Hello. We are Tortworth Forest Centre.
We work with a passionate group of volunteers who are restoring and maintaining a historic tree collection at Tortworth Arboretum so that people from all walks of life can come and enjoy the trees.
We look after over 600 trees including some very special champion and exotic species on a 20-acre site, and that's an amazing privilege but we need your help!
Most of the trees were planted from the 1850's onwards by the Lords of the Tortworth Estate, although some of them could even be over 450 years old. Sadly though, different owners and history meant that the site wasn't well cared for in the 20th century and the trees were at risk of being overcome with bamboo, rhododendron, bramble and laurel.
We started restoring it in 2014 and ever since we have been working hard to open up the site, map the trees, learn as much as we can about them and, of course, share it with as many people as possible.
We are especially keen to welcome in people who might not usually have access to the benefits of the natural world for health and wellbeing, and that is why we run projects for people to use the woods to work on their mental, physical and emotional health - from children with special educational needs, to adults in mental health recovery, women in recovery from addiction and people in rurally isolated communities.
The space is a fantastic safe place for people looking for some peace and quiet, to get away from the city, to learn about trees and plants. We regularly hold open days and visitor days, we host wellbeing groups and forest schools, scouts, local families and people who want to come and nerd out about trees. Oh, and our resident goats, of course!
As an outdoor space, we've been doing what we can to provide a safe space for exercise during the pandemic but of course, it's been much harder than usual, and fundraising has been tough too. Could you help us?
** Rewards **
Two beautiful hand-turned wooden goblets made from our own redwood trees by local woodturner Johannes Roux.
Two beautiful hand-turned wooden bowls by local woodturner Johannes Roux.
Bowl 1: height 100mm, diameter 145mm, 227g
Bowl 2: height 30mm, diameter 192mm, 229g
T-shirts and hoodies in standard and slim fit
We will be in touch when the crowdfunder ends to find out your size preference. We have chosen the most ethical clothing supplier we can find to ensure a living wage and sustainable practices in the manufacturing process.
For more information about any of our rewards email [email protected]
** What we need money for **
To support our volunteers
Many of our volunteers are on low incomes and we support them with various things like a minibus to site and plenty of hot drinks while they're working. Without this support, many of them wouldn't be able to help us or to enjoy the many benefits of working in the fresh air of the woodland, but of course, it all costs money.
Labels for our trees
We have come so far since we took on the lease in 2014, any of our long-term volunteers will attest to the complete impossibility of getting around the woods, let alone seeing the wood for the trees! We have chipped away at the bramble, bamboo, rhododendron, bracken, you name it... if it grows profusely unchecked, we have been battling it since 2014. And now we have finished our mapping project and listed each and every tree - from those that are safely identified to those where the species ID isn't 100%, we have a list and we know what we know and we know what we need to find out.
Our next step is to get the trees labeled for the enjoyment of our visitors young and old.
Our knowledgeable Tree Officer Jake is working hard to choose our first batch of 50 trees to be labeled, writing up their planting dates and species details where we have them, ready to be printed for us. But we have over 600 trees, and we need more than 50 of them to be accessible to our visitors.
We don't just look after the trees, we plant them too.
We are proud and excited, and very grateful too, that Simon Toomer (National Specialist for Plant Conservation at the National Trust, previously Curator and Director at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum) helped us create our new Planting Policy.
We work hard to make sure we prioritise the connections and relationships that our visitors and our community have with trees - our focus is on encouraging a relationship with nature, and we believe that our new planting policy will help us to choose species that will engage and inspire wonder.
So we really need the funds to buy new trees that fit in with our policy, as well as the guards and mesh that will keep those pesky deer and goats away from them while they establish.
Goats in the woods? Baa-bsolutely! Our beautiful 'therapy goats' live in a cosy, secure home in the woodland and bring enormous joy to visitors and volunteers. When we are there, we also let them roam to graze the bramble and bamboo, which is very helpful in keeping those under control.
But they can't live on weeds alone, they need other food, bedding and (sometimes) medical care to keep them in tip-top health. Can you believe that just their hay costs us about £40 a month?! It's a small price to pay for the happiness they bring, but it's still money that we have to find.
Tea and toilets!
With the arboretum becoming more popular, and more people visiting, we need to have a think about some of our basic amenities. With no water on-site, we need to think creatively about how we offer toilets and handwash, as well as tea and coffee. We are constantly improving the roundhouse too, and have plans for a little outdoor kitchen to add to our washing-up area. Funds would help us to buy the snazzy bits we need for a new ground-level composting toilet system, water containers for drinkable water, and kit for making tea and coffee in a Covid-safe way.
What would we do without our Tree Officer, our Maintenance Officer, or our Community Engagement Officer - we just couldn't hold any volunteer days, any open days, any events. We would not be able to look after the trees and the arboretum would quickly return to the overgrown chaos that we found back in 2014. Why not meet our team on our website here.
We really want to be able to continue working with our volunteers and our wellbeing groups, making the most of this one-of-a-kind space to reach as many people as we can. We have a real community growing up around us, people with so much knowledge, passion, dedication, and we just need some support making sure that we can carry on working with as wide a range of people as possible.
We know that natural spaces are good for our mental and physical health, our wellbeing, our resilience, and our confidence. Just ask any of our volunteers. Help us keep this space open to the community and keep the outdoors a safe nurturing space for everyone.