THE chairman of a woodland group has hit back against damage to its trees during lockdown.

But Steve Thompson, who runs Hreod Burna Urban Forest in Swindon, said he wouldn’t be deterred despite the vandalism of almost 200 saplings in a Pinehurst field.

Steve said: “We began this group in 2013 and in seven years since I’ve been chairman we’ve never seen a vandalism episode like this.

“It’s very disappointing that after all the hard work trying to create the woodland, someone has come along and done this,” he added.

The group put 1,000 trees on land between Cricklade Road and Pinehurst Road in December last year.

But this month members discovered scores of trees had either been pulled up or the canes and tree guards torn off.

“I’m an old parks gardener so I tend to expect this kind of thing,” said Steve.

“But it’s very dispiriting for the volunteers because we had lots of people come out to help us plant these trees."

Steve normally walks around the woodland daily but hasn’t been able to go out recently due to ill health.

“At some point during the last two months, someone has systematically been pulling up the canes and dumping them in the brook,” Steve said.

The saplings caused controversy when first planted, with opponents saying they breached the terms of the lease between HBUF and Central SwindonNorth Parish Council.

Steve said: “There was some opposition which was very vocal to the tree planting there. We had a public consultation and the vast majority of respondents were in favour of it but there was a very vocal, small minority who opposed them.”

Hreod Burna Urban Forest comprises four broad areas including Kembrey Copse, Cricklade Field, a wildflower meadow and a picnic field planted with 350 trees.

It takes its name from the brook running through it – the Hreod Burna – which means ‘rushy brook’ in Anglo-Saxon.

Steve added: “To whoever has done this I’d like to say 'come and help us replant'.

“All the trees that have been pulled up will have to be replanted and that will take quite a while.”

The woodland has become popular with residents since the lockdown started.

“It’s somewhere people can get out for exercise and mix with people still keeping a distance,” Steve said.

“Since the trees were planted the grass has grown out and now sways in the breeze. When the sun’s shining it looks absolutely beautiful with wildflowers growing up.”

He added: “Swindon as a whole has a very low level of tree coverage; we need more trees and actions like this don’t help.

“But this won’t deter us, we will carry on."

This story first appeared in the Swindon Advertiser.

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £69 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link:

Thanks – and stay safe.