beautiful and ugly.  A beautiful sunken garden featuring herbaceous planting and a sculpture by Tom Stogdon is bordered by quintessential native trees and lush shade-loving planting.  This is starkly contrasted with sinister and shocking elements: an avenue of dead trees, an ominous pool with an island holding a single sapling, and concrete-panelled walls surrounding the garden covered with a delicate pattern that is not as innocent as it looks.  Here lies the message of the garden: British trees and plants are under threat from pests, diseases and invasive species – help us stop the spread!

The ‘Stop the Spread’ garden aims to inspire the public to play their part in preserving our horticultural heritage, biodiversity and wildlife by adopting good practices to minimise their chances of unwittingly spreading plant pests and diseases, or invasive non-native species.  These include sourcing plants locally, being more patient in planting small plants and watching them grow, cleaning footwear and bikes and other equipment after visiting the countryside; checking, cleaning and drying water sports clothing and equipment after each use; and disposing of plants and garden waste safely, never letting them escape into the countryside.

Fera is undertaking this project as part of its responsibilities under the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan and in support of the GB Invasive Non-native Species Framework Strategy, to raise awareness and show the public how they can help prevent the spread of harmful plant pests, diseases and invasive non-native species that threaten our landscapes, gardens and wildlife.

Dr David Slawson, Head of Plant Health Public Engagement at Fera, commented The current Chalara ash dieback crisis is an indication that our trees are facing an unprecedented threat from pests and diseases.  It’s really important that we all work together to help protect the British countryside for future generations to enjoy. This garden is a “call to arms” to the great British public to help stop the spread by changing our behaviour, even in small ways.”

For designer Jo Thompson, at Chelsea for the fourth time, the garden contains a personal message: “We are increasingly guilty of taking our landscapes for granted.  Our ancestors nurtured these landscapes in the patient knowledge that they would never see them fully grown but future generations would.  I’m keen that we follow their lead – for example we can safeguard our heritage through simple actions such as the careful buying of plants and large specimen trees and shrubs from trusted growers and making sure any unwanted plants are composted carefully – never dumped in the wild.”

Ian Wright, Plant Health Specialist at the National Trust said: “As illustrated with the recent Chalara ash dieback outbreak, a large proportion of both our ornamental garden ash and native ash trees are at risk which could have a huge impact on our gardens and countryside as we know it.

“The Trust cares for 200 gardens across the country and we look after one of the largest cultivated gardening collections in the world.

“Gardens and landscapes which have been loved for centuries are changing due to threats such as pests and diseases at a faster rate over the last 25 years than at any other time in history.  In order to keep our special places special we need everyone’s help to limit and hopefully eradicate the pests and diseases.  We hope this ‘Stop the Spread’ garden will help raise awareness of new pests, diseases and invasive species, and look forward to helping the garden take shape over the coming months.”

The show garden follows work that is already underway to help stop the spread of invasive non-native species through the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ and ‘Be Plant Wise’ campaigns, both of which have ‘stop the spread’ as their core message.  Invasive non-native species are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity worldwide and cause significant impacts for native species, habitats and ecosystems.  They can also choke waterways, increase the risk of flooding, take over whole landscapes and pose a threat to human health.  Stopping their spread is more important than ever. This can be done by keeping garden plants in the garden, never allowing them to escape into the wild and cleaning boots, tools and other equipment that could transmit soil, seeds or plant fragments.


Planning for the future #NPPF

It’s being reported that Planning Minister Nick Boles is giving an interview this evening on Newsnight in which he talks about increasing the amount of developed land by a third, from 9 per cent to around 12 per cent of the English land mass. This is necessary, he says, in order to provide for the homes that we need as a nation, to meet our housing needs.
We’ve not yet seen the full interview, but we can’t help but agreeing with the sentiments of Andrew Lainton as it’s not clear where these figures have come from. Where is the serious spatial analysis that has been undertaken to justify these figures?
Three per cent of the country is an area roughly the size of Cornwall. Many parts of the country have been hit by flooding in recent days, and arguably it is precisely because we are building on flood plains and water meadows that this happens.

Mr Boles is right to talk about the need for beauty in new urban developments. Decent places to live are a human right, and it is possible to integrate new homes into the landscape in ways that ensure quality of life for people now and in the future. But the best way to do this is to start by using previously developed land, bringing empty houses back into use and densifying existing urban areas – not building on green fields.

Ben Cowell is Deputy Director, External Affairs, at the National Trust


£1 million opportunity for young farmer

One lucky young farmer will win the keys to an iconic one million pound farm in a ground breaking new scholarship launched by the National Trust in Wales today.

Each year one young farmer will be given the opportunity to live in and manage the spectacular 600 acre Snowdonian farm saved for the nation in the National Trust’s one million pound fund-raising appeal last year.

The farm, Llyndy Isaf, on the shores of Llyn Dinas near Beddgelert drew international attention when a campaign to rescue it was spearheaded by Welsh Hollywood actor Matthew Rhys and supported by Catherine Zeta Jones.

Now the National Trust in Wales in partnership with the Wales Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (YFC) is to encourage the next generation of farmers by offering this incredible corner of Snowdonia to the winner of the National Trust’s Llyndy Isaf Scholarship.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for a young farmer to be allowed to run a farm,” said the National Trust’s General Manager for Snowdonia and Llyn, Trystan Edwards.

“With the Trust’s team behind them to offer guidance and support the scholarship winner will have 12 months to make all the day-to-day decisions to successfully manage this iconic upland farm.

“This initiative will ensure that the successful candidate can build their confidence and develop their skills in stock management, business, and practical management through formal and informal training as well as work experience.”

The environmentally important farm is home to many threatened wildlife species of international importance such as kingfishers and otters and is one of the best places in Wales for woodland birds such as nuthatch, spotted flycatcher and pied flycatcher.

Trystan continued: “Llyndy Isaf is the perfect place to learn about conservation farming and to highlight the many ways upland farmers can work with the many thousands who come to Wales to discover and enjoy the landscape.”

The importance of the site to the British public was made clear by the 20,000 donors who dug deep to raise the one million pounds needed to save it forever for everyone in just seven and a half months.

Chief ecutive of Wales YFC Nia Lloyd said: “It’s a great honour to work with the National Trust on this project that will enable one lucky Wales YFC member to manage a working hill farm.

“The scholarship will encourage the successful candidate to develop key skills and broaden their knowledge of the industry. They will have the opportunity and responsibility of managing all aspects of running the farm including form filling, stock management and practical work.

“We will invite interested candidates to discuss this opportunity with us and submit an application form.  Following the interviewing process, the successful scholar will be announced during the 2013 Royal Welsh Show.”

Dafydd Jarrett of NFU Cymru said: “NFU Cymru welcomes any development that provides an opportunity for young people in Welsh Agriculture.

“Skills development for running and taking management responsibility for a hill farm will be an unmissable opportunity for individuals and a way of ensuring stockmen of the highest calibre can develop their own business in future. Welsh Farming needs highly skilled young people to help take the industry forward in future.”

National Trust comment on garden cities call

Commenting on the call by Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister, to build new garden cities, Ingrid Samuel, Historic Environment Director at the National Trust, said:

“We are strong supporters of the local planning system, so when the Deputy Prime Minister voices his support for large scale new development we welcome his commitment to ensuring that decisions will be locally-led.  

“Nevertheless, the major challenge for Government will be to find the sites that have local support, are in the right location and on the right sort of land for this kind of development.

“The National Trust believes that land is a precious resource and must be used and managed sustainably to produce the greatest public benefit.

“As a nation we must be careful to safeguard the productive capability of land for future generations across a range of areas: water, carbon, soils, biodiversity, development, recreation, culture and heritage, food.

“Any development on this kind of scale will need to respect this fact if it is to deliver the kinds of benefits Mr Clegg talks about, without destroying the countryside.

“We welcome the Deputy Prime Minister’s commitment to mixed use developments which support integrated transport infrastructure and urban green space, and built to the highest energy conservation standards. This should be the level of commitment we seek to achieve within all our towns, cities and villages too.

“Like everyone with an interest in this area, we will look at the promised prospectus carefully when it’s published.”

National Trust reveals vision for HS2 around Aylesbury

Proposals for an improved design for HS2 around Aylesbury, if it goes ahead, have been revealed by the National Trust today.

Whilst being neutral over the principle of HS2, the National Trust opposes the specific proposed route in the Aylesbury area and through the Chilterns AONB.

This is because of its landscape and other impacts, especially on Hartwell House, where it would require the acquisition of the Trust’s land.

The plans revealed today show how the impact on hundreds of people’s lives and the special places they care about could be reduced if HS2 Ltd plans for mitigation on a big enough scale.

This would include acquiring additional land either side of the railway line to give room for the necessary landscaping and other measures, such as creating a 600m long ’land bridge’ for the route as it crosses through the Hartwell House estate and next to Fairford Leys – where many local people will be heavily affected by the railway.

This would involve building the land up on either side of the line, then placing a lid on top, with vegetation and tree planting covering it. Wide, landscaped embankments which would screen trains and conceal noise barriers and security fencing also feature.

A range of specialist consultants, including experts in rail engineering, landscape character, landscape architecture, noise and hydrology have been brought in by the National Trust to advise on the best possible mitigation over an 8km stretch of the line from Stoke Mandeville, around Aylesbury and up to Waddesdon.

Since the route for HS2 was published in January this year, the Trust has been talking to local authorities, parish councils, landowners, other charities and organisations, as well as HS2 Ltd, aiming for proposals which take into account the views of as many people as possible who are affected by the line.

Peter Nixon, director of conservation for the National Trust, said: “Although HS2 is still not a foregone conclusion, and we object to the route chosen, in case it does go ahead it’s sensible for us to negotiate for the best scheme which minimises its impact for as many people as possible and on the special places they care about.

“We hope our proposals, which draw on our practical experience elsewhere, raise expectations of what could be achieved.

“There is still a lot of detail to work up. This would have to be done with HS2 Ltd, the community, local authorities and landowners and we believe a collaborative approach here will deliver the best scheme if HS2 does go ahead.

“We hope that HS2 Ltd and the Government will adopt this scheme, however we have also been clear that if this is not the case we would be prepared to petition Parliament in order to try and get the scheme included in the necessary legislation.”

The current proposed route of HS2 will pass directly through the Hartwell House estate which has an international history and significance stretching back almost a thousand years to the reign of Edward the Confessor.

It also passes within view of Coombe Hill in the Chilterns; through the Waddesdon Estate which has a Victorian garden thought to be one of best in Britain; and close to Claydon House, once home to Florence Nightingale.

The scheme has already received backing from a number of local groups.

Councillor Steven Lambert, Chairman of Coldharbour Parish Council, said: “While we continue to oppose HS2 and support the need for a Judicial Review of it, we are pleased the National Trust has been pushing for proper mitigation around Aylesbury if HS2 is to go ahead. The needs of local people and our local environment need to be given equal weighting to any perceived economic benefits of a final scheme.

“We’ve been in discussion with the National Trust from an early stage on their thinking about HS2 in our area and we think this scheme would provide ample noise and visual intrusion mitigation for both sides of the track and opportunities for increased access to a new green space.”
The plans also include the provision of new flood meadow habitiats, improved recreational areas and more access to the countryside for the people of Aylesbury.

For more information see

To see more of the proposals visit:

Second case of ash dieback Chalara fraxinea confirmed on National Trust land in Northern Ireland

Tonight, the National Trust has announced that the second case of ash dieback Chalara fraxinea, has been confirmed on its land in Northern Ireland, at a three and a half hectare site on the North Antrim coastline. 

The first was confirmed at Borrowdale in Cumbria this morning.

Ian McCurley, regional forestry adviser said: “Unfortunately ash dieback has now been confirmed at one of our Northern Ireland sites.  We are devastated by this news; it is a really sad day for our woodlands here.

“There are an estimated 3.5 hectares affected at Runkerry, right beside the Giant’s Causeway, World Heritage Site on land we acquired a few years ago.  Around 2,000 young trees, planted in March this year, have today been confirmed as carrying the disease.  We have acted swiftly alongside officials from Forestry Services to remove and burn the trees in the affected area.

“Our tree and woodland experts have been working closely with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to survey the region looking for signs of the disease, and sadly, it was only a matter of time before we had a case confirmed.

“The ash trees will be replaced with other species, but our main objective is to do everything possible to try to protect as many of the ash trees as we can in the woods, parks, gardens and farmland that we care for.”

“We will continue to implement best practice, as advised by our forestry colleagues at DARD.”